Wallis, Religion, and Politics

Posted by Dave on 02/20/07  ~  Posted in: Religion and Politics

In case you were unaware, there has been a pretty interesting discussion going on around some of the big liberal blogs about the role that religion plays in politics (see Kos, Atrios here and here, etc.). Jim Wallis has an interesting response on his God's Politics blog: Dear Kos, Can the Left Stop Shooting Itself in the Foot?

If you have been reading this blog for any period of time, you will know that I am both liberal and "religious", and the first one (liberal) comes because of the way that I view and live out my religious faith. I believe that progressive religion can and should play a significant role in progressive politics. So many liberal/liberating movements have been strongly rooted in religion - women' suffrage, the abolition of slavery, civil rights, historic peace churches and non-violence, etc. You simply cannot ignore the role that religion has played in progressive movements.

With that said, I am not so sure that Wallis is right that liberals/Democrats have a tendency to be anti-religion. Sure, I think there are some who believe that religion has no role in politics whatsoever. But I also think there others who are simply sick of the way that religion is used, mostly by the Religious Right. In turn, when liberals attack certain aspects of conservative religion being used as a political tool, in can appear that they are anti-religious. The Amanda Marcotte (from Pandagon) controversy is a perfect example. I do not believe that Amanda is anti-religion. And while she has at times appeared offensive and abrasive towards religion, instead she simply wants to point out the problems with certain aspects of religion.

Overall I think that Wallis wrong that mainstream liberals and Democrats are anti-religion, though I do think that mainstream liberals are often not interested in extending the values of the Kingdom of God. While I believe that liberal political ideologies are more in-line with the values of the Kingdom of God, they are not the same. Needless for me to say, I also believe that conservative political ideologies are far from being in-line with the values of the Kingdom of God. And that presents a problem for the religious voter. The problem is not that there are sides who are anti-religious. The problem is that there is no side that is pro-Kingdom of God. This is part of the Mennonite argument against voting (which I have not bought into - yet...). We have an allegiance to God and the Church, not the state. And voting will force us to give a vote to a candidate who does not have the interests of the Kingdom of God in mind.

** An aside: I should clarify that I do not necessarily believe that a political candidate should make decisions based on the Kingdom of God. The church cannot be run in the same way that a state can, and this is an important distinction.

So with all of that said, I believe that such a discussion of the role of religion in progressive politics is an important one, and not one to be ignored. But I also think it is important to be intellectually honest in such discussions, and I am not sure that Wallis is doing that. And if he thinks he is, I agree with Atrios - I would like to see who these people are that he refers to as being anti-faith:

As I always want to scream when Wallis writes, WHO ARE THESE DEMOCRATS and how did their passive voice "manage to appear hostile to faith and to people in faith communities." ...