Sullivan and Dionne on the Democrats and Religion
From today’s NY TImes Book Review:
the Democratic Party’s long string of counterproductive responses to the enduring influence of the religious right has had the cumulative effect of driving away any type of base with the word “faith” attached to it, and opening the door to the Republicans’ shrewd, if cynical, courting of religiously conservative white Christians. It’s been a self-defeating failure, since there are millions of moderate and progressive Christians ready to embrace a reasonable alternative.
Now two savvy, genre-bending, unapologetically faith-based new books take that failure as an object lesson. “The Party Faithful,” by the respected political journalist and progressive Baptist Amy Sullivan, is a kind of sophisticated self-help manual for Democrats who are looking for a way “of leveling the praying field.” Sullivan provides a brisk history of Democratic miscalculations, along with a running commentary. “Souled Out,” by the respected political journalist and progressive Catholic E. J. Dionne Jr., is a deeply personal and searchingly intelligent reflection on the noble history, recent travails and likely prospects of American liberalism. Dionne envisions “a radically new role for religious groups in American politics,” an integration of personal morality with a championing of the common good that, he says, is “not only possible but necessary, for the sake of our public life and for religion’s sake as well.”
Both authors blend reportage, analysis of voting patterns, historical precedents, personal religious testimony and unvarnished advocacy. They lament the reduction of religion to narrow ideological concerns and its identification with one political party. Both explore religious alternatives to the right-wing politics of fear and exclusion, and hold up a wide array of individuals for emulation: stereotype-busting evangelicals like Jim Wallis, Rich Cizik and Rick Warren; influential Catholic liberals like the Rev. J. Bryan Hehir, the architect of major documents on just war and nuclear-era peace; and independent-minded politicians like Tim Ryan and Rosa DeLauro, House Democrats who are attempting to break the pro-choice/ pro-life stalemate by pushing programs to reduce the number of abortions.