Noting that “nearly all of the white Americans who drifted away from organized religion in the last few decades were liberals,” Claude S. Fischer worries worries that this is problematic for both the left and the right:
The alienation of religion from the left is a problem for both sides. For the churches, it means losing young parishioners. Some leaders sense this loss. In the wake of the 2012 election, one stunned Southern Baptist leader said, “the entire moral landscape has changed…. An increasingly secularized America understands our positions, and has rejected them.” And the head of Focus on the Family confessed, “If the Christian message has been too wrapped around the axle of the Republican Party, then a) that’s our fault, and b) we’ve got to rethink that.”
The left should not be celebrating, however. Their separation from the churches means continuing estrangement from middle America. Part of the mythology of the left, rooted in the European experience, is that history is burying religion. Hardly; strong and widespread religiosity will be here in America for a long time.
Democrats probably cannot again attract most highly religious whites as they once did; that would entail regaining the South. But even a modest return—say, regaining one-fifth of the white evangelical vote—would have sizeable consequences.
Read the full piece here. For a discussion about a group of American evangelicals’ who have “left the right,” read our recent exchange, “The new evangelicals.”
Unlike the right, which tends to politicize religion, the left tends toward the opposite, turning politics into religion. Consequently, left wing thought frequently takes the place of religious dogma. For example, Howard Zinn’s historical perspective and its “central dogma” of class struggle is no more subject to “foundational probing” that the Virgin Birth of Jesus is among evangelicals.
It is interesting that this article quotes Obama’s famous “guns or religion” line. This quote is in contrast to his chapter “Faith” in his work The Audacity of Hope. Instead of criticizing religion, Obama openly talks about progressive’s discomfort with religiosity in the public sphere. He suggests (and maybe he should have taken his own advice when he said the guns comment) that progressives should shed their bias about religion. Religion, he argues has something to add to the debate about the moral direction of the United States. Contradicting himself, Obama wrote that progressives should take religion seriously.
However, what his comment may have been reflecting on is his point in his book that religious people should translate their policy concerns into universal values. Religious people’s arguments must be more than religion-specific. Obama argues in his work that religious people’s viewpoints must be subject to argument and reason. His “guns” comment then, may not be as offensive as many think it is. He simply may be arguing that the people “clinging to guns or religion,” may need to make their arguments against liberal policies more universal.
The Audacity of Hope makes Obama and liberals seem much more open to religion than history, as this article suggests. He does recognize though that Democrats do struggle to “get religion.” Religion may be a weak point for Democrats, but it does not mean it will be this way forever. Obama suggests that Democrats should not ignore religion and that it is a powerful force in American society. He even suggests that tapping into the moral underpinnings of the U.S. would be a powerful rhetorical tool for progressives. However, after reading this article it seems that liberals, out of fear or just convenience, will never use maybe this rhetorical tool.
“The alienation of religion from the left” is a blog post by Wei Zhu about an article written by Claude S. Fischer in the Boston Review. The article by Fischer, Can Liberals Get a Witness?, does a fantastic job of highlighting the problems faced by an increased alienation of religion by the Democratic Party. The problem for churches is that young parishioners, often associated with the Democratic Party, are not going to attend Church and churches and religions will lose attendance and ground with this demographic. According to Fischer, the other problem with the alienation of religion from the left is that the Democratic Party will begin to relate less to most of America and the average American who adheres to some particular religion. Fischer is not the only one who sees a problem with the increase in secularism in the United States that has accompanied a growth in the Democratic Party and can be associated with the Democratic Party. Another famous person who worries about the rise of secularism, especially as a threat to the political right, is previous Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. In a speech given in College Station, Texas that he titled “Faith in America,” Romney expressed his concerns with secularism and its relationship to politics in the United States. He said, “No religion should dictate to the state nor should the state interfere with the free practice of religion. But in recent years, the notion of the separation of church and state has been taken by some well beyond its original meaning.” Romney goes on to say that people are attempting to establish a new religion in America known as the religion of secularism and “they are wrong.” According to Romney, the Democratic Party and the secularists that have become part of the left are wrong in changing the relationship between church and state and erroneously are separating the two more than they were intended to be separated. Thus, the alienation of religion from the left poses many problems.