Jewish World Review March 23, 2004 / 1 Nissan 5764

Clarence Page

Clarence Page
JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
David Limbaugh
Michelle Malkin
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
MUGGER
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Sam Schulman
Amity Shlaes
Roger Simon
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports

To get its groove back, the religious left needs to come up with some new ideas and a new vision for curing persistent social ills


http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | Religion is like nitroglycerin in politics. If that observation troubles you, you're not giving enough credit to nitroglycerin.

Nitro is not all bad. It simply must be handled with care. On the positive side, it can bring relief from the violent chest pains of angina pectoris. On the negative side, it can blow up your house.

The same must be said about appeals politicians make to the religiously faithful. One who worries about such appeals is the Rev. Welton Gaddy, president of the Washington-based Interfaith Alliance, which sponsored a forum last week in which I participated at the National Press Club on the role of religion in the 2004 political campaigns. (A full transcript is available at www.interfaithalliance.org.)

"What if appeals to religion in the process of electing a president are done in such a way as to rob religion of its sacred substance and compromise its integrity as a prophetic presence in our nation?" Rev. Gaddy said. "What if a strategy to win religious voters in one particular tradition fosters among people in other religious traditions the conclusion that, contrary to the Constitution, there is a religious test for public office and there is an established religion in this land? What if religiosity as a campaign strategy blunts the vitality of democracy? What if appeals to religious prejudices during the campaign more deeply divide our nation?"

Those are good questions and they are not being raised by only one political party.

A prominent conservative on the panel was Paul Weyrich, head of the Free Congress Foundation and founding president of the Heritage Foundation. He took pithy shots at "the religious left," complaining that it received suspiciously little media attention, compared to the religious right.

Donate to JWR


He's right, if only because the religious left does not organize itself around religion as explicitly as the religious right. Religious-left progressives, so prominent in the civil rights, anti-poverty and anti-war movements of the 1960s, somehow lost their mojo in the '80s, I noted, even as a new religious right emerged, using the same '60s-style organizing techniques.

To get its groove back, I think the religious left needs to come up with some new ideas and a new vision for curing persistent social ills like teen pregnancy, lame schools, juvenile crime and joblessness. Bill Clinton, like Ronald Reagan and Martin Luther King, has a knack for articulating the vision thing. Too bad he had a big problem with the personal morality thing.

Of course, religion is nothing new in American politics. As pollster John Zogby, another panelist, pointed out, voters typically want their candidates to have a sense of morality and spirituality.

Even former Democratic presidential hopeful Howard Dean talked about his religious faith during his campaign's last days, almost as a last resort.

Current Democratic presidential front-runner John Kerry tends to avoid talking about his Catholic faith, unless you ask. He cites his classic New England reserve about religious discussions. We'll see if that changes as the November elections draw near.

Beyond that commonly held regard for morality and spirituality, national agreement pretty much ends and the great divide begins, Zogby says. We are two distinct nations, his polling tells him. "In fact, the motto of this forum should be e pluribus duo [two separate nations]" he said.

He went on to detail numbers behind the divide: Fifty-four percent of red state voters (the states George W. Bush carried in 2000) attend a place of worship at least weekly, compared to 34 percent of blue state (the states Al Gore carried in 2000) voters. On religious issues, 44 percent of red state voters see themselves as conservatives, whereas only 29 percent of blue state voters do.

Interesting, but hardly shocking. Variety makes the country interesting and dynamic, as long as it doesn't turn into another civil war and I think we're a long way from that.

While Zogby and other pollsters cite the polarization in our "50-50" nation, I also see a country trying to work out differences and reach consensus.

While our conflict-fixated news media, for example, focus on clashes over gay marriage this year, a consensus is growing almost without notice in support of civil unions. Who would have guessed that, in this election year, support for civil unions would be the new "safe" position for politicians in both parties who don't want gay marriage, yet also don't want to appear intolerant?

In that sense, I think that, as Alan Wolfe wrote in his important book, "One Nation After All," the nation's "civil religion" continues fundamentally to be a live-and-let-live philosophy. We Americans argue a lot. We even devote radio and cable news channels to arguing. But most of us also seem to be searching desperately for some agreement. That's how this diverse nation holds itself together. Religion serves us best when it helps us find that common ground.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in Washington and in the media consider "must reading." Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.



Comment on Clarence Page's column by clicking here.

