Why religious voters reject Kerry

Often the Democratic position has been the antireligious position.

That Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry is the better candidate on many political issues this coming November is something that hardly needs debating.

On important questions ranging from the environment to the economy, from taxes to the war in Iraq, President George W. Bush has a questionable record at best. Thus, it is quite understandable that many people are hopeful – if not desperate – for a change in the presidency in November.

But the political reality is that the United States has become bitterly partisan and that the fight in November focuses on a very narrow segment of undecided and swing voters.

With the balance between liberals and conservatives almost exactly even, Democrats are not at all certain that Kerry will be the only logical choice for intelligent voters, who make up their minds on much more than those issues the parties wish to put on center stage.

Fear factor: faith

Every politico’s true horror is the faith factor – and this holds for both parties. Trying to please and appease both sides of the proverbial divide between church and state is the most complicated and risky act in the political circus.

Although emphasizing the Democrats’ belief in secular politics, Mr. Kerry would have been irresponsible not to occasionally mention his strongly held Roman Catholic beliefs. At the same time, the Republicans are not at all the granite block of religious conservatism, as the recent wrangling between the various minority groups within the party proves.

Yet the Democrats have already lost the religious moderates and conservatives. For all the efforts to sound inclusive to people of faith, the party’s stance on the separation of church and state is proving an effective deterrent, because from the point of view of believers, it implies a view of religion contradictory to their own. The Democratic Party does not realize that religious conservatism and liberalism are theological, and not political, standpoints.

On all major social issues, such as abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, same-sex relationships and judicial appointments, the Democratic position has been the anti-religious position.

Only people of faith willing to subscribe to a liberal interpretation of religion, that religion is not all encompassing, can join forces with the Democrats. In public life they have to agree to live as religious inclusivists or atheists. But if you believe that God is almighty and must be honored in all your actions, you cannot agree with the notion that politicians have the authority to declare God a quaint, but irrelevant myth.

It is easy enough to declare conservative religious views old fashioned, mistaken or even bigoted, but it will not change anything. Liberals have worked so hard to get the church out of the way that it should hardly seem surprising that conservative voices in the church are somewhat annoyed with liberals.

Yet they are acting as if with reason, common sense and inclusiveness we will solve all problems. Religious conservatives respond, with understandable irritation, that this is tantamount to placing yourself above God. Go ahead, then, they tell liberals: Rejoice in your liberation from religious views, not your own.

In November, religious conservatives and many moderates will make the strategic choice against the party that is cleansing society from religious views, not sanctioned by the liberal paradigm. For many, it will be a painful vote for a president they are not sure about, but at least he is one of them.

For religious conservatives and moderates, the political fight is not over the war in Iraq, the economy, health care or the environment, but over keeping liberal theology out of their churches, out of their minds and out of office.

Until the Democratic Party realizes that the separation of church and state only goes so far before it becomes an artifice for religious oppression by liberal theology, orthodox believers will only retreat further in their partisan shells.

Until liberals realize that atheism and secularism are religions in themselves, the political divide between them and religious conservatives and moderates will only get wider.

Michel van der Hoek is a University graduate student. Please send comments to [email protected]