Transcript: Assessing a More Prominent 'Religious Left'

Source Organization: Pew Research Center

Speaker: John Green

Senior Fellow in Religion and American Politics, Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life

Venue: Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life

06/05/2008 - Liberal and progressive religious voices have become increasingly prominent in the 2008 presidential campaign. To complement a recent Forum-sponsored panel discussion on the “religious left,” Associate Director Mark O’Keefe asked Senior Fellow John Green to define the various groups that make up the religious left movement and talk about implications for the “religious right.”

John Green, Senior Fellow in Religion and American Politics, Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life

Mark O'Keefe, Associate Director, Web Editorial, Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life

In this Q&A:

  • What is the religious left?
  • How large is the religious left?
  • What issues unite and divide the religious left?
  • Is the era of the religious right over?
Q: For years we have been hearing about the “religious right” and its impact on American politics, but liberal and progressive religious voices are becoming increasingly prominent in media reports and at campaign stops. What is happening?

A: There is considerable evidence that the group often called the “religious left” is more active in the 2008 presidential campaign than in the recent past.

There has been a spate of books talking about religion and progressive politics, such as Jim Wallis’ God’s Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It, Michael Lerner’s The Left Hand of God: Taking Back Our Country from the Religious Right and Marcia Ford’s We the Purple: Faith, Politics and the Independent Voter, to mention just a few.

In addition, there are a large number of left-leaning religious and political organizations that are active these days, offering an alternative to the religious right. Some of the most prominent groups, such as Sojourners, have been around for a while, but others are relatively new, such as Faith in Public Life and Catholics United.

There have been numerous activities spearheaded by these groups. A good example is the Compassion Forum sponsored by Faith in Public Life and others, and held in Pennsylvania in April, just before the state’s presidential primary. Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama attended the event and fielded questions from a wide array of religious leaders. Last year Sojourners held a similar presidential candidate forum on faith and values.

Beyond such organized events, the presidential campaigns have been addressing faith and values extensively. Indeed, much of the perceived re-emergence of the religious left comes from the attention the major Democratic candidates have given to religion – one thinks of Obama emphasizing his Christian faith in Kentucky or Clinton speaking about her faith with the Christian Broadcasting Network, founded by Pat Robertson.

Read the complete transcript Assessing a More Prominent 'Religious Left' on the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life Web site.

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