A New Faith Coalition?


On the strength of a post-election Faith in Public Life survey, Jim Wallis makes so bold as to claim (in a conference call today) that a new faith coalition is in the offing. It will be led by blacks and Latinos, and will include young and moderate evangelicals, progressive Catholics, mainline Protestants, and miscellaneous others. It will not be a religious left, and certainly not of the right, and more inclusive than a center. As the late Congolese dictator Mobutu Sese Seko described his own ideology, Mobutuism: ni à droite, ni à gauche, ni même au centre. Call it the Grand Coalition of the Common Good.
What in the survey would justify such a conclusion? It’s that religious folks across the spectrum seem to say yes to an agenda broader than just abortion and gay marriage. And that while it found only 21 percent of white evangelicals who said they voted for Barack Obama (five points lower than the exit polls showed), 39 percent said they felt he shared their values. Well, if that’s a coalition, it isn’t an electoral one. What it shows, perhaps, is a widespread readiness on the part of Americans to go along with, and maybe even get enthusiastic about, poverty reduction and abortion reduction and environmental protection and other good stuff.
The only thing that could bust up such a coalition, it seems, is if a brand-new Obama administration decided to get behind the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA), a piece of federal legislation that would seemingly roll back the many and varied abortion restrictions imposed by the states (with Supreme Court permission) since Roe v. Wade–and which Obama has said he would sign. Catholic bishops and leaders of the religious right are working themselves up into a lather about FOCA. It is to be presumed that the incoming Obama administration has no intention of letting that political and jurisprudential can of worms be opened.