Liberal “hostility” to religion?

I was thinking about the readers who suggested that I had been unfair in claiming a liberal hostility to evangelical Christianity. Fair point, I thought. I probably should have said “many liberals” rather than caricaturing liberalism per se.

But as I was crafting the words for a correction, I came across this passage from “The Left Hand of God,” the new book by Rabbi Michael Lerner, a liberal-in-good-standing if ever there was one:

“Overwhelmingly, the white activists who shaped the Left of the 1960s have remained mired in a culture of hostility toward religion and spirituality. If this were merely a historical curiosity, I’d leave this issue to the cultural historians. But since the Left’s hostility to religion and spirituality has become such a major stumbling block to the chances that progressive forces will ever win enough power to actually change the socially and environmentally destructive policies of the West, it becomes important to explore the roots of this hostility.”

I had been making a narrower point ? that many liberals carry an elitist attitude toward evangelical Christians. Lerner’s indictment is far more sweeping. Is he being unfair? I think a distinction should be made between the elites and the rank and file on this. The fact is that most Democrats are religious. But secular liberals, who made up about 16% of the Kerry vote (more stats here) seem to have a disproportionate impact on the party’s image and approach.

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Steve Waldman

Steven Waldman, a Washington Monthly contributing editor, is the co-founder of Report for America, a national service program for journalists.