Democratic Faith Outreach, stumped

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Yesterday’s exchange in this space, plus posts by Sarah Posner and Dan Schultz over at Religion Dispatches, suggest that the debate really comes down to the Bass-Posner-Schultz view that Democratic faith outreach has been too focused on wooing unwooable evangelicals (or selling its soul for a mess of evangelical pottage) versus the Sapp view au contraire. Either way, there’s no disagreement that Obama’s folks have let the effort fall apart. Will they pick up the pieces? Not unless the president himself decides to take a hand. The powers that be in the Administration are, when it comes to faith-based politics, unredeemed.

Update: Don’t miss Kelly Phipps’ comment below.

  • Kelly Phipps

    First, the bona fides: I love this blog. I have read every book Diana Butler Bass has written.(I would read her grocery list if I could get a copy.) I have worked with Eric Sapp on several projects and call him a friend. I am an Evangelical, and a Democratic Party operative and former campaign manager for several campaigns at various levels.
    Sorry, Eric. From the field, the Democratic outreach to Evangelicals never really got off the ground, and was sincere, but somewhat confusing during the Process. The Democrats were convinced they needed evangelicals to win. [HRC personally told me, “I can’t win without you folks [i.e. evangelicals]]. So, the Democrats “wooed” (is that a word?). Several came over from the JesusLand of the Republican Party. And then the unbelievable happened.
    The Evangelicals said or did something that appeared to be…well, Evangelical. And the wooing was over. Democrats recoiled. I cannot begin to count the evangelical friends who came over to the D side during the ’08 election, and have now gone back, not because they were drawn to the R’s, but knew they were definitely not welcome among the D’s.
    So, the Bass-Posner-Schultz axis is correct, at least in this. You woo Evangelicals, you get Evangelicals (and their “pottage?”) Sure, they come in various stripes and sizes, translations and baptisms. But they are Evangelicals. And that is not what the Dems want.
    The best description (or the worst?) I have seen of the “new” ’06-’10 relationship between the Dems and Evangelicals was used today in the WaPo in reference to the Gore marriage: “…their relationship evaporated, instead of solidified.”
    In other words, thanks for trying to reach those of “my people” who still remain in the dark. You probably won’t win elections without them, but the election you lose without them is probably as good if not better than the election you win with them, at least in the current environment.
    I am a Democrat and an Evangelical for the same reason I am a Cleveland sports fan. I love heartache and inner anguish. Pray for me.

  • Well, that’s just peachy, and at least honest. Particularly the point about it being better to lose elections without the Christianists than to woo them with candidates who would satisfy their theocratic yearnings. I agree with that.
    For the 20% and growing percentage of Americans who are not Christian, you have to understand that this entire discussion is unnerving. Our domestic and foreign policy agendas have been held hostage by radical religious fanatics, and more moderate Christians continue to defend their fundamentalist brethren. Rather than having comprehensive social welfare, the Christians push for “charity” which is basically Federal subsidy of their religious proselytization efforts. Rather than having justice drive foreign policy, the Christians push for policy linked to their perverse ancient prophesies.
    I don’t watch television, so I’m not all hip about tee vee shows like “lost” or “star trek”, but I hope that the Democratic party will realize that it’s most solid constituency is the 20% of Americans who think that religion is bunk. We need politicians to deal with this-worldly problems using rational solutions and universal–rather than particularist–ethics.

  • January

    I recently saw the assertion that, for the first time ever, more than 50% of Americans are non-Christian.
    I do not know whose statistics to trust, but I do know that the assertion in this comment that 20% are non-Christians and 20% “who think religion is bunk” do not add up. But who’s counting?

  • Mark Silk

    I think what you’re referring to are surveys suggesting that, for the first time, more than 50 percent of the American population is not Protestant. The number of Christians (i.e. including Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, etc.) is over 75 percent.