I am a parish minister currently serving the Eliot Church of Natick MA. Eliot Church is a Community Church affiliated with the Unitarian Universalist Association and the United Church of Christ. Any statements made and postions held in "Unity," however, are solely mine(of course, they may be used with appropriate atribution). Therefore if you disagree, please do not blame the church!

Monday, November 22, 2004

God and the Democratic Party

Every two years or so, in late November, it seems that the Democratic Party finds religion. The religion they find isn’t usually the one I recognize. The faith they are drawn to--once again--is conservative (both theologically and politically) and almost always a part of the Christian-seeming national faith. That is, they once again try to pander to liberals of faith by pretending to be conservatives.

This drives me crazy! One reason is that they are being blatantly cynical. They are like a football team trying to copy the winner. "This worked for the Patriots, right?" Another reason is that they seem to think I am stupid or foolish enough to believe that this bow to faith is in any way a move to articulate a faithful vision of a progressive world. It is a bid for votes, plain and simple and, of course, I vote for those increasingly conservative Democrats because I have no real alternative.

If I were to write a letter to the Democratic Party leadership, I would probably have to introduce myself first: “Hello, I am Reverend Adam Tierney-Eliot. I am a Christian and a Democrat. Not only that, I am pro-choice and favor the right of homosexuals to marry. This may confuse you a bit but, you can console yourselves with the fact that, yes, I am from New England and serve a church in Natick, Massachusetts.”

Before they get too gleeful, however, I would have to point out that there are ministers like me in many other parts of the country, too. They would need to know that people of faith--those who go to church even in “Red” states--are intelligent, thoughtful folks, for the most part and would be more open the message of the party if they felt they were taken seriously. Many Christians and Jews, and certainly many Muslims oppose the war in Iraq. Many agree with liberal social policies in housing, education, taxation, and race-relations. We belong to unions, too. However, in our journey through this world, God to us is not a passenger to be picked up to keep us company from time to time (maybe to play “I spy" during long road trips?). For us, God drives the car. I would like to see the Democrats respect that.

I would also suggest to them that, maybe, they might want to join us. The great battle for the hearts and minds of the American people isn’t really where they think it is. It is happening in our houses of worship and we liberals of faith could use some support. Instead we have been abandoned by our secular leaders who, more often than not, hurt us by helping to define religion as narrow-minded and conservative so that they don't have to feel bad about not going to Church, Synagogue, Mosque, or Temple. To belong to a faith community, after all, requires a little humility. Humility is in short supply everywhere, it seems.

I would tell them this: “If you want my vote, then pray. If you want my support, then get yourself to a house of worship. If you do not like its theology, then change it or change congregations. Try, for once, not being in charge. Try examining your spiritual life. Be willing to share and be challenged (reading Robert Fulghum and John Kabat-Zinn is nice but in isolation it makes you neither religious nor spiritual). If you come to my church or to a place like it, you will find that I am a political liberal not in spite of my religion, but instead because my God requires that I be.”

I am tired of being asked to show that my faith is relevant to the progressive and liberal cause. It is obviously relevant. If the Democratic Party and other secular liberals do not genuinely listen to us, if they do not join our struggle, then it is the party that will become irrelevant and the liberal religious that will suffer for its irrelevancy. The Democratic Party has won many battles but cannot win the war if they quit the field that matters most.

That is all from here for now. Advent is approaching and so is Thanksgiving. I have to get back to church!

Yours in Faith, Hope and Love,