Our Founding Fathers, Faith and the Democrats
(cross-posted at firedoglake)
“… But it does me no injury for my neighbor
to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks
my leg. … Reason and free enquiry are the only effectual agents against
error. Give a loose to them, they will support the true religion, by bringing
every false one to their tribunal, to the test of their investigation.” – Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia – Query XVII
I'll start it off with what FDL reader “hackworth” said
in the comments: “… Blitzer asks Falwell if there is any chance that
the democrats will pick off some family values voters. Falwell says, slim chance
– as long as the dems are pro choice, pro gay marriage and do not support the
FDL reader “GSD” completes the vision: “'Blow
them all away in the name of the Lord' – Jerry Falwell. That is the caliber
of cleric that holds sway in this nation.”
Faithful fighting for war? Leading the way and electing a man
who postures to be born again, but who chose preemptive war?
Evangelicals used to behave quite differently, especially when it came to government,
church and state.
Even though Jefferson was labeled anti-religion
by some, he had become a hero to evangelicalsÃ¢â‚¬”not in spite of his views
on separation of church and state, but because of them. By this point, Jefferson
had written his draft of the Virginia statute of religious freedom, and he
and James Madison were known as the strictest proponents of keeping government
and religion far apart. Because Baptists and other evangelicals had been persecuted
and harassed by the majority faithsÃ¢â‚¬”the Anglicans in the South and the
Puritan-influenced Congregationalists in the NorthÃ¢â‚¬”these religious minorities
had concluded that their freedom would only be guaranteed when majority faiths
could not use the power of the state to promote their theology and institutions.
With the evangelicals providing the political ground
troops, the legislature then went even further, approving Thomas Jefferson's
statute on religious freedom. The statute prohibited not only formal establishments,
but also the use of government funds to aid any particular religion on the
grounds that no man's taxes should be used to support religious beliefs with
which he does not agree. “To compel a man to furnish contributions of
money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves, is sinful and
A similar dynamic developed during the ratification
of the Bill of Rights. The evangelicals provided the political muscle for
the efforts of Madison and Jefferson, not merely because they wanted to block
official churches but because they wanted to keep the spiritual and secular
worlds apart. “Religious freedom resulted from an alliance of unlikely
partners,” writes the eminent historian Frank Lambert in his excellent
book The Founding Fathers and the Place of Religion in America. “New
Light evangelicals such as Isaac Backus and John Leland joined forces with
Deists and skeptics such as James Madison and Thomas Jefferson to fight for
a complete separation of church and state.”
Framers and the Faithful, by Steven Waldman
How modern evangelicals are ignoring their own history.
As Jim Wallis, author of “Politics of God” has said over and over
again, what the religious right is offering America when it comes to faith,
war and policies is not the direction most liberal evangelicals want to go.
Going further, some religious leaders are separating themselves from Falwell
and the “left behind” rapture crowd. It's giving Karl Rove “heartburn,”
according to Amy Sullivan.
Like an abusive boyfriend, Republicans keep moderate
evangelicals in the coalition by alternating between painting their options
as bleak and wooing them with sweet talk. You can't leave meÃ¢â‚¬”where are
you going to go? To them? They think you're stupid, they hate religion. Besides,
you know I love youÃ¢â‚¬”I'm a compassionate conservative. The tactic works
as long as evangelicals don't call the GOP's bluff and as long as Democrats
are viewed as hostile to religion.
Randy Brinson is proof that some evangelicals are willing
to take their chances and cross over to see what Democrats have to offer.
There is a growing recognition among mainstream Democrats and the once-quiescent
Religious Left that they can reframe issues they care about in terms that
appeal to religious voters.
Would Jesus Bolt?, by Amy Sullivan
Meet Randy Brinson, the advance guard of evangelicals leaving the GOP.
Who is Randy Brinson? He is the founder of Redeem
the Vote, a “religious version of Rock the Vote.” But what he
understands is profound. He knows, as do many of you, that the religious right
has no vested interest in solving problems and healing the divisions we have
regarding faith and values. What they want to do is keep the culture war brewing,
because it's big bucks and brings in lots of power, their main interest in it
Democrats need to quit helping them do it.
One of the reasons I brought up the environmental issue this morning is that
there is a growing movement of environmental religious groups who are furious
at George W. Bush and the administration, along with the Republican Party, because
the current crop of politicians are terrible stewards of our planet. This is
becoming a powerful movement around the country, one that could wrench the religious
away from Republicans. Even Randy Brinson has taken a step away from Republicans
in order to listen to what Democrats are talking about.
It's not about converting the conservatives, which will never happen. But there
are many moderates and non church going spiritual people out there who don't
like what the religious right is offering, but don't consider themselves secular
in the least. Where do they go or do they stay home?
You don't have to believe in God, Buddha or Allah to respect the power, not
to mention the practicalities, of reaching out to people of all types of faith.
The Democratic Party has the answers to solve many social, national security
and global challenges we face today. But many moderates, especially in the south
and in rural areas, are tuning us out and it's costing us elections. Of course,
we need to reach out to people beyond the faith based, but if we loosened the
Republicans “lock on faith,” as Sullivan calls it, the possibilities
for Democrats would expand exponentially.
Compromise between secularists and people of faith can be found through engaging
our tolerance and open mindedness, as well as practicalities that are important,
like wanting to win elections. Opening the door to everyone, including moderate
and the liberally religious, is a good thing. You don't have to be religious
to appreciate the power they could bring to the polls in numbers, if Democrats
flung the door wide open.
If that doesn't sell you, how about the fact that it would give Karl Rove heartburn?
That's got to be worth something.