Religious Left Revival?

on April 24, 2014

Institute on Religion and Democracy Press Release | April 24, 2014
Contact:  Jeff Walton office: 202-682-4131, cell: 202-413-5639, e-mail: [email protected]

“Historically, liberal religion leads to spiritual atrophy, as the embers of faith and doctrine cool, so too understandably do religious zeal, loyalty and motivation.”
-Mark Tooley, IRD President

Washington, D.C.—A new report from a center-left think tank is questioning the appeal and impact of the Religious Left. It also touts economic justice as the most “fertile ground of this era” for liberal religious political mobilizing, with the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s as the exemplar.

The study released by the Brookings Institution titled “Faith in Equality: Economic Justice and the Future of Religious Progressives” notes the major impact of Religious Left voices have had throughout American history. But it cites challenges to religious political witness from growing secularization, divisions between religious and secular Americans, and weakened infrastructure for liberal churches.

The report finds that the Religious Left has not played a central role in organizing for Democrats the way religious conservatives have for Republicans. The success of Democrats in 2008, it argues, “led not to a redoubling of interest on the progressive side religion, but quite the opposite … Engagement with religion atrophied.”

IRD President Mark Tooley commented:

“Historically, liberal religion leads to spiritual atrophy, as the embers of faith and doctrine cool, so too understandably do religious zeal, loyalty and motivation.

“So the Religious Left has always carried the seeds of its own demise. Its future always depends on doctrinally conservative churches and believers becoming liberal.

“The old Religious Left is mostly faded, having helped marginalize the once Mainline churches whose elites sustained it. Now liberal religious activism depends on Evangelicals falling away from the core of their faith. And so the cycle continues.

“Instead of generating more Religious Left dead-end activism for, as suggested, economic justice, i.e. Welfare & Regulatory State advocacy, why not a new church public witness rooted in Christian orthodoxy and natural law? Why not social holiness centered on spiritual rejuvenation instead of social justice centered on coercive redistribution and bureaucratic centralization?

“The Civil Rights Movement depended on biblical anthropology. So too must any faithful and effective religious political witness.”

  1. Comment by Donnie on April 25, 2014 at 11:06 am

    Speaking of the religious left, will the IRD cover Hillary Clinton’s speech at the UMW conference? It seems kind of strange nothing has been said yet, especially since it was announced a few months ago.

  2. Comment by Alexander Griswold on April 25, 2014 at 11:44 am


    I do plan to cover the speech. Keep your eyes open for my take!

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