From Napp Nazworth:
Peter Steinfels, professor emeritus at Fordham University, said there were two reasons to doubt that religious progressives could build a significant political movement, such as the one built by religious conservatives. Steinfels, who said he would probably be categorized as a religious progressive by the report, did not contribute to the report but was on the panel as a discussant.
First, Steinfels doubted that religion could be a motivating force for religious progressives because religious progressives are less likely to say that religion is the most important thing in their life.
Among religious conservatives, 54 percent answered that religion is the most important thing in their life, but among religious progressives, only 11 percent answered that religion is the most important thing in their life.
“Unlike the wishy-washy options of ‘religion is among the important things’ in my life, or ‘religion is somewhat important,’ the ‘most important’ response has always seemed to me a good measure of the strength and intensity of religious identity,” Steinfels explained….
The second reason Steinfels is skeptical about the potential for a Religious Left movement is that most religious progressives, 87 percent, believe that religion is a private matter that should not influence political and social issues.
“Their view may provide a sort of negative counter to aggressive religious interventions on behalf of traditional sexual and personal norms,” Steinfels argued, “but it does not provide much ground for religious engagement on the sorts of issues the study puts before us – helping the poor, maintaining the safety net, and opposing inequality.”
Robert P. Jones, CEO and founder of PRRI, noted a third reason to doubt that religious progressives could become a significant political force: religious progressives are more dispersed and do not attend religious services as often as religious conservatives. Therefore, it is harder to find religious progressives in order to mobilize them.
Religious conservatives are mostly found in evangelical and Catholic churches, Jones explained, and they go to church often. Religious progressives, on the other hand, are scattered across Christian denominations as well as other religions – such as Judaism, Islam and Hinduism – and do not attend religious services as often.
“The challenge of finding religious progressives is a real challenge,” Jones said. “You can’t just walk into churches and find a bunch of them there. They’re much more dispersed.”