Religious Progressives, Conservatives: Talking Past Each Other
By Jacqueline L. Salmon
What's most interesting about a report released today that compares conservative and progressive religious activists is how much the two groups are talking past each other. No wonder they cannot come to agreement on issues. They're not even in the same universe.
The report, by the Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron, is a survey of 7,200 conservative and progressive religious activists. You could argue that much of it was predictable--conservative religoous activities approach their faith in different ways and have different political priorities.
But the degree is astounding and suggests that the various "common ground" efforts to find consensus between the constituencies will have very difficult time achieving any traction.
First, they have strikingly different issue priorities. While 83 percent of religious conservatives rated abortion as "very important," a mere 7 percent of progressive activists did. Same story with same-sex marriage: two-thirds of conservative activities gave it a high priority, while less than one-tenth of progressive activists did.
On the flip side, three-quarters of progressive activists ranked poverty as a "very important" issue, while less than one-quarter of conservative activists did.
And the big issue, health care: Two-thirds of progressive activists ranked it as a top priority, while only one-tenth of conservative activists did.
The only issue that both sides saw as very important was immigration--one-fifth of progressive activists gave it a top priority, as did one-quarter of conservative activists.
From a theological viewpoint, the same dynamic applies. Close to one-half of conservative religious activists believe that Scripture is the word of God. Among progressive religious activists--a miniscule 3 percent.
As commentator E.J. Dionne said at the press conference at which the survey was released, "Is there any way these guys could get together and agree on anything?"
Jacqueline L. Salmon
September 15, 2009; 3:55 PM ET
God in Government
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