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Time: Democrats Trying Out a Soulful Tune

Excerpts from this month's Time magazine, on Democrats post-election "come to Jesus" moment. They point out that this is a real opportunity for people of faith inside the party to bring an authentic voice, and a true spiritual foundation to progressive change:

"A few days after the Democrats' November defeat, Maryland Congressman Elijah Cummings suggested that the party needed a "come to Jesus" moment. His colleagues seem to have taken him literally. Former Indiana Representative Tim Roemer, who is running for chairman of the Democratic Party, could be heard arguing that "Jesus talks more about the concern for the poor" than he talks about gays and abortions. House minority leader Nancy Pelosi said a good place to start off the Social Security debate is to consider "how we honor our fathers and our mothers." Senator Hillary Clinton gave a speech praising faith-based programs and reminded everyone that she is "a praying person."

So in the past three months, Democrats have been agonizing over how to reach more religious voters. House Democrats have organized a 20-member faith committee that will design messages that emphasize the moral dimension of Democratic policies. The Democratic National Committee is considering creating a center for religious outreach that would focus on increasing turnout among regular churchgoers, mirroring Republican efforts. The Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, will sponsor events around the country to demonstrate how Democratic policy aligns with faith."

Central to the efforts is a linguist, George Lakoff of the University of California, Berkeley. He says Democrats keep losing elections because Republicans have framed moral issues about gay unions, for instance, with clever phrases like "defense of marriage." In discussions with Democrats in Congress, Lakoff and Jim Wallis, a left-leaning evangelical author, have advised officials to talk about how their faith informs their politics, from peace to environmental stewardship to economic justice. Wallis has suggested that when the Bush Administration releases its budget Feb. 7, for example, Democrats argue that it is a "moral document" and, as such, expected cuts in Medicaid funding violate the biblical tenet to support the poor.

The Democrats, Wallis says, need to shed their reputation as the party of "secular fundamentalists" and return to their roots. Liberal ministers like Martin Luther King Jr. led the civil rights movement. The first born-again Christian President was Jimmy Carter, and Bible-quoting Baptist Bill Clinton embraced faith-based initiatives before Bush did.

But the party's voice on that front has sometimes been tentative. John Kerry's campaign was worried enough about values to hire a religious-outreach task force but then ignored many of its ideas, including having Kerry speak at an evangelical-Christian college, talk at a religion writers' conference and give a speech about faith early in his campaign. Postelection, some Democrats say they're not sure this faith talk is necessary.... But the biggest risk for the party is to come off as insincere."
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