Monday, April 18, 2005

Past, Present and Future, Part 2

This is the second essay about Democratic Party and the role of religion within it. I want to thank everyone who has read, commented here, or emailed me. I'm getting the impression I'm not the only one who'd like to clean this wound and start the healing. This essay discusses our present state of denial.

Where We Are Now

To truly understand where we are, it's helpful to understand how we got here. Today's Dems grew from a base of unions, structured religion, and ethnic neighborhoods. These were groups of people who banded together in order to overturn a tiered society of wealth over poverty. These weren't simple little skirmishes. This was the big stuff. Unions fought and won the battles for pensions and health care to the class of people who never had it. Churches and temples scrimped and saved, creating scholarships for kids to whom college was a unattainable dream. Catholic and Baptist men's and women's clubs set up saving and loan associations, often in their basements, to provide home ownership opportunities and move families out of apartments and into homes and flats.

Sounds pretty romantic, eh? Well, it wasn't. There were shakedowns, payoffs, denials of opportunity and coercion. In a way, it resembled a corporation. If you got in and worked within the system, you could prosper. If you didn't, you could really suffer. What this structure did provide, for millions, was the framework to move from immigrant to participant, out of poverty and uncertainty and into employment with some security. This was not a structure meant to glorify the individual. It inferred the individual had no chance; without the organization of the union or the church/temple, navigation and survival in a climate hostile to improving your station in life was impossible. Without the organization, you were vulnerable and voiceless.

What we have here is a mindset of unity. One person cannot win, but many, pulling together, can bring about great change. Sounds pretty familiar. Feels kinda good.

Only problem is, we outgrew it.

Let me toss some phrases at you:

Personally Saved by the Lord
Ownership Society
An Army of One
Personal Savings Accounts

The common theme here is individual control, and it's resonating. Why? Because we have achieved a new base level. Many of the intense degrees of separation due to race and poverty are blurring (hallelujah!). It's not perfect by a long shot, but the basic expectation of a person born in 1975 and one born in 1945 are distinctly different. Many of the great struggles supported by the Democratic Party are bearing some fruit, and this means that the unity mindset no longer holds the attraction. Formerly oppressed people are finding greater and greater levels of attainable personal achievement. More importantly, they are looking inward for direction.

Well, it's a good thing we fired religion, isn't it?

Imagine if John Kerry had been able to counter George W. Bush by insisting that a serious religious person would never turn his back on the suffering of the poor, that the Bible’s injunction to love one’s neighbor required us to provide health care for all, and that the New Testament’s command to “turn the other cheek” should give us a predisposition against responding to violence with violence. -- Tikkun

We need to accept several things at this juncture, and none of this medicine is particularly tasty. First, what we had, what we built with our organizational structure, the middle class we struggled to create, DOESN'T NEED THE STRUCTURE ANYMORE. Second, nobody likes snobs. If we buy into the concept of Progressive elite, we have become what we originally fought against, a group who won't or is unwilling to interact with those it deems inferior. I'm not willing to go there. Third, protecting America from those who seek to make it a Christian country committed solely to the fundamentalist view of Christianity means we can't remain on the fringes. We no longer have the luxury of demanding all things spiritual or "value" orientated are off the table because we are uncomfortable with religion within our party. You can't fight the good fight against wrong values with a demand for no values, folks. Not in the current climate.

Foregoing decades of mistrust with organized religion is not going to be easy. We need to remember we once relied on organized religion, fought side by side with them. We were brothers in arms; we shared a vision. Together, we built up a middle class. We have history and common members. We share the values of tolerance, reform, and protection. Today, we also share a common threat to the ongoing free development and prosperity of our nation.

So, tell me about yourself and where you're at with religion and the party.

We need to talk.


