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Dan Nejfelt
Dan Nejfelt, Faith in Public Life’s Messaging and Trainings Manager, worked at Sojourners magazine as part of his graduate study of journalism at the University of Missouri before coming to FPL. Prior to that, he taught remedial reading and writing to 7th and 8th graders in rural Arkansas as a Teach For America corps member. Dan blogs about health care, the Religious Right and budget issues.

Come Let Us Reason Together

October 10, 2007, 3:55 pm | By Dan Nejfelt

Third Way’s “Come Let Us Reason Together” has already received plenty of attention. So far it’s been the subject of a Newsweek feature, an op-ed column in the Washington Post, and blog commentary, notably by my friend Pastor Dan at Street Prophets. The variety of these reports speaks to the diverse perspectives on religion and politics, even within the ranks of progressives

EJ, while certainly a faithful and religiously informed person, approaches it as a secular political journalist, saying that Third way “takes a step toward religious conservatives by acknowledging the legitimacy of many of their moral concerns,” and treating it as a self-evident good.

Pastor Dan, coming from a progressive religious activist perspective, offers a different take:

Furthermore, as the study’s authors themselves point out, more than half of American evangelicals live in the South. Assuming that the Democrats do a bang-up job with the modernists and even attract a few centrists, that means they’ll win one-half of 2-5% of the electorate in the areas that make up the Republican base. That’s just not enough to put a state like Alabama into play, and even in a swing state like Virginia, the smart money is on the non-evangelicals in the D.C. suburbs…Forgive me for thinking that no matter how closely aligned young evangelicals are with the rest of the public on issues, 74% support for Republican candidates means they’re not ripe for the plucking by Dems

Dan’s talking about electing Democrats tomorrow, but taking a more long-term view, I can’t think of why it isn’t worthwhile for progressives and evangelicals to build some basic, shared understandings that can turn Deal-breaking Wedge Issues into merely Serious Issues. One question beyond Dan’s analysis and Third Way’s report are the criteria by which people determine that they are conservative. Leaving aside the half of evangelicals who label themselves moderate or progressive, how many self-identify as conservative because they think liberals hate God and love abortion? That is a topic that must be addressed before “Come Let Us Reason Together” can be written off as electorally insignificant. (Note: I agree with Dan that conservative demagogues bear great responsibility for such negative perceptions of liberals.)

Whether centrist and conservative evangelicals are “ripe for the plucking” right this minute is beside the point. “Come Let Us Reason Together” is not a Democratic strategy memo for 2008. It is an effort to establish a basis for communication and cooperation between two large groups that have had neither in recent years. And dialogue is essential to healthy democracy. It proposes grounds of agreement that seem mundane to Dan, and that’s fine, but they are meant to foster mutual respect and enable productive communication between people who think of each other in such caricatured terms as baby killer or woman oppressor, libertine or theocrat. Before you can say to another person, “come let us reason together,” you must believe that you are talking to a reasonable person. By establishing what some people might view as “so what” shared understandings, we at least establish that each other can be reasoned with. That might seem a small step, but the first one always is, and right now the end of the culture war is ripe for the picking, so we should get to stepping.

Although I’ve lived in liberal Washington, DC for the past year, I’ve spent most of my adult life out in “Jesusland.” I have known many good people who automatically voted Republican because of same-sex marriage and abortion, to the exclusion of all other issues. I want these people to open themselves to progressive candidates who seek justice and peace, but I recognize that abortion and same sex marriage are not going away, and that people are not going to magically flip on the issues or decide that they don’t matter any more. Establishing a common framework is thus critical to outgrowing the poisonous divisiveness that has sullied our public life.

Whether or not working on this is electorally necessary for Democrats is beside the point.

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“If Rudy Giuliani wins, I’m telling you the pro-life, the pro-family movement is gone.”

October 9, 2007, 2:27 pm | By Dan Nejfelt

Last night James Dobson appeared on Hannity & Colmes to reiterate that he is gravely serious about opposing Giuliani’s nomination, even going so far as to say he’d prefer another President Clinton. She would set the “pro-family” cause back, Giuliani would doom it.

Sean Hannity, ever the sycophantic shill, was begging Dobson back into the fold, but he appears to be off the reservation, maybe for good.

Note the portentous signoff:

DOBSON: Sean, this is a matter for prayer. I’m sure you agree with that.

HANNITY: I pray everyday, and I absolutely agree. Prayer and fasting, that’s all the help I need. Thank you for being with us.

(Video via The Carpetbagger Report and Hot Air)

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Poll: 27 percent of Republicans would vote for pro-life 3rd party candidate

October 4, 2007, 1:49 pm | By Dan Nejfelt

A just-released Rasmussen poll (via Eric Kleefeld), coupled with James Dobson’s New York Times op-ed, shows that the Religious Right is poised to set off a potentially major shift in the electoral landscape. The poll:

If Rudy Giuliani wins the Republican nomination and a third party campaign is backed by Christian conservative leaders, 27% of Republican voters say they’d vote for the third party option rather than Giuliani. A Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that a three-way race with Hillary Clinton would end up with the former First Lady getting 46% of the vote, Giuliani with 30% and the third-party option picking up 14%. In head-to-head match-ups with Clinton, Giuliani is much more competitive.

Over this past weekend, several Christian conservative leaders indicated they might back a pro-life, third-party, candidate if Giuliani wins the nomination.


…I firmly believe that the selection of a president should begin with a recommitment to traditional moral values and beliefs. Those include the sanctity of human life, the institution of marriage, and other inviolable pro-family principles. Only after that determination is made can the acceptability of a nominee be assessed.

The other approach, which I find problematic, is to choose a candidate according to the likelihood of electoral success or failure. Polls don’t measure right and wrong; voting according to the possibility of winning or losing can lead directly to the compromise of one’s principles. In the present political climate, it could result in the abandonment of cherished beliefs that conservative Christians have promoted and defended for decades. Winning the presidential election is vitally important, but not at the expense of what we hold most dear.

Whether the Religious Right is playing chicken with the Republican party or genuinely pushing away from the table is anybody’s guess right now, but bluff or no, the very public nature of the fight is a sure sign that the Republican coalition is cracking. At issue is whether the party’s strongest bloc can force upon the party a nominee with dimmer general election prospects than the favorite. That is no mere quibble. The future of the party appears to be at stake.

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Children’s health and compassionate conservatism vetoed

October 3, 2007, 9:38 pm | By Dan Nejfelt

In anticipation of Bush’s veto of S-CHIP, leaders from Sojourners, NETWORK, PICO, and numerous denominations spoke at a press conference on Capitol Hill yesterday marking the death of compassionate conservatism.

Today, as promised and expected, President Bush confirmed Wallis’ judgment by vetoing an expansion of SCHIP that would have covered most of the country’s 9-10 million uninsured children. The moral bankruptcy of valuing the interests of insurance providers over the health of children is self-evident. This commercial from FamiliesUSA is a pointed reminder of who is hurt by President Bush’s fealty to private insurers and why SCHIP is a moral issue:

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Tony Perkins on Giuliani, abortion, and the Right

October 2, 2007, 11:38 am | By Dan Nejfelt

Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins appeared on Hardball last night to discuss the Right’s Dire Warning to the GOP. Click on picture to view via MSNBC’s web site:

Will pro-lifers bring the GOP down?
Will pro-lifers bring the GOP down?

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