I’m going to give the Kruse Kronicle a lot of linkage in this post.
Michael Kruse is presently at the Presbyterian Church General Assembly Council (what he calls the big cat roundup) working hard to save the denomination from implosion, perhaps by arguing for spinning off the Presbyterian from the Presbyterian Publishing Corporation (which, for the record, I’m not for). Recently, Michael helpfully pointed to this Christian Century article entitled Democrats Seen as Failing in Outreach.
After varied efforts by Democratic leaders to convince mainstream churchgoers that they share common moral values, a Baptist ethicist has suggested that the Democrats focus instead on core biblical issues of compassion and begin long-term contacts with centrist clergy at local levels.
“The Democratic Party simply doesn’t have messengers who are preachers of big-steeple churches,” writes Robert Parham, whose online column EthicsDaily.com is the frank voice of the independent Baptist Center for Ethics in Nashville.
Parham, who holds a doctorate from Baylor University, often critiques fundamentalist Southern Baptist leaders but tosses political barbs as well. He rapped President Bush for confiding recently to conservative journalists that he thinks America is in a revivalist Third Great Awakening. By portraying the Iraq war as one between good and evil, the president “diminishes his credibility” in using religion “to rally political support,” Parham wrote.
But Democratic leaders were panned in his September 8 essay. Despite new Web sites such as FaithfulDemocrats.com, a flurry of books in the past year excoriating the religious right, and hope-filled gatherings of religious progressives in Washington, D.C., Parham argued that Democrats’ outreach is not working.
Read the whole article. Its good. For my part, a few quick observations, since I’m late for work. I don’t know how to make more democrats pastors of ‘big-steeple’ churches. I’m not sure if that should be an aim, frankly.
But first, a lot of what we’re trying to measure in this article depends on how you define “mainstream churchgoers” Statistics show that those who go to church every week tend to be Republican and conservative, but if you modify that for, say three times a month then you get a much more varied picture. I’m just not sure what “mainstream churchgoers” this article is talking about. Second, sure, the Republican party has a huge lead on the value conversation in this country. Its going to take a while for the Democrats to make headway in that conversation, given that it seems to me they’ve only really been trying for a few years. Barack Obama has had a point in his speeches on this score, and that point, along with the efforts of Jim Wallis and others like him, are just beginning to have an effect. It will take some time to measure whether the effect will be great enough or not.
Finally, you’ve got to look at the questions on the ground and scratch your head. Look: the Christian faith has words of support and many more words of critique for both political parties. It always will (the Democratic Bible and Republican Bible versions notwithstanding).
But from where I sit, right now, looking over the recent attempt to codify into law Torture of detainees, the right of the Executive to decide just what Torture would be permitted, the inability of those detained to challenge their detention (and their guilt) in court, and the ability to make anyone–US Citizens included–an enemy combatant who can thus have their habeas rights suspended, I’m just stunned that anyone could even say with a straight face that the Republican Party captures the religious values of “mainstream churchgoers.” In fact, its the democratic party right now that is standing up for basic human rights and Christian values. Maybe this says something more about the faith of the “mainstream”?