Friday, March 04, 2005

At the close of my first post, I posed the question of whether the "religious equals conservative" mindset was due less to the fact that liberal religious leaders weren't speaking up or more to the fact that the media wasn't reporting their voices because they didn't coincide with that mindset.

Today, Amy Sullivan, a contributor at the Washington Monthly, rather ardently stated her position on the matter:

You've heard me say it before, but apparently it needs repeating: A good many people are Democrats not despite their faith but precisely because of their faith. I don't want to read "religious" when what you mean is "right-wing." I don't want to read "evangelical" when what you mean is "conservative evangelical." And I don't want to read "moral values" when what you're really referring to are hot-button, right-wing sexual morality issues. The conflation of those terms with those specific definitions is NOT a neutral decision; it's part of a very conscious strategy. It's understandable that some news outlets have been taken in by the spin. Repeating the spin, however, is irresponsible.
I can testify to much of what Amy has to say. My father is an evangelical pastor, and my brother, sister and mother are all devout evangelicals. Each would describe themselves as socially or morally conservative, yet none of them voted for Bush -- exactly the opposite of what you would expect if you had read any election coverage.

What I would add to what Amy has to say is that I think the blame needs to be extended beyond the media and onto liberals themselves. After all, the media wouldn't keep repeating the story if it didn't sell so well. And why does it sell? Because the sad truth of the matter is that there are many on the left who are plainly antagonistic to all things religious. If the New York Times were to suddenly start running with a "religious means liberal" storyline, you can bet that they'd be threatened with more than a few cancelled subscriptions.

This does not vindicate the press for sticking to the traditional story, but it does suggest that the problem is much more diffuse than Amy's post might suggest. Not only does the press need to report the voices of more liberal leaders, but liberals themselves need to be open to what they have to say.


Anonymous K. Ives said...

True. It's not just the media that has divided Americans into liberal-nonreligious and conservative-religious. In a recent conversation, I had a hard time convincing a friend that my mother believes in social health care, because my mother is also southern and religious. Granted, she is also extremely politically conservative at most times, but no one fits into any labeled box 24-7. I worked for some time with a Episopal-affiliated environmental education center, and had many co-workers who devoted their lives to religious service and considered liberal politics to be the only possible fit with their beliefs of care and compassion.

On another hand, I think it has been a tactic of recent politicians to create this divide. It's easier to campaign to people in neat categories, and people on extreme ends tend to scream louder and dish out more funding in support of their beliefs. However, the sad part is that the American people have bought into it pretty well, rather than demanding a leader who can work somewhere in the middle to meet the needs and wants of a broader group.

4:06 AM  

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