Jim Wallis Continues to Reinforce Anti-Progressive Narratives
by Chris Bowers, Thu Feb 22, 2007 at 10:32:07 AM EST
However, we both know that there are powerful voices on the Left that have no tolerance for faith. As I said, I won't name names, but here are just a very few specifics: I've been attacked publicly by leaders of major progressive organizations who've said that the Left has no need for religion. They've said that religion, "whether conservative or progressive" should have no place in politics. "It's still religion," they say. I remember one particularly lovely comment from after I'd done a talk at a progressive political gathering (with me still in the room), saying that the kind of religion I subscribe to "puts signs out in front of churches that say 'Jews and gays need not apply - just white Aryan men!'" That kind of diatribe says much more about that person's own experience and view of religion than it does about my track record over three decades.Wow. Just wow. After spending two paragraphs repeating virtually every single strereotype of how Democrats and progressives are supposedly hostile to religion, without naming a single Democrat or progressive who is hostile to religion, he then cites a poll as proof that Democrats and progressives are hostile to religion. These are the same nameless stereotypes and strawmen that Republicans and conservatives have spent decades using as part of a long-term campaign to characterize Democrats and progressives as hostile to religion. Wallis repeats those stereotypes and strawmen, and then blames the people who are labeled with those stereotypes for the existence of those stereotypes.
Friends on the boards of major progressive publications tell me they have fought this kind of intolerance of religion for years. A few brave writers in those magazines, who aren't even religious themselves, have labeled this "shooting ourselves in the foot," which is where I got the title for my response to your piece. Friends who've tried to help the Democratic candidates understand religion have been marginalized and disregarded - until after embarrassing losses. I've had Democratic members of Congress who are people of faith tell me for years that they felt marginalized within their party as people of faith; that they were not really allowed to speak as who they were as people of faith. And for those who don't think the Democrats have appeared hostile to religion, read the polls. That can't just all be blamed on Fox News.
I did some quick Google searches on the various statements Wallis made.
- "the Left has no need for religion", which Wallis claims many progressives leaders have told him in public, appears exactly twice in Google. Both times, it cites Jim Wallis as the sources of the quote.
- "religion should have no place in politics", which Wallis also claims many progressives have said, appears a grand total of 30 times in Google. I have never heard of any of the people who used the term, many of whom, like Wallis, were simply claiming that was what the left said.
If Wallis wants to fight religious intolerance, he should not try and cover up for those people who are intolerant when it comes to religion. If Wallis wants to help the progressive agenda, he should not perpetuate the stereotype that leading Democrats and progressives are hostile to religion. If Wallis thinks that the secular left should, as a group, be held responsible for the religious intolerance of an extremely small minority of intolerant secular leftists who have no real power or voice within the secular left, then he is simply being unfair. No matter the case, by refusing to name names he is not clearing the air, taking the high road, fighting religious intolerance, or helping progressives. He is, instead, perpetuating a negative stereotype against Democrats and progressives. He is also unfair to the secular left--which is already a small minority in this country--by making them responsible for the actions of every single person who identifies with the secular left. Perhaps, ala Tim Russert, he considers Barack Obama responsible for the actions of every African-American as well.
It would be nice if Wallis could make his name by doing something besides reinforcing negative stereotypes about Democrats. Of late, however, as far as I can tell, reinforcing those stereotypes is about all he has managed to do. While he continues to do that, I can't imagine how progressives would see him as an ally at all.