Friday, August 06, 2004

The Weekly Standard's Terry Eastland actually had something intelligent to say in today's Wall Street Journal.
Of late the Democrats have had problems trying to overcome their image as a secular party. Earlier this year the Kerry campaign hired as its religious outreach director Mara Vanderslice, who had worked in a similar capacity for Howard Dean. Mr. Dean's most striking comment on religion, you'll remember, came when he located Job in the New Testament. When the Catholic League (ever the watchdog) noted Ms. Vanderslice's left-wing activist past and said that she was more suited for a job with Fidel Castro, the campaign quarantined her from the press.

In Boston last week the Democratic National Convention showed some of its religious side by sponsoring a "People of Faith for Kerry" luncheon. (Up front sat both the still-employed Ms. Peterson and the on-ice Ms. Vanderslice.) "This is the first time in the history of the Democratic Party that we've made space and time to come together as people of faith," announced the Rev. Leah Doughtry, who is not only a minister but chief of staff for the DNC. . . .

One of the nation's most progressive political pastors, the Rev. Dr. James Forbes of the Riverside Church in Manhattan, who had spoken to the earlier luncheon, delivered the sermon. The service ended with a "statement of our vision" in which attendees committed themselves to public policies favoring "full employment," "a true livable wage," "universal access to prekindergarten and childcare programs" and a "progressive tax policy." Not exactly the Apostles Creed, but you have to remember that progressive, even prophetic, faith was astir.

Before the service, Mr. Forbes told me that it is necessary for the Kerry campaign to be more explicit about religion if the Democrats' vision for the country is "to be embraced by the electorate."

In his acceptance speech, John Kerry explicitly sounded a religion-friendly theme. "We welcome people of faith," he said. But which people of faith? Those well left of center, theologically and politically, for sure. Beyond that, doubtful.
This gives me the chance to repost one of the General's golden oldies from June 23.

Secular liberal Democrats who don't instinctively hate faith and religion -- Kevin Drum comes immediately to mind -- have been trumpeting the so-called "religious left" as the Democrats answer to Pat Robertson and James Dobson. As someone whose politics resembles that of old-fasioned blue collar Catholics, I've always been skeptical of the credentials as well as the power of such a group. So with the help of adherents.com I did a quick tally of the strength of the religious left and came away duly unimpressed.

Here is my list of the members of the religious left in the United States, together with a rough percentage figure for how many in the denomination can be classified as such, followed by the number of members of the religious left contributed by each denomination.

Reform Judaism -- 100% -- 1.5 million
United Church of Christ -- 100% -- 1.38 million
Unitarian Universalist Association -- 100% -- 0.22 million
Quakers/Friends -- 100% -- 0.1 million
Presbyterian Church USA -- 67% -- 2.4 million
Episcopal Church -- 67% -- 1.6 million
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America -- 50% -- 2.52 million
United Methodist Church -- 33% -- 2.75 million

TOTAL -- 12.47 million

This is an amazingly weak number when you consider there are over 16 million Southern Baptists in the United States. Note also that the core of the "religious left" -- the first four denominations listed -- totals a mere 3.2 million.

In a country as religious as America, you'd better pin your hopes on a lot more than the "religious left" if you want to get elected

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