David Swartz on the “Homeless” Evangelical Left


7b96a-swartzMost of the so-called evangelical left is theologically orthodox, progressive on economic issues, and pro-life (in a way that extends beyond just abortion). I think it is fair to say that the evangelical left is divided on the question of same-sex marriage, but mostly unified on the defense of religious liberty.

This, of course, often leaves those on the evangelical left without a political home.  David Swartz, writing at The Anxious Bench, captures this sense of homelessness quite well.  He also offers some great observations about his recent visit to a taping of the 700 Club in Virginia Beach.

Here is a taste:

And yet the evangelical left, at least as represented by the organizations and personalities that dominated in the 1980s and 1990s, has been rather impotent.

InterVarsity Christian Fellowship’s difficult October helps explain why. The student ministry is roiled by controversy over same-sex marriage. Many more are still concerned about abortion. Despite being clearly progressive on #blacklivesmatter, poverty, and other non-sexual issues, many evangelicals have found themselves disqualified from participation on the left. At debate watch last week at my institution, evangelical students were tracking with Clinton—until she began defending partial-birth abortion. A conservative sexuality has left moderates politically homeless.

Where have all the pro-life Democrats gone? They’ve been bounced from the party. Doubling down, the Democratic Party doesn’t even use the language of “safe, legal, and rare” anymore. A triumphant celebration of rights supersedes any acknowledgement that abortion is a very sad and often tragic reality for all involved. There is no room for other narratives. There is no space for conversation.

They’re finishing the job started decades ago. As I described in Moral Minority: The Evangelical Left in an Age of Conservatism, Democrats, who were arguably more pro-life than Republicans, in 1980 adopted an explicit pro-choice position and began to strictly enforce the new orthodoxy. Formerly pro-life, Ted Kennedy had declared to a Massachusetts constituent in 1971 that “wanted or unwanted, I believe that human life, even at its earliest stages, has certain rights which must be recognized—the right to be born, the right to love, the right to grow old.” Within a decade, Kennedy reversed course. Other pro-life politicians with evangelical or Catholic backgrounds such as John Kerry, Dennis Kucinich, Mario Cuomo, Bob Kerrey, Dick Durbin, and Bill Clinton, also become leading defenders of the right to choose. In fact, five of the contenders for the Democratic nomination in 1988—Jesse Jackson, Joe Biden, Paul Simon, Dick Gephardt, and Al Gore—had flipped to a pro-choice position under party pressure.

This putsch, as political scientists Louis Bolce and Gerald De Maio put it, poisoned many Christians’ perception of the Democratic Party. Regularly attending Catholics, a key constituency in the New Deal coalition, gradually but substantially left the Party. So did evangelicals. According to political scientist Lyman Kellstedt, the Democratic Party outpolled the Republican Party by a margin of 59 to 31 percent among evangelicals in the 1960s. By the mid-1980s, the Republican Party enjoyed a 47 to 41 percent lead. Evangelicals flocked to “God’s party” as the fault lines in the new realignment grew larger.

Read the entire post here.

3 thoughts on “David Swartz on the “Homeless” Evangelical Left

  1. TVD:
    If a pro-life evangelical votes for the most pro-abortion president in US history without making a sound, are they still pro-life? >>>>

    No. How absurd, like a square circle.


    I don’t think so. Then again, there really is no way to call a council of Evangelical pastors and leaders for the purpose of hammering out Evangelicalism’s position on abortion – or anything for that matter.


  2. Thank you for this post.

    David Swartz: By the late 1980s, there was no place for progressive evangelicals who embraced a “consistent life ethic.”

    A “consistent life ethic” is a philosophical fraud. You can’t put abortion in the same discussion as income inequality or family leave. It’s a category error.

    Hillary Clinton favors repealing the Hyde Amendment, which bans our government from paying for abortions. This is not just pro-choice, it’s pro-abortion, because when the government subsidizes something, you get more of it.

    If a pro-life evangelical votes for the most pro-abortion president in US history without making a sound, are they still pro-life? Evangelical?

    Liked by 1 person

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