The Democrats just got some bad news on religion. A recent study by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press shows an inverse relationship between church attendance and voting for Democrats. While 63 percent of people who attend church more than once a week vote Republican, 62 percent of people who seldom or never attend vote Democratic.
That gives George W. Bush and the Republicans an overwhelming advantage with the "religious" as we enter a critical election year. One major reason is that Republicans are much more comfortable talking about religious values and issues and promising that their faith will impact their policies. The president is more publicly expressive about his faith than any occupant of the White House in years, and he is very proud of his "faith-based initiative"—even though it has turned out to be more symbolic than substantial. But when it comes to religion, symbolism, language, and style matter a great deal.
The Democrats, on the other hand, seem visibly uncomfortable with the subject of religion, preferring the vague language of "values"—and even then are hard-pressed to say what their values actually mean. The Democratic candidates shy away from the topic of religion and promise, as John Kerry, Howard Dean, and John Edwards have put it, that while they might have faith, it won’t affect their public policies. What? It seems the Democrats are offering a totally private faith with no implications for political life. But what kind of faith is that? Where would we be if Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. had kept his faith to himself?