Rediscovering the left’s Protestant roots

A long but fascinating and well marshalled account of the long term relationship between American democracy and religious (particularly Protestant faith), Michael Kazin charts a difficult set of decisions the American left will have to make if it is to find rapprochement with the many religious voters it has lost since the early 1960s.

…as in all attempts to revive the self-confidence and sharpen the purpose of the American left, one needs to talk about the world in unapologetically moral terms. For too long, progressives have hoped and demanded that governments solve the problems that beset our society�and complained when conservatives starve or eliminate programs that benefit millions. But in American history, popular movements, imbued with a revivalist ethos, have been the surest way to force the state apparatus to do the right thing.


  • aquifer

    “the failure of the Marxist dream has made religion, by default, the most powerful mode of comfort and explanation available to those who once seemed the natural constituency for the left”

    The failure of revolutionary politics, too, with overthrow of regimes leading to oppressive rule by cliques of aging and corrupt cronies.

    A contempt for electoral democracy still lurks on the left however,which amounts to a connivance with the government shrinking ambitions of free marketeers and monetarists. As the economy and the mass media have grown, the memberships, resources, and influence of political parties and representatives have shrunk without much comment.

    The left in one country needed new ways of relating to a market economy presiding over global inequity, and New Labour provided a viable answer for Britain. Both Blair and Brown would seem to be in possession of some sort of moral compass, though it is interesting that Bono, a representative both of the rock counterculture and of a christian sensibility, gets the job of guiding governments to do the right thing.

  • willis

    It is interesting to look at how Jim Wallis (mentioned in the article), Bono and Tony Blair earn the money required to deliver their message.

    TB is currently, of course, in the midst of yet another “Cash for influence/peerages/access” scandal.

    Bono sells lots of records and concert tickets to people who want to hear him.

    Jim Wallis contributes to a magazine, gets support via a website and writes very readable books all of which people buy because they want to.

    Tony Blair and Gordon Brown are a remarkable pair of politicians who are members of a party which still believes in mass membership but needs to re-configure fund raising to the post-Thatcher world.

    What do I mean by that?

    I am a trade-unionist who participates in negotiations which benefit both my members and those who choose not to be members.

    If someone chooses out of conscience or parsimony not to be a member of a recognized Trade Union should they share in the benefits gained by that Union?

    Why is this important?

    Funding is important because it should be consistant with the aims and objectives of the person or cause being funded. We fool ourselves if we think that we can get good, fair, open government without voluntarily paying for it.

    It is a pity that Tony Blair has been less interested in the peoples money than the peoples votes.


  • willis

    Enough with the money!

    Very good article.

    It is interesting to compare the leadership Jim Wallis offers to that of Rowan Williams.