In response to my piece from Monday about Democrats and religious leaders, Mark Silk writes that “Posner’s grumpy point is that the likes of Jim Wallis and Mara Vanderslice and Katie Paris and Burns Strider are not the real left, but rather the house liberals of the Democratic Party—actually it’s important for Wallis to pretend that he’s not—who are more priestly than prophetic in their witness for peace and justice.”
That’s not quite right. My point—and I wouldn’t characterize it as grumpy, but that’s Silk’s prerogative—is that a network of political insiders are trying to market religious leaders as (1) necessary for Democrats to reach out to in order to win elections and (2) therefore representatives of a progressive alternative to the religious right. That has several negative consequences. First, it creates a perception that Democrats have to be seen with a (largely right-of-center evangelical) religious crowd—or that they have to talk about their faith more at all—in order to be successful electorally. Second, that Democrats have to soft-pedal their advocacy for reproductive and LGBT rights in order to attract those religious voters. And finally, that such soft-pedaling represents the preferred way for Democrats to appeal to religious voters.
I don’t have a dog in a fight over who’s more priestly and who’s more prophetic. But I would very much like to see an abandonment of requirements that political candidates talk about their faith and prove their faithfulness, or that they must give an imprimatur to certain religious figures as “acceptable” representatives of faithful America. Given that my preference is unlikely to be heeded by future Democratic candidates, I think it’s only fair to point out that they do not represent all religious Americans.