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Dems and the Evangelical Vote

From a recent posting at the Emerging Democratic Majority:

Can Dems Win Evangelicals? ...is a question that would have been quickly dismissed a few years ago, but is now well worth asking, suggests Amy Sullivan in her New Republic Online article "The Christian Right Moves Left: Base Running." Sullivan recounts a recent incident at Messiah College in which GOP Senator Rick Santorum was char-grilled by evangelical environmentalists, who were unhappy with his opposition to the Kyoto Accords and support of drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Sullivan sees the incident as emblematic of a larger trend within the evangelical community --- and a growing problem for the GOP:

...Rove is also reportedly worried about another group of evangelicals: the nearly 40 percent who identify themselves as politically moderate and who are just as likely to get energized about aids in Africa or melting ice caps as partial-birth abortion and lesbian couples in Massachusetts. These evangelicals have found the White House even less open to their concerns than their more conservative brethren have...They have also been aggravated by the refusal of the Christian right's old guard to embrace new causes like the environment and global poverty.

Others have noted the growing interest in environmental causes among evangelicals, as evidenced by their increasing references to Genesis 2:15, in which God tells Adam to "watch over" the Garden of Eden "and care for it," posited against the sorry record of the GOP on every environmental issue. Sullivan offers a revealing statistic in this context that should be of interest to all Dem candidates:

...63 percent of evangelicals in a March survey released by the Evangelical Environmental Network agreed that global warming is an immediate concern.

It is doubtful that Dems will win a majority of self-described evangelicals. Yet it is quite possible that they can win a healthy slice of the evangelical vote this year and in '08... But it won't happen automatically. As Sullivan points out, the national Democratic Party, as well as state and local candidates, must make a focused commitment and an energetic effort to make it a reality.
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5/28/2006 04:40:00 PM

Too bad the evangelicals can't get as excited about "the unborn" in the shape of the future generations who are going to have to survive in the world we're leaving to them. While it's good to know a lot of them care somewhat about the environment and poor people, they somehow can't rouse themselves to the same heights of moral passion that they rise to in order to prevent gays from marrying or protect stem cells.

I honestly don't get the Christian far-right - what kind of mental or psychological aberration is responsible for making them tick. I would't believe it could exist, but the proof is staring me in the face in the newspapers every day.    

5/29/2006 02:09:00 PM

I do understand your confusion. The moral equation that the religious right folks use that process all the problems in the world and somehow spits out abortion and gay marriage as the two biggies, while ignoring so many others can be mystifying.

(For instance, how many sermons or religuously based outcries have you heard over the US as the worst post-natal death rate among all industrialized countries? Such defeaning silence lends credence to sharp tongued Barney Frank's observation: "The right-to-lifers believe that the right to life begins with conception and ends at birth." As the divorce rate among evangelicals -- as high as it is among non-churched folks -- call into doubt the deeper evangelical concern over "defense of marriage.")

That said, I do hope that the current level of thinking of many evangelicals is in a sense an early or immature stage of social concern.
I'm not saying that when it's "mature" it will see things my way. But I think when it is more mature, it will be broader. I say that because it would seem hard to argue that God's concern for the world's problems and suffering wouldn't be so much more broad.

That abortion or homosexuality top the current list of important evangelical sins -- both sex based you'll notice -- is because they touch the most "nerves."

Maybe over time they can see how concern for life can extend accross a whole "seemless garment" of issues, and how concern for supporting families, can extend way beyond the narrow issue of homosexuality...

The beginning of "creation care" or environmentalism showing up on the evangelical radar is perhaps a sign of that broadening process.    

6/20/2006 08:14:00 PM

"Evangelical" used to have a much broader meaning than "fundamentalist and political far-righter." When I was a teen in the 1970s, fundamentalists like Jerry Falwell refused to use the term "evangelical" and claimed it was too liberal! (That didn't change until after fundamentalists helped Reagan win in 1980). Most evangelicals voted for Carter in 1976--which Time magazine heralded as "Year of the Evangelical." Although a large section of evangelical Protestants have always had conservative politics, this was by no means uniform or even close to it until the mid-1980s. There were many Evangelicals who supported the civil rights movement and many who were involved in anti-war/pro-peace efforts. Evangelicals were among the first to call attention to the environment in the '60s and '70s. I grew up as part of the "Evangelical Left." Now, people forget that such a phenomenon ever existed and when cracks begin to show in the solid control that the Far Right has over conservative Protestants, it is proclaimed an amazing development! I see it as the first sign of awakening from a long nightmare.    

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