A new book on faith and politics hit the shelves today: How the Republicans Stole Religion written by Bill Press. Press is a nationally syndicated columnist, radio host, political commentator and former seminarian. The book originally came out last year with the title How the Republicans Stole Christmas. In it, Press rails against the Religious Right for monopolizing the language of values and religion and calls for Democrats to reclaim religion from the so-called “moral majority.” Inspired by the 2004 elections, Press offers his take on the proper role of religion in politics. For a taste of his prose, check out this excerpt :
” In tackling this topic, I draw on my life as a Catholic, my degree in theology, my knowledge of Scripture and my decade spent in the seminary – as well as over 30 years of active involvement in politics as campaign manager, strategist, candidate and political commentator on television and radio. I speak to and from both worlds, and I begin with this premise:
1. Conservatives possess no monopoly on religion. There’s still a place in the church for liberals and moderates.
2. On many important social issues today, conservatives have it all wrong. They twist Scripture to fit their politics, rather than base their politics on Scripture.
3. What many religious conservatives define as “moral valuesâ€ today is not the morality of the New Testament. It’s too narrow, too selfish, and too intolerant.
4. Conservatives have turned Jesus Christ upside-down: from a loving Messiah who hung out with the poor and dispossessed, into a cold-hearted monster who cares only for the rich and powerful.
It’s time to define the proper intersection of religion and politics.
It’s time to end the Republican monopoly on God and God-talk.
It’s time to take our religion back.”
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Save a few still undecided House races, the midterm election that has been consuming our lawmakers–and our newspapers–for the past few months is finally over. Where does this leave us here in the faith world? With a little breathing room and, we hope, with a new Congress that will be willing to work with the faith community on those common good issues that were so neglected by the previous Congress. There is already evidence that politicians–with their jobs now secured for at least a couple more years–are turning back to the issues, and are focusing their energy on issues that are near and dear to many faith groups.
Our newsreel today included an article on plans to raise the federal minimum wage, an effort that faith leaders have been working hard at in many states across the country. With ballot initiatives to raise state minimum wage levels passing in six more states this year, Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi has now declared that a federal minimum wage increase will be on the agenda in the first 100 days of the new Congress.
The National Religious Campaign Against Torture will be happy to hear that some of their hard work seems to have paid off, as another newsreel article declared today that the month-old military tribunal bill would be in danger just as soon as the new Members of Congress got their hands on it. And
Evangelicals are already calling for the President to work with the newest lawmakers to combat global warming.
The prospects for the faith community seem bright as work begins again up on the hill–assuming the new Congress can keep on track despite the upcoming presidential election. Though it seems that those who claim the 2008 presidential race started November 8th may be right given the number of potential candidate pairings already up on Pollster, I personally hope that the new Congress will set some time aside to fulfill their promises to work for our common good.
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What bloggers are saying about the Faith in Public Life/Zogby survey on the election, the “shrinking God gap,” and Obama hangin’ with Rick Warren. . .
University of San Francisco professor of media and fifteen minute bloggin’ man, finds the Faith in Public Life/Zogby survey results “heartening.”
Commenting on the results as well, Pam’s House Blend points out: “Poll shows Iraq, not the homostraw man, was focus of voters.”
And Jim Wallis confirms that conclusion, noting: “The moral agenda of religious voters has broadened beyond the two issues of abortion and gay marriage. When Focus on the Family’s James Dobson says the “moral valuesâ€ voters stayed home, he is simply wrong, and the data shows it.”
Speaking of that, Deb Hafner posts a handy list of what the election gains mean for people who care about issues such as abortion rights and gay marriage. It also debunks the common media theme that this new congress is conservative.
And pastor Jeremy concludes that “as far as the “God Gap” goes, I think Evangelicals are finally figuring out that just because you stamp the name “Jesus” on something, doesn’t make it holy, pure, and wise.”
Melissa Rogers, always thoughtfully commenting on “religion’s intersection with public affairs,” writes about Rick Warren inviting Barack Obama to speak at Saddleback. Back in 2004 Warren listed five non-negotiables that included abortion, stem cell research and gay marriage – issues that Obama would “fail” on. In light of this Melissa wonders:
“Am I too optimistic in thinking that Warren himself might cringe at this kind of pitch today, especially in light of his increasing focus on issues like AIDS, the Darfur genocide, and worldwide poverty? I’m not looking for Rick Warren to issue a new heavy-handed “issues” statement that screams Democrat rather than Republican. But I would hope that Warren would talk differently about these things in the run up to the 2008 election. If he does, that will be progress in the journey toward a better conversation about faith and politics in America.
The Rev. Chuck Currie lays down the law with Trent Lott: “It seems to me he has a real choice now to either follow his old instincts of dividing people based on race or he could answer God’s call for justice. It’s up to him.”
The liberal Adventist Spectrum Blog posts youtube video of blogger Andrew Sullivan lecturing about how conservatives sold their soul by embracing fundamentalist-informed governing philosophy. Speaking of that, Johnny rips into popular young Seattle pastor Mark Driscoll who blames Ted Haggard’s wife.
Islamicate says goodbye to Rummy. Father Jake draws attention to the Episcopal resolution for ending the war in Iraq. Reaping the fruits of their resolve, CrossWalk America hosts some guest bloggers, including two UCC writers they met while walking through Indianapolis.
And finally, Rabbi Jill Jacobs at Jewish Funds for Justice, writes on the new NYTimes section on “Giving” which includes an article on tithing, which, if I recall, is the democratic method of supporting the good work of religion in society.
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The results of a new exit poll commissioned by Faith in Public Life and conducted by Zogby International show that Iraq was the top moral issue influencing voters in the mid-term elections and that most Americans consider poverty and greed the most urgent moral problems in our culture. Voters who heard from faith groups urging people to vote on ‘kitchen table’ moral issues like peace in Iraq and poverty responded much more favorably than voters who heard from faith groups urging people to vote on issues like abortion, same-sex marriage and stem cell research.
Click here for the 2006 Zogby Exit Poll Memo.
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