Imagine if you will, a substantial group of regular churchgoing Christians. They are active in their community, they believe in God and Heaven and Hell. Their entire life is about living up to the Word of God, and when they vote that belief is a driving moral force in how their ballot is cast. These Christians are vital to their party, if they stayed home on election day there’s no way the party could win.
Surely these people are part of the “values voters” so often courted by the GOP.
Did I mention that they’re black. Because, you see, they’re Democrats. They are also the religious left nobody seems to talk about when things flare up in discussions about “the religious left” (And yes, the idea of these mythical Democrats who persecute the religious that nobody can ever name stinks to high heaven).
A conventional wisdom that took hold after the 2004 election and hasn’t been cast off yet is that Democrats lost because of “values voters”, aka right-wing Christians. Except that Kerry lost many women who were previously Democratic voters because he was perceived as weak on terror when terror trumped many of the more traditional issues that determine elections. But the conventional wisdom being what it is, caused people to panic and a cry went out across the land that said we needed to have “the religious left”.
Who is the American leader, in all of our history, who was most impactful at conjoining his religious beliefs and political action? It’s not Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell or any of the agents of intolerance on the right. It’s Martin Luther King. That is, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. of the Ebenezer Baptist Church. I often imagine King and other leaders before and since in the black church (yes, including Sharpton and Jackson) saying “I’ve got your religious left right here”.
I think its great somanygroups popped up espousing progressive religion, but I fear too many of them are in the mold of trying to appeal to conservative evangelicals – mostly southerners – who would vote for Satan before they would vote for a Democrat (I take pride in the fact that the bulk of haters vote GOP). Instead of liberals going to the existing religious left who pioneered political action and faith decades ago and saying “guide us”, people created brand new organizations that too often ain’t fooling anybody (If I hear anyone else say “we have values too” or any other empty platitude I’ll go postal) and aren’t – ironically – preaching to anyone.
The black churches of America aren’t as fashionable and sexy perhaps as these other new organizations, but they’ve been there, they’ve done the homework, and they’ve produced tangible results we see every day in our lives as Americans. If they die out or fade away as a political force, the Democratic party and liberalism is doomed. Ignoring them and what they’ve done is a travesty.