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Activists on left, right share faith but little else.

WASHINGTON * A new report issued Sept. 15 confirmed long-held assumptions about religious activists from the left and right. The only thing both sides seem to have in common: Faith is a more important part of their lives than among the general public.

But beyond that, the two poles differ dramatically on political priorities and biblical interpretation.

John C. Green, one of the coauthors of "Faithful, Engaged and Divergent," said the surveys depict two groups that aren't just "at loggerheads" with each other, but rather take wildly different views of hot-button political issues.

"What this suggests is that these groups are talking past each other," said Green, director of the Bliss Institute for Applied Politics in Akron, Ohio. "They have, really, very different priorities.... A lot of what's going on is an argument about what the political agenda ought to be."

Though the findings clearly delineated differences between the groups, the authors said it showed at least one challenge for both groups: the age of activists. Close to 50 percent of both groups (49 percent of conservatives and 43 percent of progressives) were older than 65.

Researchers mailed surveys to random samples of participants of major activist organizations. Some participating groups chose to remain anonymous, but progressive groups included Interfaith Alliance and Sojourners, and conservative groups included Concerned Women for America and the National Right to Life Committee.

The report is significant, in part, because it reflects dramatic changes in the nation's faith-based activism, said E.J. Dionne, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who was invited to comment on the findings.

"I don't think this project would have occurred to anyone 10 years ago because I don't think people took the idea of progressive religious activism seriously 10 years ago," said Dionne, a Washington Post columnist.

Michael Cromartie, vice president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, said the report answers questions about whether Democrats could succeed in narrowing the so-called "God gap" that had seen religious voters flocking to the Republican Party.

"Clearly, from this data, it's not only closing," he said. "It's closed."

--Religion News Service
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Title Annotation:IN THE BEGINNING
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 2, 2009
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