Religious Rhetoric Shifting to the Political Left, Says Blanchard
With the presidential campaign season in full swing, Kate Blanchard,
assistant professor of religious studies at Alma College, offers her
thoughts on the role of religion in politics.
What role will religion play in this year's presidential election?
Blanchard: “It will be interesting to see whether the 2008 election brings change with regard to religion and politics. To some extent, we’re already seeing a shift in religious rhetoric toward (what has traditionally been) the political left. Religious people (including evangelicals and even folks at the Vatican) seem to be thinking more seriously about social, ‘big picture’ issues like environmental sustainability and economic justice, rather than focusing only on things like abortion and same-sex marriage. The smart candidates will realize that these broader issues can mobilize new groups of religious voters, especially young people and others who feel disenfranchised by the sexual purity crowd.”
Who are some of America's most compelling and respected religious thinkers today? Why?
Blanchard: “Discerning who counts as a compelling and respected religious thinker in this country tends to be—like most things—a matter of perspective. For some Americans the Tibetan Buddhist Dalai Lama is the new face of religious wisdom. For some the Reverend Jeremiah Wright—of ‘God damn America’ fame—is the only religious leader who is currently speaking truth to power in America. Krista Tippet is a significant shaper of religious conversation for the tolerance-loving NPR crowd. For young evangelicals, Jim Wallis of Sojourners is an important force for Christian renewal. And of course there are Christians who continue to look to more traditional sources of authority, such as the Pope, Billy Graham, James Dobson, and the like.
“American Muslims have their leaders too, but Islam’s authority tends to be more de-centered than Christianity’s, so no single religious thinker seems to stand out in the public sphere. Still, I recently read about a Muslim televangelist in Cairo, so I think it’s safe to assume that we'll eventually see this trend in America too.”
Posted: Mon, June 2nd, 2008 at 9:21AM