Tuesday :: Oct 5, 2004

Bush support among Evangelicals

by soccerdad

Jim Wallis of Sojourners Magazine has an article entitled The Religous Right Era Is Over God is not a Republican. Or a Democrat.

His main premise is that there has been a backlash against Conservative Fundamentalists such as Pat Robertson and Jerry Fallwell by their faithful.

These two leaders in particular have seriously overstated their case in claims that God has virtually ordained George W. Bush as a divinely selected candidate. And the Bush campaign has seriously overstepped the proper boundaries of church and state by suggesting that conservative churches give them their congregational directories. This political alliance favors partisanship over Christian ethics and turns congregations into the Republican Party at prayer.

Rev. Falwell has a 44% approval rating among evangelicals. Pope John Paul II has an approval rating among evangelicals of 60%, despite the fact that evangelicals have been a very anti-catholic group.

Indeed, in a poll earlier this year, Bush held only a 4-point advantage over Sen. Kerry among evangelicals.
The ideological shift became clear in this summerís "Evangelical Call to Civic Responsibility," an unprecedented call to social action from the National Association of Evangelicals. In contrast to the Falwell and Robertson era, evangelicals are showing moral leadership in the fight against global poverty, HIV/AIDS, human trafficking, and sustainability of Godís earth.

These changes represent both a reaction against overt partisanship and a desire to apply Christian ethics to a broader set of issues. Many people of faith have grown weary of the fundamentalistsí attempts to narrow the moral litmus test to abortion and gay marriage. For example, when likely voters were asked in a recent poll whether they would rather hear a candidateís position on poverty or on gay marriage, 75 percent chose poverty. Only 17 percent chose gay marriage.

ANY SERIOUS READING of the Bible points towards poverty as a religious issue, and candidates should always be asked by Christian voters how they will treat "the least of these." Stewardship of Godís earth is clearly a question of Christian ethics. Truth-telling is also a religious issue that should be applied to a candidateís rationales for war, tax cuts, or any other policy, as is humility in avoiding the language of "righteous empire" which too easily confuses the roles of God, church, and nation.

Mr Willis concludes his column with the following:

The truth is that most of the important movements for social change in America have been fueled by religionóprogressive religion. The stark moral challenges of our time have once again begun to awaken this prophetic tradition. As certain fundamentalists lose influence, nothing could be better for the health of both church and society than a return of the moral center that anchors our nation in a common humanity. If you listen, these voices can be heard rising again.

An example of an evangelical group that is organized to protect the environment can be seen here

So the question is, if as Mister Willis states that there has been an evangelical backlash, how big is it and how will it manifest itself? If there is such a backlash, it seems reasonable that there would be a number of evangelicals that would, at the very least, stay home on election day.

What is clear that Evangelicals are not a single uniform group. The organization Religious Tolerance has the following definition of Evangelical

The term "Evangelical" has a wide range of meanings within Christianity.

...... we define it as: "the conservative wing of Protestant Christianity, comprising many denominations and faith groups that tightly hold to historical Christian creeds, beliefs and practices."

"Evangelical" is an umbrella term which Includes Christian Identity, Fundamentalist, Pentecostal and Reconstructionist, some Baptist and many other groups of denominations.

While Mr. Willis supports a more morally centered approach, Pat Robertson continues to work the fringe.

Influential American evangelist Pat Robertson said Monday that Evangelical Christians feel so deeply about Jerusalem, that if President George W. Bush were to "touch" Jerusalem, Evangelicals would abandon their traditional Republican leanings and form a third party.
Evangelical Christians - estimated at tens of millions of Americans - overwhelmingly support Bush for his pro-Israel policies, Robertson told a Jerusalem news conference Monday.

My first reaction is that this is a great idea because it would isolate the fundamentalist into a party that would have little national power. It would allow the Republican party to return more towards its conservative base. But in the end, I think this is Robertson just trying to use his political muscle to influence White House policy. I hope that Mr. Willis is correct in saying that Robertson and Falwell are losing influence, and that there is a slow shift to a more progressive approach. We will see.

soccerdad :: 12:12 PM :: Comments (17) :: Digg It!