William D’Antonio, author of American Catholics Today: Realities of Their Faith and Their Church (2007) and chair of WNDC’s Religion and Politics task force had this to say about the differences between Republicans and Democrats on what it means to be religious. “The Democrats have been voting “the Biblical tradition from Abraham down through the great Jewish prophets to reach out to the needy, the foreigner, and remember ‘To whom much is given, much is expected’… So it is no surprise that Democrats brought us Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the G.I. Bill, early child education, raising the minimum wage, and other efforts to promote the general welfare… Rep Nancy Pelosi, Democratic House Majority Leader, has one of if not the strongest record in support of legislation that reflects Jesus’s teachings that we have a moral responsibility to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and provide shelter for the homeless. In fact, she has voted for and supported legislation that clearly shows that her religion informs her political philosophy.”
Similarly the defeated Virginia congressman, Tom Periello, spent many years in Africa working for economic betterment of poor people. As with Pelosi, legislating for the general welfare as a US Congressman was a perfect fit for his religious belief in public service.
Many on the Republican Right bring faith convictions to Congress, but their faith convictions are inimical to the idea of public service, and to the basic premise of democracy, that we can elect and hold accountable leaders who will work actively for the betterment of the community. Rep John Simkus (R-Il) who is vying for chairmanship of the House Energy and Commerce Committee is a climate change denier on the grounds that “the Bible is the final word of God and that he has said the earth would not be destroyed by a flood…[Cap-and-trade legislation] is the largest assault on democracy and freedom in this country that I’ve ever experienced.”
Given beliefs such as these, the religious sources of public policy positions must be on the table as we fight to hold on to Obama’s legislative achievements and move them forward.
(Note: watch for D’Antonio’s full statement in the upcoming Political Dispatch)