Reuters - Since President Donald Trump's election, monthly lectures on social justice at the 600-seat Gothic chapel of New York's Union Theological Seminary have been filled to capacity with crowds three times what they usually draw.
In January, the 181-year-old Upper Manhattan graduate school, whose architecture evokes London's Westminster Abbey, turned away about 1,000 people from a lecture on mass incarceration. In the nine years that Reverend Serene Jones has served as its president, she has never seen such crowds.
"The election of Trump has been a clarion call to progressives in the Protestant and Catholic churches in America to move out of a place of primarily professing progressive policies to really taking action," she said.
Although not as powerful as the religious right, which has been credited with helping elect Republican presidents and boasts well-known leaders such as Christian Broadcasting Network founder Pat Robertson, the "religious left" is now slowly coming together as a force in U.S. politics.
This disparate group, traditionally seen as lacking clout, has been propelled into political activism by Trump's policies on immigration, healthcare and social welfare, according to clergy members, activists and academics. A key test will be how well it will be able to translate its mobilization into votes in the 2018 midterm congressional elections.
"It's one of the dirty little secrets of American politics that there has been a religious left all along and it just hasn't done a good job of organizing," said J. Patrick Hornbeck II, chairman of the theology department at Fordham University, a Jesuit school in New York.
"It has taken a crisis, or perceived crisis, like Trump's election to cause folks on the religious left to really own their religion in the public square," Hornbeck said.