Sho Baraka could head up the Faith and Family Left Party


Remember a couple of years back when Pew Research Center offered a group of political typologies that sought to find better ways of thinking of our political proclivities than “right” and “left?”

I took the test, and it put me in what it called the “Faith and Family Left.” Briefly Pew defined the group thusly:

The Faith and Family Left combine strong support for activist government with conservative attitudes on many social issues. They are very racially diverse – this is the only typology group that is “majority-minority.” The Faith and Family Left generally favor increased government aid for the poor even if it adds to the deficit and believe that government should do more to solve national problems. Most oppose same-sex marriage and legalizing marijuana and most say religion and family are at the center of their lives. Compare groups on key issues.

At the time, my reaction was “faith and family OK, but left?” If was not a perfect fit, but better for me than the other options, such as “Solid Liberals,” “Hard-Pressed Skeptics” or “Bystanders.”

And then I didn’t think about it much until I was listening to NPR this morning and heard an interview with a guy who could very well be the chairman of the Faith and Family Party, were that group to form a party.

He’s a hip-hop performer named Amisho Baraka who was talking about how uncomfortable he is with both major political parties. He recently described his predicament this way in an essay (you know me; if I’m going to get interested in a hip-hop “artist,” it’s going to be one who also writes essays):

As a black Christian in an urban environment, I consciously struggle to give my allegiance to either political party. In this way, this election gives many white evangelicals a sense of what it’s like to be a black believer in America today.

As an African American, I’m marginalized by the lack of compassion on the Right. As a Christian, I’m ostracized by the secularism of the Left. As a man, I’m greatly concerned by subversive attempts to deconstruct all “classical” definitions of manhood.

I fraternize with a remnant of people who have the cultural and theological aptitude to engage both Carter G. Woodson and G. K. Chesterton. We walk the tightrope between conservatives and progressives. We share an anxiety and sense of displacement in the current sociopolitical landscape.

I have had zero interest in either candidate this election. Many people are fearful about the next president, as they should be. Our newly appointed chief will likely nominate Supreme Court justices. The thought of either candidate appointing justices scares me. Many Clinton supporters seek a secular utopia that progresses past logic. Many Trump supporters want to resurrect bigoted ideologies. Neither of these Americas is great to me….

I can sort of identify (especially with “sense of displacement in the current sociopolitical landscape”), right up to the point when he says he’ll vote, but not for Hillary or Donald. I can’t begin to agree with that. That is truly an assertion of false equivalence, to use the terminology of some of my critics here. Dislike Hillary all you want, but she’s the only semi-normal person in the country in a position to save us from Donald Trump, and a vote for anyone but her is inexcusable. I don’t care how tightly you have to hold your nose.

But anyway, I think this young man’s political journey is worth watching…

29 thoughts on “Sho Baraka could head up the Faith and Family Left Party

  1. Kathryn Fenner

    Hillary Clinton is a lifelong, apparently devout Methodist, and yes, that’s a thing. Methodists are more inclusive and progressive towards minorities of all stripes than, say, more orthodox churches–more orthopraxy than orthodoxy, but they are not Unitarian-Universalists or anything. They were on the front lines of the civil rights movement, for one thing, and are the most racially integrated mainline denomination last I checked. That’s not a secular utopia. It’s a faith-based utopia, or at any rate, a faith-informed utopia which is all we should have in this free exercise/non-establishment nation.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      You’re totally right. Of course, United Methodists hold a lot of positions that clash with more conservative denominations — including, I’m guessing, a lot of predominantly African-American churches.

      And sometimes with Catholics.

      In a lot of ways, United Methodists and Catholics are natural allies. For one thing, it’s a liturgical church (part of the LARCUM arrangement), and an episcopal one. And they are sometimes right there with us on social issues. I recall back in the 80s, when I was a newly minted Catholic, studying and discussing Cardinal Bernardin’s (well, technically the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’s letter, but it was about Bernardin) Pastoral Letter on War and Peace alongside some Methodist clergy friends. Great solidarity.

