In Nashville, a crowd of ministers carrying palm fronds occupied the governor’s office during Holy Week, demanding the expansion of Medicaid to cover more of the uninsured. In California and 16 other states, an interfaith network has organized thousands of volunteers to swoop into action when immigrants are arrested or houses of worship are vandalized.
Across the country, religious leaders whose politics fall to the left of center, and who used to shun the political arena, are getting involved — and even recruiting political candidates — to fight back against President Trump’s policies on immigration, health care, poverty and the environment.
Some are calling the holy ruckus a “religious resistance.” Others, mindful that periodic attempts at a resurgence on the religious left have all failed, point to an even loftier ambition than taking on the current White House: After 40 years in which the Christian right has dominated the influence of organized religion on American politics — souring some people on religion altogether, studies show — left-leaning faith leaders are hungry to break the right’s grip on setting the nation’s moral agenda.
Frustrated by Christian conservatives’ focus on reversing liberal successes in legalizing abortion and same-sex marriage, those on the religious left want to turn instead to what they see as truly fundamental biblical imperatives — caring for the poor, welcoming strangers and protecting the earth — and maybe even change some minds about what it means to be a believer.
“We’re in a real battle for the soul of faith, of Christianity, of this nation,” said the Rev. Troy Jackson, executive director of the Amos Project, a multifaith social-justice coalition in Cincinnati.
The last time the religious left made this much noise was in protesting the Vietnam War, when the members of the clergy were mostly white men. Now, those in the forefront include blacks and Latinos, women and gays, along with a new wave of activist Catholics inspired by Pope Francis. And they include large contingents of Jews, Muslims and also Sikhs, Hindus and Buddhists in some cities — a reflection of the country’s religious diversity.
Such a loose alliance of people of many faiths, many causes — and no small number of intractable disagreements — may never rival the religious right in its cohesion, passion or political influence. And its mutually standoffish relationship with the Democratic Party, dating to the 1970s, stands in stark contrast to Christian conservatives’ sway over the Republican Party.
But those on the left say that they do not need to mirror the Christian right’s strategic alliance with the Republican Party to gain a healthy measure of political influence — and that they are undaunted by how long it might take.