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But the damage was already done. What could the Obama administration have done differently? For starters, it seems clear that any religious exemption was going to be met with fierce resistance from abortion rights organizations.

The party faithful : how and why Democrats are closing the God gap

After all, even with the religious exemption, the HHS mandate represents the biggest expansion of contraception coverage in American history. Remember, the final HHS rule is still being developed and could well end up with a broad religious exemption. She nimbly outlines the political impulses of fundamentalism and the new evangelicalism. She discusses the so-called "young evangelicals" of the s, including groups such as the intriguing Christian World Liberation Front, a conservative Campus Crusade chapter at U.

This latter document, written in the wake of profound disillusionment with the Nixon presidency, denounced militarism, racism, sexism, economic injustice, and "Nixon's lust for and abuse of power. Sullivan makes much of this annual event, framing an entire chapter around the Workshop at which the Declaration was written. It is at this point that Sullivan makes one of her very few missteps. Suspending her narrative of the evangelical Left to tell of Democratic hostility toward religious conservatives, she ignores an equally salient narrative—that of internal evangelical fragmentation, specifically the role of identity politics layered on top of an already diverse evangelical social agenda.

There were clear signs, even in the first Thanksgiving Workshop, of deep cleavages within the nascent evangelical Left along gender, racial, and theological lines. The first evidence of dissension at the Workshop came from African American participants who perceived hints of "evangelical triumphalism" in opening remarks by Ron Sider, the organizer of the Workshop and future author of Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger.


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How could Sider justify celebratory rhetoric, they asked, on behalf of a tradition that failed to embrace the civil rights movement? Very quickly, remembers Sider, "the lid blew off.

Then over a separate lunch of turnip greens and ham hocks prepared "for atmosphere," they drew up an alternative statement more radical than the original. Palpable tension permeated the workshop through the first evening. When delegates entered the dark streets after the day's final session in search of a snack, they traveled in two groups, one all white, the other all black, both venting their "frustration in angry separation.

By the evening, some blacks and whites went out to enjoy soul food together. Still, a divisive tone had been set.

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Women also asserted their identity. In a workshop dominated by high-powered evangelical executives and scholars, one delegate felt as if "she had walked into an Eastern men's club. Ruth Bentley was listed a participant, but as chairperson for an afternoon session she became "Mrs. It seemed easier for the establishment men to be gracious toward the blacks they probably rarely had to deal with, than with status changes that might affect women, their own personal house niggers. While delegates in the plenary sessions mostly affirmed the caucus's demands to condemn sexism and affirm the Equal Rights Amendment, a substantial minority balked at women's ordination.

Pacifists also hijacked the Workshop. Mennonite John Howard Yoder, president of Goshen Biblical Seminary, said, "Blacks have a paragraph they can redo; women have a word they can redo; but there is nothing at all about war. It contains something about the military-industrial complex being bad for the budget, but nothing about it being bad for the Vietnamese.

At the third Workshop in , Moody Monthly reported that "the mood of many workshop participants was not amenable to 'integration' or 'cooperative ministry. By the late s most Calvinists had left Evangelicals for Social Action, the institutional heir of the Workshops, to form the Association for Public Justice. At the same time, black participants sharpened their separatist posture.

And evangelical women began to direct most of their resources into the growth of the Evangelical Women's Caucus. EWC soon boasted a dozen regional chapters and periodic national conventions that attracted nearly 1, delegates. Thus the bid to build a coherent evangelical Left collapsed in a few short years, not unlike the late s self-immolation of the New Left. By the Religious Right had swamped an evangelical Left already reduced by identity politics.

The Washington Post's prediction five long years before that the Declaration "could well change the face of both religion and politics in America" now seemed laughable, if it was remembered at all. In retrospect, the fragmentation of the evangelical Left underscores an important reality about evangelicalism as a whole: its malleability.

Rooted in the 16th-century Reformation and "democratized" in the 19th century, evangelicalism still nurtures an anti-authoritarian impulse.

The Party Faithful eBook by Amy Sullivan | Official Publisher Page | Simon & Schuster

Lacking a coherent hierarchy and willing to assume innovative cultural shapes, evangelicalism continually evolves to fill many fissures in American society. While this feature has contributed to its considerable growth, it also keeps evangelicalism from speaking with one voice.

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Consisting of hundreds of denominations and thousands of para-church organizations with constituents from disparate geographies, socio-economic statuses, and ethnicities, few evangelical leaders speak for large numbers of constituents. Evangelicals' engagement of diverse politics—including New Left, progressive New Deal, and right-wing politics, all since the early s—suggests the volatility of evangelical politics and its susceptibility to co-optation, sudden shifts, and identity politics. The politicization of evangelicalism has exposed the limits of evangelical politics.

Insiders noticed these limits even before the rest of the nation awoke to exaggerate evangelicals' potential. Carl F.

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Henry, who wished that a "vast evangelical alliance might arise in the United States to coordinate effectively a national impact in evangelism, education, publication and sociological action," concluded that his mission had failed. It is fragmented," bemoaned Henry in his jeremiad Evangelicals in Search of Identity. The failure of the Religious Right and the initial emergence of the evangelical Left, sounding its minority political voice with surprising resonance, proved Henry's point.

This context is important in evaluating Sullivan's stories of evangelical progressive vitality in the first decade of the 21st century. Sullivan happily describes a Sojourners organization flush with new money. After thirty years of poverty, Wallis was able to stage an event televised by CNN and littered with Democratic operatives.

The Party Faithful: How and Why Democrats Are Closing the God Gap

Chronicling the vicissitudes of the evangelical Left in the period between the Chicago Declaration and that CNN forum, however, might have sensitized Sullivan to the persistence of evangelical differentiation within young evangelicalism—and chastened her bubbly forecast. Ecclesiastical and theological loyalties remain too.


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Divergent political strategies emanate from white, black, Anabaptist, and Calvinist sectors of evangelicalism even as many nurture a common antipathy toward the Religious Right. Moreover, it is not at all clear that evangelicals disillusioned with conservative politics will flock to the Democratic Party. Sullivan herself admits in the book's closing pages that "for now, evangelicals fleeing the GOP are labeling themselves independent. The number of young evangelicals identifying as Republicans dropped from 55 to 40 percent from to But only one-third of them now call themselves Democrats.

The rest are independents. Rick Warren, for example, who Sullivan cites as a harbinger of the greening of evangelicalism, is far from identifying as a Democrat, despite Obama and Clinton appearances at Saddleback and his new interests in the African AIDS epidemic, the environment, and poverty. The marketing and reception of The Party Faithful further reflect the difficulties of Sullivan's hope that Democrats can do more than just cherry-pick evangelical outliers from Republican ranks—or that the new movement is anything more than a coordinated effort by elite academics and political analysts.