May 12, 2005

Democrats of Faith

I've been thinking a lot lately about the proper role of faith in politics, and politics in faith. I took an excellent class last semester offered by an Orthodox Jewish woman entitled "Liberalism, Religion & Democracy." By now everyone has heard of Sen. Frist saying those who oppose W's judicial nominees are against people of faith. Then, most recently, the pastor of a Baptist Church expelled several members because they supported John Kerry.

Jim Wallis, the president of Sojouners and author of God's Politics: Why The Right Gets It Wrong And The Left Doesn't Get It, offered the following perspective, which I thought was worth sharing:

It is the assumption that Christians must accept one partisan political position on issues, or be accused of not being Christian. This is an assumption we must reject.
And, perhaps even more to the point,

The Republican Party is not God's own party, as the Religious Right and some Republican leaders seem to be suggesting. And, of course, neither is the Democratic Party. We must say it again and again until it is heard and understood: God is not partisan; God is not a Republican or a Democrat. When either party tries to politicize God, or co-opt religious communities for its political agenda, it makes a terrible mistake. God's politics challenge all our politics. Our faith must not be narrowed to the agenda of one political party.
The latter is a point well made in God's Politics, which I highly recommend everyone read. Now, because I believe strongly in the social justice teachings of the Church, I usually vote Democrat. I am on my local Town Democratic Committee and I am even a delegate to the State Convention this weekend. I don't simply vote the party line, but, as my history teach explained in the 10th grade: "I always vote for the best candidate, never for the party. It just always works out that the best candidate is a Democrat."

I am a pro-life Democrat. Many believe this isn't possible to do, but when Democrats For Life of America comes out with something like the 95-10 Initiative, its pretty easy to be one. Still, the party's platform supports abortion on demand and taxpayer supported abortions. How can I still vote Democrat then?

To get a glimpse of my reasoning, you can check out an op-ed I wrote last fall during the presidential campaign. It ran in the Cape Cod Times and challenged the pro-life credentials of President Bush. Its no longer on the CCT site, but fortunately Google has cashed it. There I noted that many issues in addition to abortion were important to Catholics.

If George Bush wants the votes of Catholics, he needs to fight a lot harder on the social justice front. He is going to have to do a lot more to help our children get the education they deserve and still make sure our senior citizens can afford their prescription drugs. He will have to stand up and say "It is morally unacceptable that 3.8 million Americans have lost their health insurance since I took office." Protecting human life in the womb is a noble and important goal, but so is protecting at-risk children and seniors.
On top of that, my State Rep, State Senator and Congressman are all pro-life Democrats as well, so that makes is pretty easy. What about for president then? Well, since I live in a non-swing state, I voted for Average Joe Shriner. If I lived in Florida or Ohio, I probably would have swallowed hard and voted for Kerry. Still, I'm glad I did get to vote for Joe. He was easily the candidate most in line with my views: pro-family, pro-life and pro-poor.

The long and the short of it is, I absolutely think your faith should inform your conscience, and thus your vote. I consider myself to be fairly conservative when it comes to my Catholicism but this is what makes me left of center and a registered and active Democrat. The truth of the matter though is

Neither party - nor any candidate - shares all my values. I voted as a Catholic citizen in 2000, and Bush didn't get my vote. He won't get it 2004, either.