Commenting on Nate Silver’s new electoral modeling which singles out Southern Baptists as responding distinctively to the economic crisis, Andrew Sullivan speculates that it doesn’t matter to them:
…The reason the economy is playing differently among Southern Baptists may surely be that many are voting primarily on religious, cultural and theological grounds.
The economy is irrelevant compared with religious identity. What this campaign may be doing is stripping most secular Republicans and independents from the GOP coalition…
I don’t think so. According to The Young and the Faithful, which we released yesterday, white evangelicals rated the economy and energy as more important issues than abortion and same-sex marriage, and only 35 percent said they would not vote for a candidate who disagreed with them on abortion. On the other hand, a strong majority of white evangelicals favored a smaller government providing fewer services to a larger government providing more services [despite a 20-point generation gap between younger evangelicals (18-35) and their elders].
It’s fair to wonder what degree of overlap there is between Nate’s Southern Baptists and our white evangelicals, but considering that Southern Baptists are by far the largest evangelical protestant denomination, and that no research suggests they are politically distinct minority subculture within white evangelicalism, we’re probably dealing with similar bodies here.
I’m not saying that “religious identity” has nothing to do with Southern Baptists’ distinct response to the economy, but another important factor to consider is bedrock economic assumptions among evangelicals 35 and over. At the 2007 Values Voters’ Summit, Richard Land extolled the benefits of tax cuts for the rich and equated progressive taxation with socialism, and the mostly middle-aged crowd around me responded as though it was gospel truth. To say that economics is irrelevant misses the fact that many conservative evangelicals just believe “limited government” and supply-side economics work.
it’s encouraging that this belief has less sway among the young.
Sixty percent of the American people perceive evangelicals will significantly influence the election, and 59% think they “spend too much time complaining and not enough time solving problems.” What’s more, 50% of evangelicals share this perception. Hmm, I wonder where people would get that idea.
On other matters, public images and self-perceptions of evangelicals diverge, revealing a remarkable deficit of understanding:
Also, only 48 percent of evangelicals believe it is accurate that their voting peers will focus primarily on abortion and homosexuality despite the wide attention such moral issues have received. In contrast, 85 percent of all American adults agreed with this description about evangelical voters.
David Kinnaman, who directed the Barna study, pointed out that a 2007 study by Barna showed that 9 out of 10 evangelicals believe abortion is a major problem. Similarly, nearly 8 out of 10 evangelicals say homosexuality is a major challenge facing the nation.
…Meanwhile, 47 percent of all adults said evangelical voters will minimize social justice issues, like poverty and immigration. Only 28 percent of evangelicals agreed with that statement.
However, Barna evangelicals don’t see this translating into Obama votes — 74% said they expected evangelicals to vote overwhelmingly Republican.
Barna defines evangelicals by theological criteria, not self-identification, resulting in a much smaller (and more conservative) group falling into the category, so we’re planting an appleseed in an orange grove if we place this poll into the overall picture without qualifiers, but I still think these findings are noteworthy and confounding.
“The Rev. Richard Cizik is a warrior in a new kind of ‘holy’ war–the battle to get Christians to see the earth as God’s gift and recognize it is their duty to care for it. As vice president for governmental affairs of the National Association of Evangelicals, an umbrella organization representing some 30 million evangelical Christians, Beliefnet.com’s Most Inspiring Person of the Year nominee Cizik is a Washington lobbyist and leading proponent of “creation care,” the philosophy that caring for the planet and all it holds is biblically mandated duty. It is his job to get evangelicals to think green.”
Looks like everyone’s taking notice of Rick Warren and his support for expanding the evangelical agenda–and he’s certainly not afraid to talk about it. On Hanity & Colmes Warren said that he thought “obviously, that Jesus’ agenda is far bigger than just one or two issues. There’s no doubt about that.” And on Tucker he spoke in favor of expanding the agenda because he’s “tired of the church just being known for what it is against. I want to church to be known for what it`s for.” Check out both appearances below.
For anyone who’s still in doubt, this week’s headlines certainly offer proof that there are evangelicals who care about more than banning abortion and same-sex marriage.
The week began with the resignation of Rev. Joel Hunter, president–elect of the Christian Coalition, who cited agenda disputes as the reason for his departure. Apparently the coalition wasn’t ready for a leader like Hunter who wanted to expand its agenda to include caring for the poor and protecting the environment. Over the past few years, Hunter has become know as an evangelical pastor who is seeking to broaden the range of issues that evangelicals work on beyond the traditional “pro-life, pro-familyâ€ agenda. He says that “unless we are caring as much for the vulnerable outside the womb as inside the womb, we’re not carrying out the full message of Jesus.â€
A leader among the ranks of evangelical environmentalists, Rev. Richard Cizik, vice president for government affairs for the National Association of Evangelicals, was named as one the greatest proponents of ‘creation care’ in a Beliefnet profile on Thursday. According to Cizik, “you have got to care about this because when you die, God is not going to ask you about how he created the earth. He’s going to ask you, ‘What did you do with what I created?’â€
And just look at the AIDS conference taking place today in California, hosted by mega-selling author and evangelical pastor Rick Warren. Warren’s wife Kay says that it is time to “break the silenceâ€ that has paralyzed Evangelicals on the issue of AIDS because of its ties to issues of sexuality, and Warren says that he has “no doubt if Jesus were walking the Earth today, he would be hanging out with people with AIDS.” With a goal of bringing people together, the conference includes such diverse speakers as Sen. Barak Obama, Sen. Sam Brownback, Archbishop Emmanuel Kolini of the Rwandan Episcopal Church and Bono, and has attracted more than 2000 participants from across the country. Despite opposition by some evangelical groups to the invitation of the pro-choice Obama, Warren has stood by his decision, saying that, although he does not agree with Obama’s views on abortion, “the HIV/AIDS pandemic cannot be fought by Evangelicals alone.”
These stories give hope for more future collaboration on the many serious issues that our world is facing today. I think Warren said it best: “Republicans, Democrats, gay, straight, Christians, Jews, Muslims — can we not work on some of these issues together?â€