Tuesday, April 1, 2008

How Would Jesus Vote? Nation Re-Considers

Last night at Notre Dame, Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne began his lecture with the same story that opens his book, Souled Out:

Mrs. O'Reilly was dutifully being taken to the polls on Election Day by her son [Bill?]. Mrs. O'Reilly always voted straight Democratic. Her son, a successful member of the upper-middle class, had become an Independent, and often voted Republican.

As was their routine, the son asked his mother how she would vote, and, as always, Mrs. O'Reilly responded, "Straight Democratic." The exasperated son replied, "Mom, if Jesus came back to earth and ran as a Republican, you would vote against him." His mother shot back, "Aw, hush, why would he change his party after all these years?"
Later, Dionne declared, "The era of the religious right is over." Although Dionne acknowledged the movement's death knell has been rung incorrectly before, a true testament to its power of "resurrection," he insisted that this time is (mercifully) different.

Democrats like Barack Obama and Tim Kaine feel comfortable talking about their faith publicly, in a way their predecessors did not a generation ago.

Dionne, a liberal Catholic, also foresaw a shift in the way divisive topics like abortion are dealt with in this country. For 35 years, Roe v. Wade has been the law of the land, ensuring a woman's right to have an abortion. For just as long, the religious have sought to criminalize the practice and looked to the Republican party for salvation.

Yet, after millions of votes, dollars and volunteer hours, Roe does not appear to be going anywhere. And even if it did, Dionne notes, the number of abortions is very unlikely to fall. So the best way to tackle what Christians consider to be an immoral practice, is to focus on why there are more abortions here than in other countries where they're legal, and to try and reduce the number.

Additionally, the American religious have refocused on economic morality. The widening gap between rich and poor is at frightening levels (one British paper said it's caused another Great Depression), and Republicans still push capital gains tax- cuts and trickle- down theory. As a result, the Democratic tent bulges with the faithful, intent on a greater commitment to issues like poverty, climate change and third- world relief.

Even the most socially conservative Republican in the '08 field, Mike Huckabee, talked about economic responsibility. As Arkansas governor, he raised taxes for what he claimed were "moral" reasons, and got no endorsements from traditional Christian leaders, but found surprisingly ample support from voters.

Overall, Dionne's take is cutting edge, and his assessment is well- grounded.

So, while Jesus might never change parties, it appears some of his followers have.

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