Readers weigh in on whether pro-life progressives can save the Democratic Party.

Published August 13, 2005 8:00AM (EDT)

[Read "Getting Religion," by Frances Kissling.]

As someone who has read and enjoyed Jim Wallis' writing for five years, I must reluctantly agree with Frances Kissling that his new incarnation as savior of the Democrats is disturbing.

I first picked up his book "The Soul of Politics" during the 2000 election. At the time, I was living in Philadelphia and the RNC was in town. The bookstore had the book on display in conjunction with the shadow convention. For some time, my ideas about faith and politics had been undergoing a transformation. When I was growing up, all of the Christians that I knew voted Republican because of their stance on abortion. You couldn't be a Christian and vote Democrat. During college, I started to question this belief. Republicans no longer seemed to have the monopoly on Jesus that I once thought they had. Ultimately, it was Wallis' book that freed me entirely from the myth of the Republican Jesus. For that, I will always be grateful.

At his best, I think Wallis can still break the myth for Christians who suspect that the Jesus of the Bible isn't the same as the Republican Jesus. But I'm worried that Wallis is now creating (or at least encouraging) a new Democrat Jesus who will be no better.

-- Joshua Kidd

Frances Kissling's article urging progressive religious people to stay out of politics (question: Isn't she a progressive religious person?) is a perfect example of why liberals don't win anything anymore.

Jim Wallis is a friend to progressive causes and has been working for a way to make liberal issues matters of concern for evangelicals. This is not a small matter, as there are far more Americans who identify themselves as evangelical than who identify themselves as liberal.

And yet, Kissling wants Wallis silenced because they disagree on the issue of abortion. The notion that abortion trumps every other issue of concern to liberals, and that pro-life progressives shouldn't even speak, is a good indication that liberalism is running out of ideas.

-- Tom Breen

The tightrope stretched between lefty politics and religious faith is indeed difficult to traverse. But couldn't we, instead of lambasting those who try it, recognize that these issues are supposed to be difficult, that our lefty-religious leaders probably should be confused? Is abortion really the most important issue -- or rather, isn't this precisely the problem, that the Christian right has made abortion the central moral issue? By allowing abortion to be so defining, and then criticizing those progressive religious leaders for their struggle, Ms. Kissling does no one any favors.

-- Christina Smerick

I've endured years of nausea at various conservative divines wondering, "What would Jesus do?" vis-à-vis a host of public policy issues. Now, in a case of "Johnny come really late-ism" progressive divines are playing a "me too" game.

A pox on both houses: We can't possibly know "What would Jesus do" on a host of 21st century public policy issues. We can't take first century religious thinking (which is highly contested by those same peddlers) and plop it on the 21st century.

The real problem is that many politicians invoke deities either to deflect responsibility for their actions, or to avoid taking any action at all. The injection of various deities into the political discourse can be the ultimate in political cowardice.

Hence, Kissling's piece was a breath of fresh political air in a climate of bloviating divines. If only more commentators and politicians had such courage.

-- Catherine A. Lugg

Most Americans believe in God. The majority of those who believe in God are Christians. Faith is extremely personal and a part of the daily lives of those who are believers. It lives in that space above political persuasion and next to familial love. I vote based on ideals that I learned from my faith. When people show that they respect my faith, and show that they aren't merely humoring me or patting me on the head condescendingly for believing in that which cannot be seen, I return that respect with votes and other forms of favoritism.

I am not alone in this.

Democrats have had their butts kicked for years now because instead of embracing the values of those of faith, they constantly tell us that we need to set aside our values and the convictions of our heart to embrace secular philosophy for the greater good.

But secular philosophy wasn't enough during the Jim Crow years. It took a Jesus-loving, Bible-thumping religious man of peace to tug at the heartstrings of the nation. It took a man who was not afraid to lead songs like "Precious Lord" in a public forum. It took faith to bring the evil of racism to its knees, because faith comes from the heart, not from the head. It talks to you in that voice of childhood. It appeals to your better angels. America has never succeeded in any moral or ethical arena without the championship of people of faith.

So keep downplaying religion and see how many more elections we lose to the Republicans. See how many more trees, the protection of which is illogical to Republicans, are cut down. See how many more polar bears are displaced. Watch how the invisible hand of the marketplace sends more and more work south. Sign away our future to people who pay lip service to religion because they know it will help them win, and our children and their children will be the ones to pay the price.

-- Tiffany Lach

By Salon Staff

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