After election 2004:
The challenge to progressive faith
|Progressive faith did not lose this election
by Jim Wallis, editor-in-chief of
Religion was a big factor in this election, and "moral
values" were named as a key issue for voters in the exit polls. On the
Republican side, George W. Bush talked comfortably and frequently about his
personal faith and ran on what his conservative religious base called the
"moral issues." On the Democratic side, Senator John Kerry invoked the New
Testament story of the Good Samaritan, talked about the importance of loving
our neighbors, and said that faith without works is dead - but only began
talking that way at the very end of his campaign.
We've now begun a real debate in this country over what
the most important "religious issues" are in politics, and that discussion
will continue far beyond this election. The Religious Right fought to keep
the focus on gay marriage and abortion and even said that good Christians
and Jews could only vote for the president. But many moderate and
progressive Christians disagreed. We insisted that poverty is also a
religious issue, pointing to thousands of verses in the Bible on the poor.
The environment - protection of God's creation - is also one of our
religious concerns. And millions of Christians in America believe the war in
Iraq was not a "just war."
So in this election, one side talked about the number of
unborn lives lost each year, while the other pointed to the 100,000 civilian
casualties in Iraq. But both are life issues - according to the Pope, for
example, who opposes both John Kerry's views on abortion and George Bush's
war policy. Some church leaders challenged both candidates on whether just
killing terrorists would really end terrorism and called for a deeper
approach. And 200 theologians, many from leading evangelical institutions,
warned that a "theology of war emanating from the highest circles of
government is also seeping into our churches."
Clearly, God is not a Republican or a Democrat, as we
sought to point out, and the best contribution of religion is precisely not
to be ideologically predictable or loyally partisan but to maintain the
moral independence to critique both the left and the right.
It is now key to remember that our vision - a progressive
and prophetic vision of faith and politics - was not running in this
election. John Kerry was, and he lost. Kerry did not strongly champion the
poor as a religious issue and "moral value," or make the war in Iraq a
clearly religious matter. In his debates with George Bush, Kerry should have
challenged the war in Iraq as an unjust war, as many religious leaders did -
including Evangelicals and Catholics. And John Kerry certainly did not
advocate a consistent ethic of human life as we do - opposing all the ways
that life is threatened in our violent world.
We didn't lose the election, John Kerry did, and the ways
in which both his vision and the Democratic Party's are morally and
politically incomplete should continue to be taken up by progressive people
In a deeply polarized country, commentators reported that
either political outcome would "crush" the hopes of almost half the
population. So perhaps the most important role for the religious community
will come now, when the need for some kind of political healing and
reconciliation has become painfully clear. In the spirit of America's
greatest religious leader, the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., the
religious community could help a divided nation find common ground by moving
to higher ground. And we should hold ourselves and both political parties
accountable to the challenge of the biblical prophet Micah to "do justice,
love kindness, and walk humbly with your God."
Some blogs worth visiting
Mitch Trigger, PVJ's
Secretary/Communicator, has created a Facebook page where
Witherspoon members and others can gather to exchange news and
views. Mitch and a few others have posted bits of news, both
personal and organizational. But there’s room for more!
You can post your own news and views,
or initiate a conversation about a topic of interest to you.
for Life" website
Long-time and stimulating blogger John Shuck,
a Presbyterian minister currently
serving as pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Elizabethton,
Tenn., writes about spirituality, culture, religion (both organized
and disorganized), life, evolution, literature, Jesus, and
Click here for his blog posts.
Click here for podcasts of his radio program, which "explores
the intersection of religion, social justice and public life."
John Harris’ Summit to
Theological and philosophical
reflections on everything between summit to shore, including
kayaking, climbing, religion, spirituality, philosophy, theology,
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), New York City and the Queens
neighborhood of Ridgewood -- by a progressive New York City
Presbyterian Pastor. John is a former member of the Witherspoon
board, and is designated pastor of North Presbyterian Church in
Voices of Sophia blog
Heather Reichgott, who has created
this new blog for Voices of Sophia, introduces it:
After fifteen years of scholarship
and activism, Voices of Sophia presents a blog. Here, we present the
voices of feminist theologians of all stripes: scholars, clergy,
students, exiles, missionaries, workers, thinkers, artists, lovers
and devotees, from many parts of the world, all children of the God
in whose image women are made. .... This blog seeks to glorify God
through prayer, work, art, and intellectual reflection. Through
articles and ensuing discussion we hope to become an active and
Got more blogs to recommend?
send a note, and we'll see what we can do!