The New York Times had a piece this Sunday describing the supposed crackup of the evangelical movement as a single-party political force. The article cites two factors. First, according to Rev. Gene Carlson, a prominent conservative Christian pastor of the Westlink Christian Church, evangelical Christians are beginning to realize:
“When you mix politics and religion, you get politics.”
Mike Huckabee, perhaps the only evangelical still in the race went further:
“In biblical terms, it is like the salt losing its flavor; it’s sand,” Huckabee said. “Some of them have spent too long in Washington. . . . I think they are going to have a hard time going out into the pews and saying tax policy is what Jesus is about, that he said, ‘Come unto me all you who are overtaxed and I will give you rest.’ ”
The second factor is that many evangelicals are focusing more on traditionally Democratic issues such as the environment and health care. Paul Hill, an associate pastor and a member of what is termed an “emergent” church explains:
“There are going to be a lot of evangelicals willing to vote for a Democrat because there are 40 million people without health insurance and a Democrat is going to do something about that.”
I find the “emerging” church phenomenon fascinating, although the article barely touches on it.
According to the article, the primary mainstream candidate that evangelicals, especially younger evangelicals, seem to have an interest in is Barack Obama. And, if the 2008 race were between Giuliani and Obama:
“You would have a bunch of people who traditionally vote Republican going over to Obama,” said the Rev. Donald Wildmon, founder of the Christian conservative American Family Association
David Kirkpatrick, the author of the piece, gives this anecdote about a potential Obama supporter:
Patrick Bergquist, a former associate pastor at a local evangelical church who as a child attended Immanuel Baptist, became a regular. “From a theological standpoint, I am an evangelical,” Bergquist, who is 28, explained to me. “But I don’t mean that anyone who is gay is necessarily going to hell, or that anyone who has an abortion is going to hell.” After a life of voting Republican, he said, he recently made a small contribution to the Democratic presidential campaign of Barack Obama.
The article ends though on this negative note:
In the Wichita churches this summer, Obama was the Democrat who drew the most interest. Several mentioned that he had spoken at Warren’s Saddleback church and said they were intrigued. But just as many people ruled out Obama because they suspected that he was not Christian at all but in fact a crypto-Muslim — a rumor that spread around the Internet earlier this year. “There is just that ill feeling, and part of it is his faith,” Welsh said. “Is his faith anti-Christian? Is he a Muslim? And what about the school where he was raised?”
“Obama sounds too much like Osama,” said Kayla Nickel of Westlink. “When he says his name, I am like, ‘I am not voting for a Muslim!’ ”