The Religious Left

In the wake of another tough election day, Democrats have been
wringing their hands over the phrase ‘moral values,’ which pundits
deemed decisive to President Bush’s victory and encompasses a set
of hot button issues pushed by religious conservatives —
particularly an opposition to abortion and gay marriage.

Hordes of Democratic voters have since chided Republicans for
using intolerance to motivate their base. Some religious leaders
were dismayed as well, not only because Republicans exploited
religion to win, but because Democrats didn’t.

Tikkun editor

Rabbi Michael Lerner argues
that Americans are spiritually
bankrupt, hungry for values to bring people together, and desperate
for an antidote to materialism and selfishness. Stepping in to fill
that void is crucial for the left if it wants to stop rational folk
from turning to right-wing churches and synagogues.

Jim Wallis, the editor of the Christian magazine
Sojourners and author of God’s Politics: Why the Right
Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It
, agrees — noting

leaders on the left need to respect the secular while rallying
social justice activists to tap into religion
. He holds up
Martin Luther King Jr. as the archetype for this approach: ‘With
his Bible in one hand and the Constitution in the other, King
persuaded, not just pronounced.’

Some may doubt that such a tack could work with liberals, renown
for their distrust of religion. But Steven Waldman of
beliefnet says this is a misconception, and in a column
memorably titled,
God-Hating Frenchies vs. Inbred, Sex-Obsessed Yokels
‘ he uses
statistics to back up his claim.

Of course, non-believers are wary that the phrase ‘moral values’
is becoming synonymous with religion. Opposition to the war,
concern for the poor, and support for environmentally sound
policies are, after all, morally rooted positions shared by
agnostics and atheists. As comedian Jon Stewart noted while
wrapping up an amicable interview with Wallis earlier this week on
The Daily Show, ‘Works without faith, is still pretty good.’

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