Monday, November 10, 2008
The death of religious influence on single-issue politics
Despite the shrill rhetoric and dire warnings from the Roman Catholic Church, the issue of abortion as a determining factor in political elections was finally put to rest. We have elected a President of the United States who is solidly pro-choice.
Let's look at the mandate he has been given in terms of Reproductive Rights.
According to Peter Steinfels, religion writer for the New York Times, despite the dominant message from the bishops that Catholics were morally obliged not to vote for a candidate supporting abortion rights, exit polls show that Catholics voted 52 percent to 45 percent for Senator Barack Obama. That was, he claims, seven percentage points more than the Catholic vote in 2004 for Senator John Kerry, a fellow Catholic.
Hispanic Catholics, a group the bishops often hail as representing the future of the church in the United States, led the way. Latinos voted 67 percent for Mr. Obama, 16 percentage points more than their vote for Mr. Kerry.
The shift among other religious demographics is also revealing and, at least from where I sit, hopeful.
NY Times religion writer, Laurie Goodstein, reports that among those who are "white evangelical and born again Christians", a total of 24% voted for Mr. Obama, verses 21% for Mr. Kerry.
Of those, however, 32% in the age bracket of 18-29 years of age voted for Mr. Obama as compared with 16% for Mr. Kerry.
That can not be described as anything less than significant.
Of course, this does not necessarily mean that abortion has become and accepted issue among these demographics. Indeed, it does not. What it does signal is that single-issue politics no longer has the force it once did.
Moreover, I think this signals a real shift in the authority and influence once ascribed to religious leaders - especially, I think, Roman Catholic bishops and Evangelical leaders who have used their authority and influence as a moral wedge issue against other compelling moral issues like poverty, hunger, education, immigration, health care, the environment, the war and the economy.
That kind of politic ain't gonna play - no matter what the issue. Someone forgot to tell them that the world is not flat. Indeed, as technology has made the world smaller (I'm sorry. I am so weary of the term 'global village'), life has become more complex and complicated.
On the issue of abortion, the middle ground established by Mr. Obama's Interfaith team has become the high ground. I may not like abortion. You may not like abortion. But, re-criminalizing abortion is not the answer.
Looking at the reasons women have abortion and addressing those needs holds the answer to significantly reducing by 70-80% the number of abortions performed each year.
That's change I can live with - given the complexity and compelling nature of all the other issues we have before us as a nation and a world.
I am heartened by this post "Proposition 8: A Triumph of Bigotry" by blogger 'Skeptical Brotha' as a sign of that change.
In it, he reminds us of the words of the Coretta Scott King, the first lady of Civil Rights:
I still hear people say that I should not be talking about the rights of lesbian and gay people and I should stick to the issue of racial justice… But I hasten to remind them that Martin Luther King, Jr., said, ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere’ … I appeal to everyone who believes in Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream to make room at the table of brotherhood and sisterhood for lesbian and gay people.”
“…Gays and lesbians stood up for civil rights in Montgomery, Selma, in Albany, Georgia, and St. Augustine, Florida, and many other campaigns of the Civil Rights Movement. Many of these courageous men and women were fighting for my freedom at a time when they could find few voices for their own, and I salute their contributions.
…Gay and lesbian people have families, and their families should have legal protection, whether by marriage or civil union. A constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages is a form of gay bashing, and it would do nothing at all to protect traditional marriages."
Yes, an estimated 70& of African Americans in California who voted for Mr. Obama also voted for Proposition 8.
Yes, for LGBT people, the dance toward justice is what it has always been for every other minority population - one step forward and two steps back. The antidote to prejudice is what it has always been - education.
The message to - and the work for - LGBT people and our straight friends is clear: if we don't provide education and outreach to other minority communities, we only continue to participate in our own oppression.
We may not have significantly changed the problems besetting our environment, but one thing is clear - the religious and political climate in this country has changed.
It's a new day, children. It's time to dry our tears, wipe our noses, pull up our socks, roll up our sleeves, take a deep breath, and continue to put our hands on the arc of history, which, as Martin told us, is long, but it always bends toward justice.
The work is before us. Let's get on with it.