Where is the passion of the Dems? Readers respond to ZZ Packer's "Losing My Religion."

By Salon Staff
Published November 23, 2004 8:57PM (EST)

[Read the story.]

As a Christian Democrat who grew up in a red state (Texas) and now lives in a blue state (California), I cannot agree more with ZZ Packer's article. There are many Christian families, black, white and Latino, who are telling their children "we are Democrats" because Jesus made it very clear in the Gospels that we will be judged by how we cared for the most needy in our society. Jesus regularly fed the poor and healed the sick. Poverty, illness and war are by far the greatest "moral issues" we as Americans and those of us who also happen to follow Jesus must be working to solve at home and around the world.

I heard bits of this talk from Obama and Edwards but not nearly enough to break though the deafening sound machine that was the BC'04 campaign. This is the storyline the Democrats need to get back to. I hope the Democratic party "elite" opens their minds and hearts to hear this.

-- Michelle Reynolds Lowe

Thank you ZZ Packer for articulating what I've been thinking ever since the election. I was not raised in any religion, but I was taught a deep sense of moral obligation to other people. I never understood how our current leaders let us be questioned about our moral values. I always wanted to ask the right-wing folk how they could support tax breaks for the rich, racism, unequal educational opportunity, and the gutting of the social safety net --- and still call themselves moral. Have they read the Bible? Who did Jesus spend his time with? The rich folk? The "good moral citizens"? No, he hung out with prostitutes and lepers, teaching the profound moral lesson of compassion and forgiveness.

I think that it is absolutely high time for liberals to embrace the moral and religious roots of their values: caring for our fellow humans, avoiding conflict (remember "turning the other cheek"?), taking care of our own house before we judge others, and being stewards, not rapists, of the earth. It is possible to be religious or moral without being exclusionary, and I think we liberals must do that or become excluded from the political process. It will be difficult because religious liberals, like Kerry, tend to be reticent about religion (it is held as a private matter), but we must overcome that reticence. We must take back the moral high ground -- because it has always been ours. We were just too polite to claim it. Thank you, ZZ, for your clear vision. God bless.

-- Jane Boles

Speaking as a wholly secular (recovering Catholic) voter living out here in sinful California, I've had about all I can stand of folks telling me what it is we of the "Birkenstocks and Prada" crowd need to do to win over the red-state folk. How many hundreds of hours were spent in get-out-the-vote efforts? How many dozens of phone banks? How many thousands of dollars?

Maybe we "coastal elite" types just don't get it, but we carried our states. If people along the Gulf Coast can't convince their angling neighbors that oil spills are more detrimental to their catch than the Sierra Club, that's not our fault. If churchgoing Rust Belters fail to persuade their fellow parishioners that the steel mills weren't shut down by married gay couples, that's not our fault, either. We carried a hell of a lot of weight this last election, and the acknowledgment that we're given for that is "you libertines wrecked it for us."

Enough already. If you can't talk sense into your own friends and relations, how are we going to do it?

-- Michael Treece

I'm a Christian and a staunch Democrat too! Just like ZZ Packer's mother. Packer's article summed up what I have been thinking about religion and the Democrats for a long time. Religious right-wingers -- the "American Taliban," as I refer to them -- have perverted the Christian fundamentals of love and peace into hate and war. It sickens me.

The time is now for the religious left to make its voice heard loud and clear. It's time to remind believers that there is a full spectrum of Christian values and moral issues -- a spectrum far broader than just abortion and homosexuality. A spectrum that the Democratic Party has always focused on addressing in real-world, real-life ways. It's time to remind believers that the separation of church and state is what allows both to flourish equally. I hope the Democratic National Committee is listening to people like Packer. We -- religious Democrats -- are out here. We believe in what the Democratic Party stands for. And we need your help to get the Democratic message across.

-- Jenny Saboley

ZZ Packer's article was interesting and articulate. Her point about reaching for the moral side of issues is important -- but that does not necessarily mean the religious side of issues. We need to discuss moral values in terms like generosity over greed, and compassion over cruelty, but not "What Would Jesus Do?" There are many of us secular Americans -- and our numbers are growing -- who feel that an attempt to compete with the Republican Party on religious grounds is disingenuous and a losing proposition.

There is a culture war in this country, but so far only one side has engaged. Those of us who do not want the RePuritan Party to take us back to their vision of the good ol' days (1950s? 1630s?) -- whether religious or not -- need to come right back at these hypocritical pseudo-moralists and stop trying to avoid issues that we feel play into the Republicans' hands. We need to turn 90 degrees and fire, and we've got plenty of ammo.

Yes, there are many of us who believe that rational thinking is our best option in not only improving the quality of life in this country and on this planet but in playing to the Democrats' strength: real solutions for the real world. I don't find that mutually exclusive with the wish of religious people of good faith to address the same issues we all see, and to put them in terms that hits your heart as well as your head. But if you start wrapping it up in Jesus and God you will not only lose me, you will be playing on the Republicans' home field.

-- Jan Meshon

I am an evangelical Christian and a Republican and I voted for Kerry because I thought he would do a better job as president than Bush. However, I can tell you that the Republicans are going to continue to get most of the votes of white evangelicals until the Democrats rethink their opposition in Congress to almost any limitation on abortion. For many of my fellow believers, they just cannot see past the idea that the Democrats are in favor of policies that cause the death of unborn babies. It may be an unfair charge, but it's an effective one.

Furthermore, the Democrats need to heed Packer's comments and do what they can to highlight areas of agreement with evangelical Christians. I'm not saying that we dispense with the separation of church and state, but the Democrats need candidates who can speak as easily as Bush does about faith. Kerry was an embarrassment in this regard.

It probably wouldn't hurt the Democrats either if they played up the role of pro-lifers in the party like their new Senate minority leader. After all, the Republicans seem to have no problem doing this with their pro-choicers like Arnold and Rudy. When was the last time that a pro-lifer had a prominent role at a Democratic convention?

If you give white evangelicals a reason to think that the Democratic Party isn't hostile to their concerns, then more of us will rethink our support of Bush and his policies. We don't all fall in a line and automatically do what Falwell, Robertson and Dobson tell us to do.

Who knows, the next election the Democrats may be claiming us as their margin of victory.

-- David Graf

ZZ Packer's article resonates strongly with me. In fact I feel I have "lost" my religion. As a practicing Catholic I feel betrayed by the church's active campaigning for Bush because of one issue (so-called pro-life, which is actually just pro-fetus) when he is so far from my values of equality, justice, compassion and generosity. Yes, we Democrats do need to talk of our values, whether from religion or secular ethics. We can join together now to help those who will be hurt by Bush's policies. And we can join together politically to work for a better America -- for all its people.

I second ZZ Packer's recommendation that we read Sojourners Web site or magazine. We need both inspiration and perspiration to accomplish our goals of a just society.

-- Gail Greenblatt

In a word: Amen!

-- Rev. MaryAnn McKibben Dana

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