Sunday, November 14, 2004

On Getting Religion

Since the presidential election there have been a number of articles telling Democrats that they need to "get religion." Two of the most widely circulated are Nicholas Kristof's Op-Ed "Time to Get Religion" published in the New York Times on Nov. 6th and Mort Kondrake's commentary "Democrats Need to 'Get Religion.' It's not Scary" published at the Real Clear Politics website on Nov. 10th.

Having been both a religious person and a Democrat for more than 35 years, I find such advice puzzling. It presumes there is validity to the caricature that right-wing Republicans have drawn of Democrats.

Correctives to this caricature have long been available for anyone interested in giving a fair appraisal of the depth of faith among Democrats. My favorite source for Democratic political religiosity is Carlos Stouffer's Jesus Politics blog.

Still, that religion has suddenly become a hot topic in Democratic circles cannot be denied. One of the more interesting new discussions is being led by Scott Jones at the Coalition for a New America blog.

I am adding my voice to the mix because I am alarmed at the fatuity of some of the advice being given. A good example of the bad advice that I am talking about is in the essay by Nicholas Kristof that was published in the New York Times. Kristof gives Democrats four suggestions. Here's his first suggestion:

Don't be afraid of religion. Offer government support for faith-based programs to aid the homeless, prisoners and AIDS victims. And argue theology with Republicans; there's much more biblical ammunition to support liberals than conservatives.

Democrats like myself are not afraid of religion and we aren't afraid to argue theology with the religious right. In fact, we've been doing it for years. What we fear is the fusion of religion with politics and the union of church and state. This is precisely what Kristof is advocating when he suggests that Democrats up the ante Republicans are offering in faith-based bribes to get the support of religious voters.

Kristof needs to read the blog that I wrote for Mainstream Baptists on "Faith-Based Initiatives: Easy Money and Loose Accountability" (8-4-04 -- you'll have to scroll down a ways) and my speech for Americans United about "Politicizing Churches is Bad for Both Church and State."

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