At April 19, 2005 1:39 AM, Blogger woodenshoe said...

wow! what a post!
i was raised a roman catholic, though i'm not religious.
i was always more a democrat ( the only one in a family of 4 republicans ), and since living in Holland for over four years now, i am a full-blown liberal. i see how countries here treat their citizens, how societies here work, and it's opened up a whole new world to me. people are better accepted and more welcome here. differences are welcomed. things are just better and more fair, particularly socially speaking. and the Christians here are also very different. from what i see, much more tolerant and accepting. people here aren't concerned about what you or i do in our homes. they don't complain about othres not agreeing with them, etc. there is full nudity on tv here, and people barely blink, because it's natural...that kind of thing.
i hope that helps...
and have a good day!

At April 19, 2005 5:49 AM, Blogger frstlymil said...

MAN, you write an awesome post. Okay, here goes. Raised Episcopalian, though the rest of the extended family remained Catholic. My grandmother had an argument with her priest during the Depression about birth control and she converted and raised the rest of us Episcopalian. My father was an Athiest, and my mother a regular church goer, so discussions were lively. At my mother's urging, I went to the services of my school mates - Mormon, Jewish, Catholic, Methodist, get a feel and understanding of other ways of worshipping essentially the same thing. As an adult, I still sometimes attend the Episcopal church, but have gravitated more toward the Church of Religious Science, (an offshoot of Christian Science which delves into the more metaphysical side of faith) which is host to people of ALL faiths - Muslim, Christian, Jewish - the message is simple, to the point, and I always hear something I need to - .

At April 19, 2005 1:30 PM, Blogger Jet said...

My mother is a Quaker, although she hasn't attend a meeting of the friends in a long time. My dad was the product of an Espiscopal marrying a Catholic (she demanded he renounce the Catholic church if he intended to marry her) so my Dad hid his faith like a person with a small treasure in a war zone. My parents rowed in different directions politcally, but they were both so freakin' smart they debated all things ad naseaum. Partly because of that, I grew up attending a Lutheran church in Illinois. I never really got church in the way the church wanted, but I certainly had opinions on it based on being stuck at the dinner table while my parents held forth for HOURS.

I tried a Pentacostal church for awhile, but I found them overwhelming. I like my privacy. My husband is a non-practicing Catholic, so we aren't attending anywhere right now. This wasn't really helping me though, because I needed something more than small charity in my life. So I started doing what I always do when I want an answer. Read. It's really making a difference for me. I think that the structure of traditional religion isn't for me, but that in no way means that study, questioning, and spirtual change aren't.

As for my party, I've been a Dem for 25 years. I look at us and I think we used to be better. I write about it because more of the same isn't going to get it for me. There is too much that is right to not protest the parts that need fixing.

At April 19, 2005 5:32 PM, Blogger RedBeardedMead said...

unknown how this helps but, I was growing up calling myself a third generation Baha'i, my dad second generation and his parents first... On my mom's side, very Canadian Roman Catholic. Went to Sunday school a couple of times and it was appalling, my dad begain then to teach my siblings and I our own Sunday school where he taught us about prophets from; Zoraster, Hindu, Buddha, Abraham, Jesus, Mohammad, and Baha'u'llah. At some point the whole dogma and organized thing ceased to work for me. Although one sister went to the Catholic Church very intently and the other went to the Baha'i faith steadfastly. ... so, now here I am with out such a path defined but with a quest for Truth inspired. ... Politically from Vermont I was raised essentially Democratic but the Socialist concepts got in there someplace and now I am not sure what to call my thoughts... Progressive Democrat? Socialist Reform? Democratic Socialist? ... essentially I feel some things need to be centralized, core health care, continental infrastructure, guidlines for the common good, then there are things that should be left to the individual and rather then care for people, teach people to stand tall and support everyone to have options. I feel the corporate growth is both what made us what we are today and what will bring us down tomorrow. Blade Runner anybody?

Not sure what options are there but...

At April 19, 2005 6:49 PM, Blogger Gun-Toting Liberal said...

What a GREAT post, Jet! I am a born and baptized, non-practicing Catholic who abandoned (well, you can never TOTALLY abandon the Church) the CC in my pre-teens. From there, I went on to many different churches, including many non-demoninational, Lutheran, and most recently, Methodist churches. It's been a few years since I last attended but my PERSONAL relationship with God and Jesus are very real and cannot be taken away.

