Tuesday, October 17, 2006

On the End of Evangelicals

Alan Wolfe, who teaches political science at Boston College, has an interesting essay on AlterNet about "Are Evangelicals Over?" Here is Wolfe's best insight:

What you need to understand," a Robertson supporter told me, "is that Pat opposed the war in Iraq from the start." I responded that according to the Lancet, some 600,000 Iraqis have died since the war began. If Robertson had publicly opposed the war, I told them, his influential voice might have spared those lives. "But," one of them answered back, "Pat is a Republican who would not openly oppose the president."

And there, I submit, is why the religious right is in trouble. Since the emergence of a politically active version of conservative Protestantism in the 1980s, it has never been clear whether America's shift to the right took place because deeply religious people became political or because deeply conservative people became religious. I learned at Regent what I have long suspected: For some of the most visible leaders in the religious right, politics trumps religion every time.
I think Wolfe prematurely concludes that the role of evangelicals in politics has peaked.

Many evangelicals may sit out this election, but they'll be back in 2008.

As the blog about Jerry Sutton below indicates, there are waves of activists with a taste for power who have learned to organize politically and they are determined to force this nation to accept their idea of Christian values.

I suspect, (barring an October surprise like war with Iran or widespread voting fraud that turns this election), that the House will turn Democratic in 2006, that moderate and progressive Christians will conclude that the threat of Christian Nationalism is over and will go back to their old routine, that the economy will tank and taxes will necessarily rise, and that the Religious Right will return with a vengeance in 2008.


Michael Westmoreland-White said...

Well, I think that if the Democrats can match the GOP's get out the vote machine, we will take both the House and the Senate.

I do think that the Religious Right will be back by '08, but I don't think that Progressives, religious and otherwise, will simply coast after 07 Nov. '06. After all, Progressives know that this election is a tourniquet, but just a tourniquet. To truly save the Body Politic will take much more struggle.

The economy will tank, but few can blame that on the Democrats--they won't have 2/3 majorities to be able to roll back Bush's disastrous tax cuts on the rich, etc.

The Religious Right will be back, but we will be ready for them, I think. We REALLY need a win this time just to break the cycle of defeat, but it will take far more than one election cycle to defeat the Religious Right--and much of what it will take is not even directly political, but a resurgence of Prophetic Faith.

peter lumpkins said...

Dr. Prescott,

I think I posted a comment on another of your logs about an interesting new study on Conservative Christians in America. Indeed I am blogging about it presently.

At any rate, the assumptions about the political power the Religious Right allegedly possesses stands as the very "conventional wisdom" Greeley & Hout expose as fallacious in their work.

A good read. Perhaps even an essential read...With that, I am...


TammyJo58 said...

Christian voices in politics should not be discouraged, however they need to vote based on their biblical principals, not a party. I think Christians have lost a lot of credibility by aligning themselves with a particular party.

SelahV said...

Dr. Prescott, You wrote "it has never been clear whether America's shift to the right took place because deeply religious people became political or because deeply conservative people became religious." I'd like to say that I for one was the former and it catapulted me into producing a Christian conservative newspaper in Owensboro, KY. At the same time, now KY Congressman Ron Lewis (Republican) through his hat into the ring to run against longtime veteran Democrat Natcher. Multiple things occurred from that moment when Ron (a Southern Baptist minister and Christian bookstore owner) announced his candidacy. But the short of it was Lewis was elected in the special primary to replace Natcher and then again to take his term seat. He was the first Republican to hold that office in over 100 years. SelahV