Religion and the Left.

AuthorGunn, Erik

American Prophets: The Religious Roots of Progressive Politics and the Ongoing Fight for the Soul of the Country By Jack Jenkins HarperOne, 352 pages, Publication date: April 21, 2020.

In the effort to pass the Affordable Care Act and the subsequent court fights to get it upheld, some of the most powerful opponents were conservative Christian institutions, from the Catholic Church to the evangelical, family-owned Hobby Lobby retail chain.

Their role in fighting the passage of President Barack Obamas signature policy, and then trying to blunt its inclusion of reproductive rights as an essential component of a national health care plan, is widely known.

Yet how many people are aware that among Obamas staunchest allies in lobbying to pass the ACA were two Catholic nuns, one of whom headed the national organization for Catholic hospitals and nursing homes? How many know that even as an evangelical Christian movement helped whip up opposition to universal health care as an attack on religious freedom, other faith-based organizations helped drag Obamacare across the finish line, albeit without a single Republican vote in Congress?

This less sung, if not unsung, story of the role of faith-based activism on behalf of the first successful attempt to provide something close to universal health care in the United States is among those that Jack Jenkins tells in his new book, American Prophets: The Religious Roots of Progressive Politics and the Ongoing Fight for the Soul of the Country. As Jenkins declares in the book's opening pages, "if it weren't for the Religious Left, the ACA probably wouldn't exist."

It is an astonishing claim, but one that Jenkins convincingly defends. And, in the rest of the book, he demonstrates with equal conviction that faith groups have played an important role in some of the most important social movements of our era. It spans as widely as the Occupy Wall Street movement to Black Lives Matter to the struggle to protect Native American lands at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North and South Dakota. Even the conservative Christian war on LGBTQ rights and marriage equality in the name of "religious liberty" has been met with a multi-faith progressive response.

Yet, as with the story of the ACA, the role of faith groups in progressive movements has frequently been all but invisible in public consciousness.

We're all well aware that white evangelical Christians, more than 80 percent of whom voted for Donald Trump in...

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