The Democratic National Committee (DNC) and some Democratic leaders have reported that the Party will be making a concerted effort to reach out to religious voters in 2012. Assistant Democratic Leader, Representative James E. Clyburn (D-SC) informed the Washington Post in 2011, “As we organize going forward to next year, there will be significant efforts on our part to reconnect the fundamentals of our policies to the [religious] teachings that we all learned, be it in the Old Testament or the New Testament.” And DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz recently stated, “The Democrats’ values and core agenda, and President Obama’s accomplishments, are reflective of the tenets and teachings and lessons of my faith as a Jewish woman… [and] no, there aren’t things that are informed by my faith than are different from the values and ideals of the Democratic Party.” Well, it’s about friggin’ time, isn’t it!? The entire premise behind JWAD is a similar notion: Jesus’ teachings are replete with liberal ideology and therefore liberal/progressive policy reflects most of the important biblical concepts. In addition, conservative right-wing ideology is incongruent with Jesus’ teachings. Once this is realized or admitted, it therefore becomes easy to say, “See? This (the Bible) is one reason why universal healthcare is important”, or, “And this supports our position that food stamps are important and the right thing to do.” Democrats of faith should not shy away from the fact that their faith informs their ideology and should say as much (like Mr. Clyburn and Ms. Wasserman Schultz).
As inevitable as the sun rises in the morning, however, at least one right-wing Christian leader would have to express the most outrageous hypocrisy imaginable when hearing of the Democrat’s plan. Richard Land, the Director of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics (my emphasis) & Religious Liberty Commission had this to say: “Whenever you employ religion to justify your own positions, which may or may not be biblical, it cheapens and desacrilizes religion.” Whew! OK, where to begin? I’ll start with this: a great deal of this man’s efforts, as well as the efforts of the SBC, are spent “employing religion to justify [their] own positions” and promoting the Republican Party. The irony in that is, when he and the SBC do it, they use an often unrecognizable interpretation of scripture, or, just the sheer influence that they command among the right-wing religious community, to coerce voters to support right-wing positions and to vote for Republican candidates. When they do it, it does cheapen religion.
If the Democrats stick to identifying commonalities between Democratic policies and the wonderfully liberal teachings of Jesus, then they can do it without “cheapening” religion or blurring the line between church and state. As long as they refrain from some of the more egregious and hateful acts commonly coming from right wing Christians, especially in the South, they’ll be OK. For instance, a Republican congregant will likely always feel safe in any northeastern church and not have to worry about expulsion. Not so in the South for liberal Christians (see: Where do Hate and Intolerance Lead? http://jesuswasademocrat.org/2011/10/where-do-hate-and-intolerance-lead/). Likewise, a gay member of a northeastern Protestant church wouldn’t likely have to endure a harangue about his certain damnation because of the misrepresentation, or, to be fair, the misinterpretation, of scripture (http://jesuswasademocrat.org/forum/homosexuality/bad-translation-homosexuals-will-not-enter-heaven-its-rapists/), whereas the same would not be true in a Southern Baptist church. And folks in blue states certainly aren’t told to which political party they must show their loyalty in the voting booth, but in red state America, it is made clear from the pulpit which lever to pull to gain God’s approbation.
Democrats have historically forgone the huge potential constituency of religious voters for several reasons, the most obvious being the desire to keep the line between faith and government clearly drawn. But to acknowledge that some of the inspiration for policies that address the pubic welfare, or matters of war and peace, for instance, is derived from one’s faith is hardly breaching the wall. And for the Democrats to identify scripture that supports progressive positions is as easy as opening one of the gospels. If the idea is to win elections for the purpose of enacting a more broadly moralistic agenda, then it seems like the right thing to do.