Skip to comments.Weblog: Kerry Told to Speak Up, Shut Up About Religion
Posted on 06/22/2004 7:34:31 PM PDT by xzins
Kerry Told to Speak Up, Shut Up About Religion
Compiled by Ted Olsen | posted 06/22/2004 12:00 p.m.
Kerry campaign muzzles religion outreach director as New York Times columnist urges religion talk David Brooks is supposedly The New York Times op-ed page's conservative columnist in a sea of more left-leaning writers. But in today's column, he notes, "Bush has had the worst year of any president since Nixon in 1973 or L.B.J. in 1968." So why isn't John Kerry dominating the polls?
"One big reason," says Brooks, is that Kerry's campaign is too secular:
Clinton seems to understand, as many Democrats do not, that a politician's faith isn't just about litmus test issues like abortion or gay marriage. Many people just want to know that their leader, like them, is in the fellowship of believers. Their president doesn't have to be a saint, but he does have to be a pilgrim. He does have to be engaged, as they are, in a personal voyage toward God. If Democrats are not seen as religious, they will be seen as secular Ivy League liberals, and they will lose. John Kerry doesn't seem to get this. Many of the people running the Democratic Party don't get it either. Instead, he says, Democrats are busy shoring up their basethe secular left, which is united "more than anything else [by] a strong antipathy to pro-lifers and fundamentalists." The secularist ranks are growing, so it makes some political sense to do this, Brooks says. But "just as Republicans have to appeal to religious conservatives but move beyond them, Democrats have to appeal to the secular left but also build a bridge to religious moderates."
Brooks seems to have missed Friday's Washington Times story by Julia Duin, which reports that Kerry's advisersincluding Catholic priestsare telling him to stop talking about religion.
Jesuit priest Robert Drinan told Duin that "he has advised the campaign to clamp down on religious rhetoric and 'keep cool on the Communion thing. The mood now is to shut up about it.'"
Duin also reports that Mara Vanderslice, the Kerry campaign's director of religion outreach, has been "sidelined" and her advice ignored.
"Every time something with religious language got sent up the flagpole, it got sent back down, stripped of religious language," an unnamed Kerry staffer says.
At least part of Vanderslice's isolation is due to a press release from the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights. Last week, the Catholic League's William Donohue said she seemed more like "a person looking for a job working for Fidel Castro, not John Kerry." Donohue particularly pressed the point that Vanderslice was present at the December 2000 Seattle demonstrations against the International Monetary Fundprotests which turned violentand 2002 protests against the IMF and the World Bank. Donohue also said she spoke at rallies organized by the radical AIDS and gay rights organization ACT-UP.
But while Donohue says, "Vanderslice was raised without any faith and didn't become an evangelical Christian until she attended Earlham College, a Quaker school known for its adherence to pacifism," he doesn't note that it looks like her evangelical faith stuck with her. In 1998, she was an intern with the evangelical community and magazine Sojourners, and later became outreach coordinator for the anti-debt Jubilee USA Network.
"I was raised as a Unitarian Universalist; I'm really grateful for the openness that tradition gave me," Vanderslice wrote for Sojourners in 2002 (here's a photo). "When I later learned about Jesus and studied the scriptures in college, I could feel that I came to know myself as a Christian through my own study and prayer. I am now active in the United Church of Christ and plan to go into ministry some time."
She most recently wrote an article for Sojourners about religion and secularism in the Democratic Party.
"I was so inspired to see a candidate who was willing to stand up for the things I believed in that I decided to leave my job," she said about joining the campaign. "I passionately wanted to galvanize the faith community around the candidate that had captured my heart and imagination." But it wasn't easy. As she tried to convince campaign staff that a "secular image" was bad for votes, she said, "I was quickly dubbed the 'church lady'."
But she's not talking about the Kerry campaign Vanderslice, now 29, became religious outreach coordinator for the Howard Dean campaign. And when Dean said he'd talk about religion only in the South, and referred to Job as his favorite book in the New Testament, he "came across as insensitive and out of touch," she laments. Kerry, she says, has a better chance at being authentic when he talks about faith.
"If Kerry continues to use religious language appropriately and embraces the millions of religious Americans that are the base of his supporters, he might just change some assumptions about the 'secular' Democratic Party, and in the process, pick up a crucial constituency that could tip the balance of the election," she said.
Ultimately, I can't separate my Christianity from my values or my values from my politics. For me, being engaged in politics is an expression of my deepest held religious beliefsit is about actualizing a collective commitment to protect the integrity of God's creation, it's about meeting the needs of the "least of these," and about our nation being a generous and trustworthy leader in the world. There are certainly positions taken by leading Democrats with which many Christians won't agreeand many Christians are appalled by what they see as the exploitation of religion for political gain on the part of the Republican Party. The bottom line in applying our beliefs in the political arena is making an across-the-board assessment of who best represents the values we hold most dear. (Weblog hasn't had time to listen to Vanderslice's 2002 comments on the G8 Summit and debt relief, but here's audio and video.)
Vanderslice's comments hardly seem those of an extremist, and she should not be attacked for trying to bring a religious perspective to the rallies she spoke at, regardless of what else happened there. Donohue, who crowed over Vanderslice's silencing, risks sounding like the Pharisees who criticized Jesus for the company he kept. But even those Pharisees didn't criticize Jesus for the company his company kept.
Now, Democratic Party adviser Amy Sullivan told The Washington Times, the Kerry campaign has withdrawn plans to create a "people of faith" area of the campaign website , and has "no one in their communications shop who is conversant in religion." That hardly seems like good news, even if you're a religiously conservative Republican.
"One big reason," says Brooks, is that Kerry's campaign is too secular:
The Great Divide.
**Now, Democratic Party adviser Amy Sullivan told The Washington Times, the Kerry campaign has withdrawn plans to create a "people of faith" area of the campaign website , and has "no one in their communications shop who is conversant in religion."**
**Kerry's advisersincluding Catholic priestsare telling him to stop talking about religion.**
Why would a priest be advising a baby killer, pro homosexual union candidate?
The gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few. (Matthew 7:14)
Satan was being interviewed about God:
"He's an easy guy to love, but it sure is tough living with him every day..."
***it is about actualizing a collective commitment to protect the integrity of God's creation***
That's got to rank up there in the top 50 most unintelligible statements I've ever seen in print.
It means something, but I agree....who knows...
**Jesuit priest Robert Drinan** is one of his key advisors on Religion! Is he still a "priest" - I thought he was laicized years ago.
Jesuit priest Robert Drinan told Duin that "he has advised the campaign to clamp down on religious rhetoric and 'keep cool on the Communion thing. The mood now is to shut up about it.'"Shhhh. Speak softly, lest you wake the sheep.