28 October 2007

"When You Mix Religion and Politics..."

Fascinating story in the New York Times's Week in Review this weekend on the demise on the evangelical love affair with the Republican Party.

'The Evangelical Crackup" focuses on Wichita, Kansas, and the changing of the guard in the religious establishment there. Many of the ministers who led Kansas' backward political battles (closing a local abortion clinic and leading a statewide campaign against gay marriage) have either retired or been sacked by their congregations.

Those taking their place are younger, more moderate pastors who preach a holistic Christianity that focuses more on good deeds toward one's community and environment than on bad ideas. Consider this quote from Todd Walker, 42, who pastors the 7,000 member Westlink Christian Church:
“I don’t believe the problem of abortion will be solved by overturning Roe v. Wade. It won’t. To me, it is a Gospel issue.”
Walker's predecessor, Gene Carlson, who was a leader in the Rightist anti-abortion protests of the 80s and 90s, summed it up best, I thought: "When you mix religion and politics, all you get is politics."

I especially loved one nugget that David D. Kirkpatrick found. Considering how Wichita was ruled by right-wing Christian ministers for over a decade, the leader of the recent anti-lottery campaign turned out to be none other than the liberal minister of the First United Methodist Church! Well, the shoe is on the other foot, then, isn't it?

Clearly the blame for the popping of the Fundamentalist Bubble is the quasi-Fundamentalist Empty Suit elected to the White House in 2000 and 2004. Despite years of pandering, Bush's approval rating among evangelicals has fallen to 45% from 90% at the time of the 2004 election. (For the rest of the country, his approval rating is half of that.)

Questions remain, though. Will this affect the 2008 election with more-moderate evangelicals turning to Democrats? Is this "crack-up" due to the true demise of an unwieldy religio-political alliance or to the disheartening lack of quality among Republican candidates?

I remember one thing the late Molly Ivins said at a lecture I attended: "I've learned to never bet on politics." Of course after she said this, she went on to tell how unlikely it was that her close friend and Texas Governor would ever lose an election to a slavering incompetent like George W. Bush!

1 comment:

Brian A. said...

Is this "crack-up" due to the true demise of an unwieldy religio-political alliance or to the disheartening lack of quality among Republican candidates?

The latter is the simpler explanation, and it's the one I'm going with until I see more evidence of the former.

If we were witnessing a true rift on substance, I would expect to hear more denouncing of torture and the like.