Michael Kazin: The Silence of Godly Liberals





[Michael Kazin is co-editor of Dissent and a professor of history at Georgetown University]

It would be a fine thing if Democrats took the advice of TNR’s Tiffany Stanley and spent more energy trying to win religious voters away from the GOP. But she misunderstands why their recent efforts to do so have mostly failed. One of the glories of religion in the United States is that, since the early nineteenth century, it has been a ferociously democratic enterprise: Pious Americans are free to join any of the dozens of faiths on offer, none of which is beholden to secular authorities for either financing or legitimacy. We have no national church or even one to which most national politicians belong. Before the 1960s, Americans took for granted that, like it or not, they lived in a Protestant country....

The problem for liberal Democrats is that pious Americans are also free to choose a place of worship in which the political slant is conservative or progressive, or where secular issues have little or no place. And, since the waning of the civil rights movement some four decades ago, the liberal churches have been losing both members and a dynamic sense of worldly mission....




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