There is good news and bad news for both the major party candidates for president in a new poll published by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. A majority of Americans view the Republican Party as more religious friendly but John Kerry is now tied with George Bush when voters consider whether or not the candidates devote enough time to religion.
The nationwide survey, conducted August 5-10 by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life and Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, shows that 52 percent of the voters surveyed see the GOP as being a more religion-friendly party than the Democrats, who are perceived similarly by only 40 percent of respondents. A majority (53 percent) also are comfortable with the way Bush’s religious beliefs affect his policymaking.
Another possible piece of good news for Bush and the Republicans is that 67 percent of voters, according to the poll, are paying at least some attention to the gay marriage controversy. While the survey also shows that the issue is not a high priority for most voters, it could help energize religious conservatives, who overwhelmingly support GOP candidates.
...the Democrats can take heart that a majority of voters (52 percent) now favor embryonic stem cell research, up from 43 percent just two years ago. Moreover, the poll shows increasing awareness of the issue, with 42 percent of voters now focused on the stem cell debate, compared to 27 percent in 2002.
In another piece of good news for Kerry, a solid majority of voters (56 percent) polled by Pew are comfortable with the amount of time the Massachusetts Democrat devotes to talking about religion. Kerry is now statistically tied with President Bush (56 percent – 53 percent) in this important religious approval rating.
More generally, the new poll shows that even in an election campaign dominated by the war in Iraq, terrorism and the economy, a substantial majority of voters (64 percent) say that “moral values” also will be an important factor when they cast their ballots in November. But while many voters are focused on moral issues, they also have expressed considerable ambivalence on questions concerning the appropriate role for churches and other houses of worship in politics. Most notably, 65 percent of those surveyed in the Pew poll said that churches should not endorse a candidate, compared to 25 percent who find it acceptable.
Click here to read the full press release.
Here is the problem for progressive Christian leaders: moral issues are mostly defined as matters related to sex. Jesus never once condemned homosexuality (see Homosexuality and the Bible) but spoke often about social justice as it relates to war, economics, and oppression. There is no question that progressive Christians have done a better job this year in trying to reframe the debate toward the issues that Jesus actually preached on. This poll, regardless of the partisan political implications, shows a continued need for progressive Christians to link Scripture and the Christian faith with issues other than sex. Otherwise the Religious Right will continue to dominate the agenda and mislead the American people purely for political purposes.
The National Council of Churches made a great start on working toward showcasing Christian principles that voters might consider this November that look beyond abortion and gay marriage. Check out this post for more information on NCC’s efforts. Here are the actual principles:
Christian Principles in an Election Year
Our Christian faith compels us to address the world through the lens of our relationship to God and to one another. Public discourse is enhanced as we engage civic leaders on the values and ethics affirmed by our faith. At the same time, religious liberty and the integrity of our democracy will be protected as candidates refrain from using faith-based organizations and institutions for partisan gain. We offer these ten principles to those seeking to accept the responsibility that comes with holding public office.
1. War is contrary to the will of God. While the use of violent force may, at times, be a necessity of last resort, Christ pronounces his blessing on the peacemakers. We look for political leaders who will make peace with justice a top priority and who will actively seek nonviolent solutions to conflict.
2. God calls us to live in communities shaped by peace and cooperation. We reject policies that abandon large segments of our inner city and rural populations to hopelessness. We look for political leaders who will re-build our communities and bring an end to the cycles of violence and killing.
3. God created us for each other, and thus our security depends on the well-being of our global neighbors. We look for political leaders for whom a foreign policy based on cooperation and global justice is an urgent concern.
4. God calls us to be advocates for those who are most vulnerable in our society. We look for political leaders who yearn for economic justice and who will seek to reduce the growing disparity between rich and poor.
5. Each human being is created in the image of God and is of infinite worth. We look for political leaders who actively promote racial justice and equal opportunity for everyone.
6. The earth belongs to God and is intrinsically good. We look for political leaders who recognize the earth's goodness, champion environmental justice, and uphold our responsibility to be stewards of God’s creation.
7. Christians have a biblical mandate to welcome strangers. We look for political leaders who will pursue fair immigration policies and speak out against xenophobia.
8. Those who follow Christ are called to heal the sick. We look for political leaders who will support adequate, affordable and accessible health care for all.
9. Because of the transforming power of God’s grace, all humans are called to be in right relationship with each other. We look for political leaders who seek a restorative, not retributive, approach to the criminal justice system and the individuals within it.
10. Providing enriched learning environments for all of God’s children is a moral imperative. We look for political leaders who will advocate for equal educational opportunity and abundant funding for children’s services.
Finally, our religious tradition admonishes us not to bear false witness against our neighbor and to love our enemies. We ask that the campaigns of political candidates and the coverage of the media in this election season be conducted according to principles of fairness, honesty and integrity.