God's Politics

Jim WallisI got some critical reactions to a very short blog I posted the day after the election, titled “A Defeat for the Religious Right and Secular Left.” It was too short, and perhaps titled badly, because I had to abruptly leave Washington when my Dad suddenly died. I certainly did not mean that “secular” people (among whom I count many close allies) didn’t or shouldn’t share in the progressive victory OR that religious and secular people shouldn’t build important coalitions around key issues (they must). What I simply meant was that the Religious Right had suffered a major defeat and no longer controlled the political agenda for people of faith AND that those on the Left who have too often disdained the role of religion in politics, the participation of the faith community, and even the “moral values” conversation itself (probably better named “secular fundamentalists”) lost some of their control of the process too. Democrats were far friendlier to faith than they have been in the recent past and the results were clear — as both religious and secular people on the progressive side should celebrate. As my colleagues noted last week: “this election saw many Democrats win who speak openly about their faith, and how it informs their political views.”

I’ve often thought that “religious fundamentalists” had too much influence in the Republican Party and that “secular fundamentalists” had too much influence in the Democratic Party. Senator Barack Obama made similar comments in his June speech on faith and politics at the Sojourners/Call to Renewal conference this past spring, and says the same in his new book (he got some of the criticism on the blog too, as he has in the Left blogosphere before). I believe both groups do exist, and have had real power in their respective constituencies — and both groups lost influence in this election. That’s all I was trying to say. I’ve had many debates with the religious fundamentalists; perhaps its time for some healthy debate with the secular fundamentalists, too.

My father’s passing is very significant for me on many levels, and I am sure I will be writing about that when I am ready. But the morning he died, I called him, as I often did. He was very focused and excited in his question to me: “Do you think the Democrats will win the Senate, as well as the House?” His weakened heart stopped just three hours later, before we had a chance to talk again later that afternoon, as we had planned. My Dad was an 82-year-old evangelical Christian from the Midwest. He was a part of the demographic shift I am talking about. And his faith and values are one of the big reasons for how my politics have shifted over all these years. My Dad would have smiled when the news about the Senate came in, and laughed raucously when he heard that Donald Rumsfeld had to resign. I can almost hear him now.

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