Up

03/16/04: Jayson Blair's new career: Scandal star
03/11/04: Blacks eye that John Kerry guy
03/04/04: In this instance, life should imitate art
02/12/04: What a friend Bush has in Sharpton
02/10/04: Unspoken conflicts: America's blacks and Latinos are struggling with a new racial paradigm for the new century
02/03/04: When pundits blab, blab, blab
01/29/04: Reparations on trial — briefly: Now it's time to address blacks' biggest problems
01/15/04: If MLK lived, would he still be a hero?
01/08/04: GOPers would be wise to woo blacks — those who vote and don't
01/02/04: Vicious, vicious Dems
01/02/04: It was a banner year for the pompous and peculiar
12/24/03: Al Gore's new campaign pal
12/12/03: Going for the political heavy hitters: Can Gore's new pal survive the veep's endorsement?
12/09/03: When is force excessive?
12/02/03: Medicare reform: A real turkey of a package
11/25/03: Colleges helping student athletes score diplomas
11/18/03: Soccer moms vs. NASCAR dads
11/13/03: Hunting 'terrorists' in Vegas strip clubs
11/11/03: America's peculiar 'passing' fancy
11/06/03: Dean waves wrong flag, Dems see red
10/28/03: No more excuses for the parents
10/23/03: Box Cutter Kid did us a favor
10/17/03: So long to a misguided gag rule on the medicinal use of marijuana
10/14/03: Does the election of Ah-nuld mean anything more than the obvious?
10/02/03: The wages of luck in a 'jobless recovery'
09/30/03: Looks like Clark should go back to basic training
09/18/03: The amazing clout of lobbyists swarming around Capitol Hill
09/16/03: Hearing hip-hop's pathetic message
09/12/03: What teenagers really want
09/09/03: Lessons from an anthropologist
09/02/03: Put term limits on airport security rules
08/14/03: Schoolchildren of all races at risk without parental guidance
08/08/03: Colin Powell is the 'odd man out' again
08/05/03: Black parents must teach their kids to succeed
07/22/03: Presidential politics: A time to pander, a time to push away
07/15/03: Deeper realities of Baker's dust-up
07/10/03: Formerly aloof, Bush now embraces Africa
07/08/03: Wrestling with the ‘Q-word’ in Iraq
07/01/03: If you are reading this column, you aren't being filtered!
06/10/03: The 'Industry of Hillary' raises bucks for both sides
06/03/03: rent-a-negro.com
05/30/03: Dems grope for glimmer of hope
05/28/03: Reefer sanity vs. puritans in the White House
05/22/03: Turns out race was a factor in the NYTimes scandal — a very big one
05/06/03: Closing the college graduation disparity
04/22/03: Fighting for privacy in an era of terror
04/22/03: Don't mis-underestimate the prez: Give him the 'props' he deserves
04/21/03: Sitting on scoops at CNN
04/15/03: After Saddam? Watch out, Syria
04/11/03: 'Hammer time' for Castro
04/08/03: Post-Hussein: Winning the true peace
04/03/03: Right story, wrong TV station
04/01/03: Remembering Moynihan's mind
03/27/03: A fog of war words: Shocking and awesome
03/21/03: A Moranic moment bites peace movement
03/18/03: Viewers beware when tv networks don't care
03/14/03: Powell's battle for Bush's ear
03/10/03: 'Embedded,' but not 'in bed with'
02/28/03: Bridging the black gender gap
02/19/03 Braun vs. Sharpton: A Dem dilemma
02/14/03: Bush's clean-up man
02/11/03: How feds fooled marijuana trial jurors
02/06/03: Time to re-think space shuttle's value
01/31/03: Why corporations like diversity, too
01/28/03: Shaq vs. Yao, a new world diss-order
01/23/03: Affirmative action will be remarketed under new name
01/13/03: Bond movie offers clues to Korea crisis
01/07/03: Dr. Frist to the rescue … of his party
01/02/03: Feeling a 'draft,' but not much
12/17/02: To rob a burning cross of its power
12/03/02: Closing black-white test-score gaps
11/19/02: Uncle Same wants your data
11/15/02: Marriage vs. 'player' impulse
11/11/02: How Oz can help the Dems
11/05/02: We reserve right to be complicated
10/22/02: What the pro-gun lobby and anti-gun lobby have in common
10/18/02: Take Sharpton seriously? For Prez??
10/15/02: A beauty and the bullies
10/08/02: Time to start 'fingerprinting' bullets
10/08/02: Poet laureate hater fell for Internet hoax
10/04/02: Keeping it real, despite howls from black 'leaders'
10/01/02: Revisiting the 'Jogger' horror
09/27/02: Sometimes freedom is a necessary nuisance
09/13/02: Foil Fidel with free trade
09/10/02: Measuring the myth of 'super weed'
09/06/02: A year later: A reality-check
09/03/02: Make better choices before some jury somewhere does
08/20/02: Bid farewell to the Cigarette Century
08/16/02: Rights matter, even in circus trials
08/09/02: Jousting with Rumsfeld's fog of wit
08/06/02: Covert action is cool again
