jeudi, novembre 02, 2006
Sharing Faith in "The Common Good"
November 2, 2006
Democrats Find Religion, Churchgoing Voters
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democratic politicians have found religion and that may help explain why they are suddenly more popular among churchgoing Americans.
As they push to win control of the U.S. Congress in Tuesday's elections from Republicans, who have long enjoyed support among conservative religious voters, more and more Democrats have shed a reluctance to talk about their faith.
``What we're doing is paying real dividends in the faith community,'' said Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina, who heads the House of Representatives Democratic Faith Working Group, an outreach effort by lawmakers to ministers from the left and right.
``We're framing issues in religious terms and getting our members to be comfortable with it,'' said Clyburn, the son of a fundamentalist minister.
His and other similar groups were formed after the 2004 elections when the religious right was a major force behind President George W. Bush re-election and the Republicans keeping control of Congress.
Bush was perceived as a man of faith after he called Jesus Christ his favorite philosopher during the 2000 White House campaign. Republicans have been seen by some as representing ''family values,'' mainly because of their opposition to abortion and gay marriage and support for school prayer.
Until recently, Democrats have been reluctant to mention religion, but that has begun to change with some now even quoting scripture.
In Georgetown, Ohio, recently, Democratic congressional challenger Victoria Wulsin slid easily into biblical talk at a National Catholic Rural Life Conference.
``Paul's letter to Timothy sets the stage for doing what's right,'' said Wulsin, the granddaughter of preachers.
A popular phrase for Democrats this year is ``the common good,'' essentially a shared sacrifice to help all.
``When we work together for the common good, we can overcome the great moral dilemmas of our time,'' Democratic senatorial nominee Bob Casey of Pennsylvania declares on his Web site where he is pictured standing in front of a church. //////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// Thephrase "the common good" is not a new one in the American political world. Years ago, in what now seem to be the pre-lapsarian days of the Clinton presidency, academicians and philosophers articulated a "third way", a vision that cut across economic, gender racial, and religious lines. Terming themselves "communitarians," these women and men graphed out a fine line between the conservative dogma of individual responsibility, a liberal commitment to policies that helped the disadvantaged, and a quasi-theological call to shared sacrifice. Some of the proponents of this philosophy were clergy-but most were not. At any rate, it never really took hold of the collective imagination. After 9/11, the future of communitarianism seemed bleak indeed. We turned in on ourselves-if the world was against us (particularly the Frency) then we had to look out for ourselves didn't we? Americans, in my opinion, are capable both of generosity and a profound egotism-it may come from living in relative isolation from other nations. When was the last time, for instance, that we really gave a hoot about Canadian foreign policy or what is going on in Mexico, unless it affects the flow of illegal aliens on our borders? Yet it is possible that this time the "third way" of communitarianism may take hold of our national imagination. Several factors, coming together this election years make this more possible than it was in the dark days (hell, the dark years) after the bombing of the Twin Towers. One is that we are faced, every day with the slaughter of American military and Iraqi civilians, a witness to the idee fixe of an Administration that thought it would impose its own vision of "democracy" on a nation, Iraq, where the ethnic and religious groups have no common vision. Another is that while we have been "going it alone" various nations who subscribe to the same isolationist philosophy, notable Iran and North Korea, have come up with their own answer to our military power-nuclear weapons that will force the affluent nations, if they wish to avoid a global apocalpyse, to pursue the common good. Finally, and perhaps most importantly in this nation of faith, the idea of a "common good" sounds plausible when it is articulated on Biblical principles, rather than as a secular philosophy. It is an idea preached from synagogue and church pulpits, an issue debated in Bible Study classes and Men's Groups, a vision as old as the Hebrew Scriptures and fundamental to the New Testament. If the Gospels aren't about individual discipleship and social justice, then a lot of us have been mis-reading them. It remains to be seen if the Democrats who are now coming out of the closet (when was the last time you heard a politician use Timothy as a source?) and talking about faith-based "common ground" and "common good" are doing something more than riding the wave of the public craving for answers based on something more than fear. Let's hope they are sincere and are willing to be bi-partisan-because sometimes that old time religion is the medicine that our sin sick souls really need. Let's also hope that if the Democrats are indeed victorious, they remember why lots of white evangelical voters ended up as Republicans-because they didn't feel that their values and concerns were taken seriously. If we can truly harness the power of the Judeo-Christian vision of the "common good", we'll find ourselves sitting beside folks that look more like adversaries than friends-until we have the courage, and the faith, to really get to know them.