As a liberal who doesn't have a FoxNews microphone shoved into my face, I fully intend to hold onto my Christian values, defend my 1st and 2nd Amendments, DENOUNCE the removal of Christmas and God from our society, fight for the common man over greedy oil companies and fight for all of my civil rights.

And in Jesus' Holy Name, we will succeed in taking our party back to where it deserves to start with a capital "P" again. Amen.

At April 20, 2005 12:15 AM, Blogger Unadulterated Underdog said...

I am a religious fellow and disagree with the false belief that Democrats are the anti-religion Party. The problem Democrats face on religion is a two-part problem. First, the Republican Propaganda Machine has invented this as a gimic. Second, many rural folks (like most Oklahomans I know) feel that the Democratic Party has left them behind in many ways. They feel Democrats cater to special interests while the Republicans are defending down-home values. This is actually a flip-flop of the truth but that's what they believe. The reason is because Republicans are good at leaving out facts. For example, tax cuts give more money back to companies than people because of the percentages system. Another example is that Americans are actualy being paid LESS now than in 2000 because our money is so devalued. For large companies with money invested in foreign banks with strong currency, this is an incredible opportunity. Our money is worth less so the yhave to convert less to our money to pay us. Of course, when Republicans talk about the economy, I have yet to hear one mention this little detail. All they talk about is how "the ecnoomy is on the mend ahum ahum." These are the things we must overcome to win back public support.

At April 20, 2005 5:25 AM, Blogger Laura said...

My own somewhat non-mainstream Christian values have me look at the things Jesus actually SAID. He never mentions homosexuality or abortion. He does, however, preach a very consistent message of tolerance, acceptance, forgiveness, non-judgmentalism, inclusiveness, and non-violence. If he were around today, I'd don't think he'd be political, which is a big part of why the Republican Right is such a turn-off to me.

At April 21, 2005 6:42 AM, Blogger Lina Maria said...

I am glad you found me... I was beginning to think I was alone. Your post has expressed what I have felt for a long time. Thank you.

I am a Roman Catholic. Born and raised in a deeply religious South American family. I came to this country almost 9 years ago. It never crossed my mind that anyone had a monopoly on the truth,let alone religion. I am dismayed by the attempt of certain people to hijack everything I believe in to turn it into a political joke.

I have been part of the silent majority for too long. It is time we speak up.

At April 21, 2005 7:25 AM, Blogger PATCAM2005 said...

Jet, I feel terrble, I stole your delay thingy, hehehe. Love your post, always a good read. I have to stick with okdem on this one. I think the democratic party can understand the difference in throwing religious views in the face of people who have very different views to begin with. In our religious silence we are labled god-less heathens.

At April 21, 2005 12:52 PM, Blogger Dr. Forbush said...

What a wonderful post!

I am a Catholic who actually teaches catechism on Sunday nights. There are a few things that I disagree with the church on, but if I can get the message of tolerance out to the students that I teach I believe I am making the world a better place. When other topics come up that I disagree with I bite my tongue and say "The book says...." The religious values of tolorance make society better. If we create a class of selected Christians we will re-create a new elite. Do we want that?

I was raised in a Union City in the North and believe strongly that the unions created power for the common man to have a voice. Like you said, the unions have won and we hope the weakening of the unions doesn't weaken the position of the working class person. Do we want that?

At April 23, 2005 7:21 PM, Blogger TrueJerseyGirl said...

As always, great post.

I was raised Catholic as was my husband, and we baptized our daughter Catholic (long story of why we did that), but neither of us practice or feel much connection to any church. Personally, I feel that religion as a whole has become so devisive rather than inclusive; people interpret the bible in their own way to support their own feelings.

I am a Democrat, and I feel that we lost the election because of a failure to connect with the religious people of this nation - but I am so afraid of kowtowing to this demographic on order to win votes. I strongly believe in separation of church and state, and I don't feel we have that now.


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