The election of President Trump is being credited for the reemergence of the “religious left” that is currently coalescing as a force in U.S. politics.
Reverend Serene Jones, president of New York’s Union Theological Seminary, said, “The election of Trump has been a clarion call to progressives in the Protestant and Catholic churches in America to move out of a place of primarily professing progressive policies to really taking action.”
Jones reports that monthly social justice lectures at the school’s 600-seat chapel have reached capacity with approximately 1,000 people recently having been turned away from a lecture on mass incarceration.
The “religious left” is not yet as powerful as the religious right which has been credited with helping elect Republican presidents. Even so, the group has increased its engagement in political activism in response to Trump’s policies on immigration, healthcare and social welfare, according to clergy members, activists and academics.
The group’s clout will be tested when it is tasked to mobilize votes in the 2018 midterm congressional elections.
“It’s one of the dirty little secrets of American politics that there has been a religious left all along and it just hasn’t done a good job of organizing,” said J. Patrick Hornbeck II, chairman of the theology department at Fordham University, a Jesuit school in New York.
“It has taken a crisis, or perceived crisis, like Trump’s election to cause folks on the religious left to really own their religion in the public square,” Hornbeck said.
Religious progressive activism has historically been instrumental in campaigns to abolish slavery, promote civil rights and bring about the end of the Vietnam War. Currently, some affiliated with the religious left are inspired by Pope Francis, the Roman Catholic leader who has been critical of anti-immigrant policies and an advocate for the needy.
Leaders in the religious left movement believe support is growing, pointing to a surge of congregations offering to provide sanctuary to asylum-seeking immigrants, churches urging Republicans to reconsider repealing Obamacare and calls to continue federal spending on foreign aid.
The Elkhart, Indiana-based Church World Service, a coalition of Christian denominations which assists refugees in settling in the U.S., reports that following Trump’s election, the number of churches offering sanctuary to asylum seekers doubled to 800 in 45 of the 50 states. The group asserts that the number of new churches offering aid has surged so quickly that they have lost count.
Reverend Noel Anderson, the group’s national grassroots coordinator said, “The religious community, the religious left is getting out, hitting the streets, taking action, raising their voices.”
According to Rabbi Jonah Pesner, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, “This is not about partisanship, but about vulnerable populations who need protection, whether it’s the LGBT community, the refugee community, the undocumented community.”
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