One of the most prolific writers on the subject of the Democratic Party and religion is Amy Sullivan, an editor with the Washington Monthly. TIME magazine recently posted two essays by Ms. Sullivan that are must-reads for evangelical Christians as we consider the faith of the Democratic presidential candidates. In one of the essays, a parsing of a recent TIME poll on the faith of the Republican and Democratic candidates, Ms. Sullivan sees a shift “in which it is the Democrats who are talking about faith while their Republican counterparts dodge the subject.” She is quick, however, to point out that while the reality may be changing, the perception of voters that a “religious Democrat” is an oxymoron still prevails.
Not that the Democrats aren’t working hard to overcome the electorate’s perception of them as ambivalent or even hostile toward religion. Howard Dean is challenging his party to reach out to evangelical Christians, even sitting for an interview with CBN where he stated that Democrats have much in common with evangelicals. Hillary Clinton recently sat for an extensive interview about her faith with the New York Times. And Barack Obama has made his conversion experience at a church on the south side of Chicago a staple of his stump speech.
On a recent broadcast of my radio program I spoke with Amy Sullivan about the faith of political candidates and the uphill climb the Democrats have to overcome the perception of their party as ambivalent or even hostile toward religious expression. In the interview I made the observation that while Democrats and Republicans may be reading from the same Bible, the lens they look through causes them to focus on different things: the Democrats are drawn to the social justice texts and the Republicans are drawn to the texts dealing with sanctity of life issues. I asked, Why can’t both parties see the whole picture? To which Sullivan responded: