Are Democrats Losing Their Faith?

Maybe not, but it seems they might be ditching the faith strategy:

If 2008 was the year Democrats finally got religion, will 2010 be the year the party loses it again?

This is the worry among some religious progressives, who worked to transform the image of Democrats from wary — or even hostile — toward religion to a party that hired faith consultants, advertised regularly on Christian radio and featured candidates, including Barack Obama, who spoke openly about their relationship with God.

These days, the Democratic National Committee’s faith staff of more than a half-dozen has dwindled to one part-time slot. Its faith issues Web site led this week with greetings for Passover (which was in March) and Rosh Hashanah (which was in September).

Faith consultants who once had dozens of clients did not play a role in high-profile Democratic losses in the Virginia gubernatorial race in November and in the special election to fill the U.S. Senate seat of the late Edward M. Kennedy in Massachusetts in January. And there was little visible new faith outreach in last week’s Democratic Senate primaries, according to some party officials.

For what it’s worth, I predicted that Tim Kaine would actually beef up the faith outreach program. I even said knowing about Pres. Obama’s apparent determination to snub Howard Dean by among other things dismantling the 50-state strategy that probably did more to win the White House than any religious strategy. Why I would predict such a thing, I do not know.

In any case, the fact of the matter is that the results of the religious outreach program were ambiguous at best. You could make a reasonable argument that it put Obama over the top in places like Indiana. But you could just as easily argue that the president owes his office to a solid win among secular and unaffiliated voters, and you could say with more justification that 2008 was a change election that overran most, if not all, religious distinctions.

This post has been altered slightly since publication. — ed.

pastordanschultz@gmail.com'

Daniel Schultz, a.k.a. pastordan, is a minister in the United Church of Christ. He serves a small and very patient church in rural Wisconsin. He is the author of Changing the Script: An Authentically Faithful and Authentically Progressive Political Theology for the 21st Century, forthcoming from Ig Press.