Amy Sullivan is the nation editor for “Time Magazine.” She is a liberal (naturally) and also an evangelical Christian (surprisingly). She has written an op-ed piece, based on a forthcoming book, on being an evangelical liberal in the Democratic party. I was especially struck by her description of just how religiously bigoted the Democratic establishment had become over the last decade, though now the party, tired of losing so often and inspired by Barack Obama’s call for inclusion, is trying to change that:
A few months ago, while participating in an early-morning panel discussion in the heart of Manhattan, I was startled fully awake when a man stood up to declare that Democrats who reached out to religious voters, especially evangelicals, were akin to those who collaborated with the Nazis. I put on a sweet smile of Christian charity and counted to 10.
Comments like that explain why so many of us liberals who also happen to be evangelicals have stayed in the closet for so long. . . .
Democrats weren’t just passive nonactors who stood by helplessly while the GOP claimed Christ for itself. Instead of pushing back against conservatives’ insistence that Democrats aren’t religious, the party beat a hasty retreat, ceding the high ground in the competition for religious Christian voters and discussions of morality. The religious divide in U.S. politics that emerged — call it the God gap — represented as much a failure by Democrats as it did an achievement by Republicans.
The first religious bloc that professional Democrats wrote off was the evangelicals, despite the fact that fully 40 percent of born-again Christians describe themselves as politically moderate. Then party officials started to steer clear of Catholic voters, spooked by their opposition to abortion. Michael Dukakis’s 1988 campaign was the first in Democratic history to turn down all invitations to appear at Catholic venues.
Thus isolated, the professionals who run Democratic campaigns fell into a self-reinforcing spiral of misconceptions about the faithful. As being religious became not just declasse but downright dangerous in Democratic circles, religious Democrats silenced themselves.