      But when you get to something like abortion, not so much…

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        But there’s room to work together even on abortion.

        The Methodist position prepares a person to take the kind of position Hillary took when she was in the Senate — working with anti-abortion lawmakers to truly try to make abortion rare.

        Our society needs to build on opportunities like that, rather that let wedges be driven between us…

      2. Brad Warthen Post author


        I’m more likely to find common ground with Hillary Clinton on the issue since her opponent is someone who has obviously never spent five minutes THINKING about the issue.

        She makes it hard to see that when she gives speeches adamantly, ferociously defending Planned Parenthood in a manner meant to satisfy the more militant elements of her base. At times like that, she takes on a tone of affirmation that comes across to me as more pro-abortion than pro-choice.

        But at other times, I’m better able to see the potential there…

      3. Kathryn Fenner

        I know that Methodists are the UM in LARCUM, but they aren’t liturgical in the sense that they follow the traditional Mass structure (Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus + Benedictus, Agnus Dei) –they follow the lectionary, I think. I sang in a small choral group that rehearsed in a UM church in Portland, ME in exchange for singing a few summer time services. We were largely drawn from an Episcopal Cathedral Choir, and the rest were Catholics. We kept wondering when the “service” would start. Hymn, prayer, Bible readings, sermon, does not equal “liturgy” in my book.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          I didn’t realize that about Methodists. I assumed they were liturgical, too, since they participate in LARCUM.

          The only other kind of LARCUM church I ever attend is Episcopal (because my daughter attends one — we were at her church just yesterday — and because I have a cousin who is an Episcopal priest), and theirs is so much like our Mass that sometimes it’s more traditionally Roman than the real thing.

          But I guess the main prerequisite to LARCUM is to share some of the same sacraments, such as baptism.

          Also, you have to see yourself as part of one catholic and apostolic church, rather than separate. So you’ll never see Baptists (such as my parents’ church) in LARCUM, because Baptists don’t even see themselves as part of one Baptist church, much less one church containing other traditions…

        2. Lynn Teague

          From the perspective of someone raised Methodist but now Episcopal: That sequence is a liturgy, derived from Morning Prayer. It is just not the eucharistic liturgy, which in the Methodist Church has traditionally been less common than the basic Sunday service. You can find the current “service of word and table” at The tradition of emphasizing non-eucharistic services may related to the origins of Methodism, especially in this country, in which small congregations sprang up around the countryside and were served by ministers who rotated Sundays at different churches on their “charge.”

          1. Lynn Teague

            Afterthoughts – A lot of smaller and especially rural churches are still served by ministers who visit multiple churches in some regular sequence. In the absence of ordained clergy lay leaders can lead the basic “Morning Prayer” service.

            If you compare the Methodist service at the website above to Rite II in the Book of Common Prayer, you’ll see very similar liturgies.

            1. Kathleen

              Thanks Lyn. I share a similar path and almost responded before I got sidetracked. I joined the Episcopal church before the “new” prayer book, back when morning prayer was far more frequent than now and it almost duplicated the Methodist “order of worship” of my childhood.

            2. Kathryn Fenner

              I suppose I have sung in churches (cathedrals) that tended to choose the more detailed variants for Morning Prayer. Jubilate Deo and Te Deum….

  2. David Carlton

    Agree with both of y’all. Objecting to Hillary Clinton on the ground that “the left” is secular ignores all of us whose *faith* puts us on the left. Here I suspect that, as is usually the case in these situations, there’s a litmus test involved, and that litmus test is abortion (and, perhaps, sex more broadly). To those who insist on that litmus, none of us on the Protestant left qualify as Christian at all.

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            The ancients, including Jews, didn’t know as much as we do today about those first nine months of life. For instance, they probably didn’t even know there was a heartbeat…

            1. Lynn Teague

              No, the ancients didn’t know as much as we do today. However, as an anthropologist my bet would be that many societies had a very decent notion of the stages of fetal development by the time the Bible was written. For example, here is a reference in which Aristotle used analogy to chick embryos to make inferences about the development of the heart and major blood vessels and the initiation of beating:

              Ignorance of basic biology can’t be assumed.

