Progressive Revival

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There’s a shift happening among religious voters but the panelist at the Faith Vote Panel here at the DNC convention hedged on where or to whom it is shifting.  The panel consisted of Moderator Amy Sullivan, National Correspondent, TIME Magazine and author of Faithful Democrats,  Rev. Ron Stief, Director of Organizing Strategy, Faith in Public Life, Alexia Kelley, Executive Director and Co-founder, Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good; Zack Exley of the blog Revolution in Jesusland, and Dr. Michael Bernard Beckwith founded the Agape International Spiritual Center.

Maybe the shift is most noticeable with the Democratic Party itself and the way it relates to people of faith.  Leah Daughtry, the CEO of the DNC convention and a Pentecostal preacher, said yesterday at the Interfaith Service: “Democrats have not just discovered faith, we have always been people of faith.”  But Steve Waldman reminded us today that in John Kerry’s acceptance speech in 2004 he welcomed people of faith, implying that they were some how other than the mainstream party.  Four years later Democrats have a candidate who resonates with many religious people and whose campaign has done unprecedented outreach to religious communities, especially Evangelicals and Catholics. 


Alexia Kelly, a Progressive Revival Blogger as well as director of Catholics in Alliance said that there is a bigger swing vote factor this year than in 2004 as other social justice issues like the economy and international policies are being weighed against a continued disagreement with Democrats position on abortion.  One of her more interesting points was that Catholics are traditionally NOT against big government, rather they appreciate the role of government in supplying services for the common good.  The role of religious communities is to shape government to supply the services needed for that common good. This puts them more in line with traditional Democratic policies than Republican ones.


Each speaker in their own way emphasized the changes they see happening in the faith vote.  Most amusingly, Zach Exley of Revolution in Jesusland spoke of the new Christian anarchist and their role model (if anarchists can have such a thing) Shane Claiborne who has promoted the idea of not voting at all in his book Jesus for President.  While I don’t approve of people not voting at all, I do appreciate the idea that young Evangelicals should not become stooges of the Democratic party like those on the right got sucked into the Republican party.   


It is unfortunate that main-line Protestants and Jews, considered the bedrock of the Democratic party were not mentioned at all.  While most mainline Protestants will stick with Obama this year, it is not at all certain that all Jews will given some of the skepticism that some Jews have about Obama’s support of Israel.  If Obama’s team is treating these two major constituencies as casually as this panel did then he may be in trouble this fall.

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