June 23, 2005

Amy Sullivan Blogs for Beliefnet

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 10:11 am

Amy Sullivan’s guest blog this week at Beliefnet is definitely worth a look. One notable quote about liberal Christians:

We’ve all heard the observation that the more often a voter attends church, the more likely they are to vote Republican. The implication is that good people of faith have left the Democratic party and that Democrats themselves, if they do still attend church, are spiritual slackers. It’s clearly more complicated than that. For one thing, as religion and politics have become more closely entwined on the right, individual churches have become more explicitly political and conservative. In other words, it may not be that liberal Christians left churches but that a number of their churches left them.

I first came across Amy Sullivan when I read her article on the Christian left a few months back in Salon. I meant to write a post on it, but somehow didn’t get around to it. But I was struck by how in tune she seemed with we poor progressive Christian bloggers bravely battling the merger between our religion and the Republican party. She wrote:

The decline and fall of the religious left has been so complete that news organizations regularly conflate terms like “religious voters” and “moral values” with “right-wing,” without a second thought. When Time magazine recently ran an article about Democratic religious outreach efforts, the piece concluded with the thought, “Religious voters might like the music, but they’re unlikely to be seduced by it as long as Democrats stick to their core positions,” as if religious Americans could only support the Democratic Party by putting their faith aside, not because of their faith.

[M]illions of Americans, outraged by post-election assumptions that “moral issues” are defined exclusively as conservative concerns, are hungry for a way to mobilize their religious progressive numbers.

Sounded a lot like me and my raison d’blog. Since then, I ran across her in The New Republic, and have now stumbled across her blog this week on Beliefnet. Having read her background there, her point of view now makes sense: she is an ex-Baptist Episcopalian Harvard Divinity School graduate who worked on Tom Daschle’s staff.

Something to watch for – she has written a review of a couple books chronicling the decline of mainline church membership for American Prospect (not yet available online for non-subscribers.) She quotes her article in her blog:

The real trouble starts when liberal Christians try to find a church to attend. Their options are not good, as those of us who have church-shopped know. Non-evangelical churches have been shrinking over the past few decades–each of the five mainline Protestant denominations lost between 6 and 12 percent of its membership between 1990 and 2000–and for good reason. Far too often, these churches offer lackluster worship. Or, in a well-intentioned but misguided attempt to differentiate themselves from fundamentalist Christianity, they strip away religious mystery, lessen the demands of faith, and sprinkle services with interpretative dance, drumming circles, or gender-neutral hymns that avoid “God the Father.” If such churches fail to meet their spiritual needs, liberal Christians can take their chances with more conservative churches. But they risk hearing–as the pastor at my childhood Baptist church declared last summer–that it is impossible to be both a good Christian and a Democrat.

I take exception to the statement about lackluster worship at mainline churches – I find the worship at my Lutheran church is not lacking in luster. But, I’ll wait to read her entire review before getting defensive about her critique.

Regardless, it’s nice to see a writer in the msm echoing so much of what I and other progressive Christian bloggers have been saying.


  1. There’s some good stuff here. Her link to the Dean article is a must read as well. I think I’m going to pick this one up (with a tip of the biretta to you of course).

    Comment by Jake — June 29, 2005 @ 5:04 pm

  2. First time to your blog, I was led by Any Sullivan search. I read the Beliefnet blog and was impressed

    I was raised Episcopalian, fled to the ELCA Lutherans a decade ago and last year switched
    with my 21 yr. old son, to the Unitarians. My problem with the Episcopalians ten years ago
    was simply local governance difficulties which left me alienated from my friends in the
    church. The Lutherans disappointed me with their dithering over the conditions by which
    a church member should be allowed to participate based on whom he/she cast amorous gazes
    I find with the Unitarians I can think for myself, though some members vocally object to
    christians, republicans and men. They are not asked to conform to a middle american norm
    once they have brought their skinny homosexual, tobacco smokeing, vegitarian butts through
    the door. I like that.
    All the best, Bob

    Comment by Bob Coghill — June 30, 2005 @ 1:22 pm

  3. Try a Mennonite Church for a whole different
    look at evangelical Christianity: pacifist,
    not patriotic, concerned for the poor,
    pious, etc. Also other anabaptists such as
    Brethren in Christ, etc.

    Comment by Glenn Shrom — March 2, 2006 @ 4:27 pm

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