  3. iring of Harry Harris

    My adult life and most of my childhood are shaped by my belief in and commitment to Jesus. I take counsel from his teachings and actions as well as from most of the New Testament on matters of church and state. I do not want my beliefs to shape public policy, though I do want public policy to be influenced by my and others religious commitment. I do not ever want my religious beliefs to be enforced on others or promoted by government resources. Neither, I believe, did Jesus or Paul (after he was knocked off the donkey). Before the encounter, Paul reminds me of the classic religionist – sure of his rightness and willing to enforce it with force. I have close friends who want school-sponsored prayer and religious expression in schools. They are sure there’s no harm and great benefit in supporting their brand of theology or some wishy-washy amalgam of state – accepted religion in schools, but they would cry out loudly for the firing of a teacher who used the term “creation myth.”
    Most liberal Christians I know do not want religion banned from the public square, but object to its being promoted on the government dime or allowing any religious person to flout civil law with impunity unless granted objector status through law or court dictum.
    Religious men who fear their “classical” manhood being undermined really should define specifically what privilege they think should be defended or what trait in not in need of scrutiny. Testosterone may well be Satan’s favorite chemical weapon.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Harry, was that you? Something funky about the way you signed that caused the comment to be held for moderation.

      As to “Testosterone may well be Satan’s favorite chemical weapon.” I think you’re right. And I think much of traditional morality — especially that which binds a man and a woman permanently in marriage — is about training men to overcome the effects of testosterone on their behavior.

      And I see that as not just religious, but anthropological and biological. It’s a quirk of our species that our offspring take at least a couple of decades to mature, and need the full attention of at least a couple of adults (and preferably some grandparents as well) to get them to adulthood, socialize them and so forth. The logical and most obvious option is for the actual parents to be the main ones doing the rearing when that is possible, so we have these rituals and societal expectations putting a firm onus on the man to restrain his testosterone-fueled impulses, and stick around and be a partner in raising the kids…

  4. Scout

    I’m a lifelong United Methodist. I’ve always been offended by the notion you can’t be on the left and also be serious about your religious beliefs, which seems to widespread out there. I don’t fit in that box.

  5. Bryan Caskey

    I’ll give a shiny nickel to the first person to place this movie quote:

    “The Burns family ran a general store in a one store town and still managed to do badly. They were Methodists, a denomination my father referred to as Baptists who could read.”

    No fair using Google.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          And I did NOT look it up!

          But that was way unfair, both to Baptists and Methodists.

          First, Baptists read. They certainly read the Bible far, FAR more than Catholics do. Too many Catholics are still to some extent like, Father reads the Bible so I don’t have to…

          I mean, come on! You don’t think Roger Williams was a reader?

          As for the Methodists — how are they like Baptists? They see themselves as part of the universal church, while Baptists do not…

          1. clark surratt

            Brad, Methodists, like Catholics, are a top down organization. But in many ways they (especially in South) act like Baptists.

            I stole this line to illustrate: One pundit said of opinions among Methodists on whether to allow ordaining of gay or lesbian pastors, “About a fourth are for it, a fourth against, and the other half just wants to make sure there is enough sweet tea at the covered dish dinner and that their grandchild gets a good role in the Christmas pageant.”

            As a related, small world. aside, Brad: I attended a small church Sunday where the Jeremiah story was read, where your subdivision neighbor was the speaker, and where a familiar sounding Warthen is listed as a member.

              1. clark surratt

                I was at Green Street Methodist. John Culp was the speaker. The church directory lists Ashley and Matthew Warthen as members; one of their children is named Luca Bradley.

                1. Brad Warthen Post author

                  OK, I see — the missing info was that Big John Culp spoke to you!

                  I was thinking you meant St. John’s Episcopal, where my daughter goes. That’s where I was Sunday. Sometimes when we have the twins sleep over on a Saturday night, we take them to that church rather than going to our own. But I couldn’t think who the speaker might have been who was a neighbor of mine.

                  John’s a great guy — the founder of Salkehatchie!


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