Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Evangelicals Turning Left? I Don't Think So!

In this past Sunday's New York Times magazine, http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/28/magazine/28Evangelicals-t.html, writer David D. Kirkpatrick writes an exhaustive story that essentially says the evangelical Christian votes are up for grabs in the 2008 election and many may vote for a Democrat and leave the Republican party.
Not so fast Mr. Kirkpatrick!
Some of what is written is true. There is angst among evangelical and traditional Christian voters. Many are not happy with the Republican candidates running for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination. Many feel that the Bush administration threw them under the bus and no longer addresses its concerns forcefully as it once did. Many are like the rest of America, frustrated with the war in the Iraq theatre of the War Against Islamofacsist Terror.
What Mr. Kirkpatrick failed to really get into in this article was a fact that evangelical and traditional Christians are not all of one mind on all issues. They never have been and never will be.
The majority of those who identify themselves as evangelical and or traditional voters are still Republican and will vote that way in 2008. But, if the Republicans nominate a Rudy Giuliani, there may be less of them voting. That is just the facts.
What is happening is that many younger evangelical preachers are not focusing on the hot-button type of issues and they are also trying to paint a better face on a movement that has been vilified in a media culture that thinks that evangelicals are nothing but know-nothing hayseeds.
Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback church here in Orange County, California, is one of the most successful pastors in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. And that is because he is talking about purpose. His first mega-selling book, "The Purpose Driven Church" and the latter best selling "The Purpose Driven Life" are about the fact that God does not put people here on earth to sit back and let things happen. Pastor Warren is trying to preach that every life that is given by God has meaning and these are ways to find that niche. Some would say one's God given gifts. And, even Mr. Kirkpatrick has to concede that on the hot-button issues, Pastor Warren is an unabashed traditionalist. It is just that Pastor Warren may not have the gift of rough and tumble politics.
Yes, it is true that there always has been an evangelical left and it is still a minority within evangelical circles.
Many on the evangelical left have championed the "green" movement. Some others are more committed to helping the economic poor and disenfranchised in American society. Not one thing wrong with any of that. Many on all sides have been doing these things all along. It is just now many are becoming vocal on that front and giving the impression because many of the younger people are led to these concerns that they are not traditional in the political issues of abortion, same-sex mariage, prayer in schools. That is wrong.
Many evangelicals and traditionalists are not happy having to be involved in the political world. And that is the real issue.
For many decades before, evangelicals were really not encouraged to be part of the society at large even to the point of not voting. That gave the so-called Mainline Protestants, the Episcopal Church, the Presbytarians, the Methodists and the like an unfair advantage.
Then all the social issues of the 1960s and 1970s came to roost and that led to a rethinking of the sit back and let things be. People like the Rev. Jerry Falwell and the Rev. D. James Kennedy and Dr. James Dobson began to get involved in Republican politics. And that changed a lot about the Republican party and they found a lot of new voters.
Some of the issues that got these and many others concerned are still with us. And some have accelerated at break-neck speed. Evangelicals gained many new allies among traditional Mainliners and Roman Catholics and even traditional Jews. The fact is that politics is not pretty and some things get in the way, such as a war against radical Islam that may take some focus off the concerns of the majority of evangelicals.
The fact is that the Democrat party will not address much of what drives them. Infact when many know how much the Democrats depend on secular and even people outright hostile to evangelicals or any religion, they realize that while the Republican party has not been that great to many of their concerns, they will do one of two things. Not vote or be more engaged and expand the debate beyond the hot button issues. It will take more than the Democrats throwing more money down the government rathole to lift people out of poverty and the government can not get them out of spiritual poverty, which grips all social economic groups.
A lot of the angst is what is also affecting most Americans. The war. Period.
Many are weary of the Iraq theatre. Many feel that President Bush blew it. Many feel it is time to declare victory and come home. And that is the overriding issue. Will it be in November 2008? Depends on where we are. If it appears that things are still good, the Republicans will be rewarded. If not, many will just not vote. Few will vote for any Democrat because they will realize that, as many feel that the Republicans use them, the Democrats will just get their votes and ignore or go against all that they believe. And that would be tragic.
Evangelicals are at a crossroads, but I do not think that they are becoming any more to the left as any other group. They are just tired of being used at election time. And that is not good because they need to be engaged and stay in the debate.
I think that Mr. Kirkpatrick will be proven wrong and evangelicals will stay in the Republican corner for they did not get anything better with another of their own in the White House, William Jefferson Blythe Clinton. They only got worse. And I do not think they will let that happen again.

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