08/01/02: Powell's premature obituaries
07/30/02: A common sense tip on internal snooping
07/18/02: Jacko plays race card badly
07/12/02: Last flight for a pioneer airman
07/08/02: Dems will miss Watts, too
06/28/02: 'Supreme Court reads polls, too
06/25/02: 'The Body' bites, then bows out
06/21/02: Punishment first, then the crime?
06/18/02: Reporting still risky for Haiti's press
06/14/02: Bush's security plan leaves large gaps
06/04/02: Fix FBI's culture gap first
05/28/02: Fidel's new apartheid for tourists
05/21/02: Now McKinney's lunacy sounds like the Democratic Party line
05/19/02: A paradox of historical proportions
05/14/02: 'Murphy Brown' revisited in age of Ozzy
05/10/02: America looks like a model of tolerance and inclusion
05/07/02: Forget it, Bill, you're no Oprah
04/26/02: Mapping out ethnic and racial change
04/23/02: A game of another color
04/19/02: It's high time to open up pot-law debate
04/11/02: 'Osbourne' family values rock, aging Ozzy quakes
03/22/02: Zimbabwe election leaves world sleepless
03/19/02: A slur? Where is thy sting?
03/15/02: A Pearl of wisdom for reporter's unborn son
03/12/02: Army race and gender policies on trial
03/08/02: A short list of losers to be left behind
03/05/02: Revenge of the 'mediasaurus'
02/26/02: Jihads aren't just for Muslims
02/26/02: It's hard to be 'objective' during wartime
02/19/02: Hollywood's new villain: Your HMO
02/12/02: Father of 'Manchild' leaves lasting message
02/08/02: $nookering the reparations crowd
01/31/02: Prisoners of a War of Words
01/29/02: One more Enron woe: Al Sharpton & company
01/25/02: Searching for slaves in bin Laden's attic
01/22/02: Andrew Young's newest 'friend'
01/08/02: Hard-earned lessons from 9-11
12/18/01: Whatever happened to questions about the birds and the bees?
12/14/01: The "White Negro" Taliban?
12/07/01: Jackson's turn to gloat
11/27/01: Friendly warning from a lover of liberty
11/21/01: The face of hunger is changing
11/15/01: Our troubled sense of trust
11/08/01: Lessons about terror from the 'hood
11/06/01: Getting used to the 'new normal'
11/02/01: Wicked ways to make them talk
10/30/01: It's not just about bin Laden
10/26/01: More than mail fell between the cracks
10/23/01: Terrorists threaten urban recovery, too
10/18/01: Sometimes, assassination warranted
10/15/01: Self-censorship rises again
10/12/01: Contradictions illustrate the complicated nature of the new terrorism
10/05/01: Look who's 'profiling' now
10/01/01: Don't trash liberty to save it
09/28/01: Life, love and cell phones during wartime
09/24/01: How to catch an elusive terrorist
09/21/01: The war I was waiting for
09/17/01: When rage turns to hate
09/13/01: Terror attack tests US, let's give right response
09/06/01: U.S. should have stayed and argued
09/04/01: Columbine killer's parents get upclose and personal
08/31/01: Virtual kids? Log me out
08/28/01: Two Africans, one black, one white, same fight
08/23/01: Sharpton for president
08/20/01: Shaking up the rules on keeping secrets
08/16/01: Bush's u-turn on racial goals
08/09/01: Outsider Bubba comes 'in' again
08/06/01: Not ready for 'color-blindness' yet
08/02/01: Immigration timing couldn't be better
07/26/01: Summer of Chandra: An international traveler's perspective
07/17/01: Overthrowing a régime is only the beginning
07/10/01: Big Brother is watching you, fining you
07/05/01: Can blacks be patriotic? Should they be?
06/19/01: Get 'real' about marriage
06/12/01: Amos, Andy and Tony Soprano
06/07/01: Getting tough with the Bush Twins
06/05/01: Bringing marriage back into fashion
05/31/01: "Ken" and "Johnnie": The odd-couple legal team
05/24/01: Sharpton's challenge to Jackson
05/22/01: Test scores equal (a) MERIT? (b) MENACE? (c) ALL OF ABOVE?
05/17/01: Anti-pot politics squeeze the ill
05/15/01: Was Babe Ruth black?
05/10/01: U.N.'s torture caucus slaps Uncle Sam
05/08/01: 'The Sopranos' a reflection of our times
05/03/01: 'Free-fire' zones, then and now
05/01/01: War on drugs misfires against students
04/26/01: Another athlete gets foot-in-mouth disease
04/23/01: 'Slave' boat mystery reveals real tragedy
04/19/01: McVeigh's execution show
04/12/01: Not this time, Jesse
04/05/01: Dubya is DEFINITELY his own man, you fools!
04/02/01: Milking MLK
03/29/01: The candidate who censored himself?
03/22/01: "Will Hispanics elbow blacks out of the way as the nation's most prominent minority group?"
03/19/01: Blacks and the SATs
03/15/01: The census: How much race still matters in the everyday life of America
03/12/01: Jesse is a victim!
03/08/01: Saving kids from becoming killers
03/01/01: Parents owe "Puffy" and Eminem our thanks

© 2001 TMS