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October 29, 2008

The Religious Left and Political Films

Barack Obama may seem like the perfect candidate for the Religious Left.

He's outspoken about his faith, he has a staff devoted to religious outreach, and he talks about finding common ground on divisive issues like abortion. Still, recent polls show he hasn't pulled many votes away from John McCain.

David R. Swartz, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Notre Dame, writes about the Religious Left's influence among evangelicals in CT's sister publication Books & Culture.

"Evangelicals' engagement of diverse politics - including New Left, progressive New Deal, and right-wing politics, all since the early 1970s - suggests the volatility of evangelical politics and its susceptibility to co-optation, sudden shifts, and identity politics. The politicization of evangelicalism has exposed the limits of evangelical politics."

Swartz says Amy Sullivan and Jim Wallis may have the best case for a "sea change" now than at any other time since 1973.

"But given the persisting limits of evangelical politics on the Left in the past three decades, Wallis and Sullivan's hopes for a large, robust progressive movement may well be dashed again."

Also, if you're thinking about plopping down the bucks to see W., Brett McCracken wrote a commentary over at Christianity Today Movies on whether political movies matter in the election season. Read the whole thing, but here's his conclusion:

"Perhaps film isn't the best method of political propaganda; there just isn't enough evidence to back it up. But don't expect Hollywood to stop producing election-themed fare any time soon. As we've seen from Saturday Night Live this season, enjoying 50 percent higher ratings than this time last year, politics is good for entertainment. But is entertainment good for politics? Does it make a difference? The verdict is still out."