David Kirkpatrick had an interesting piece in yesterday's New York Times Magazine about the rifts and splits within the evangelical movement. Here's an excerpt:
Today the president's support among evangelicals, still among his most loyal constituents, has crumbled. Once close to 90 percent, the president's approval rating among white evangelicals has fallen to a recent low below 45 percent, according to polls by the Pew Research Center. White evangelicals under 30 -- the future of the church -- were once Bush's biggest fans; now they are less supportive than their elders. And the dissatisfaction extends beyond Bush. For the first time in many years, white evangelical identification with the Republican Party has dipped below 50 percent, with the sharpest falloff again among the young, according to John C. Green, a senior fellow at Pew and an expert on religion and politics. (The defectors by and large say they've become independents, not Democrats, according to the polls.)
Some claim the falloff in support for Bush reflects the unrealistic expectations pumped up by conservative Christian leaders. But no one denies the war is a factor. Christianity Today, the evangelical journal, has even posed the question of whether evangelicals should "repent" for their swift support of invading Iraq.
"Even in evangelical circles, we are tired of the war, tired of the body bags," the Rev. David Welsh, who took over late last year as senior pastor of Wichita's large Central Christian Church, told me. "I think it is to the point where they are saying: 'O.K., we have done as much good as we can. Now let's just get out of there.'"…[H]e told me he was wary of talking too much about politics or public affairs around the church because his congregation was so divided over the war in Iraq.
The divisions go deeper than disillusionment with Bush and the war, of course. If you want to explore them, you should read the whole article; then read Terry Mattingly's comments at Get Religion; and then, if you like to play Spot The Historical Parallels, pick up one of the books I've been reading recently, George Marsden's Fundamentalism and American Culture: The Shaping of Twentieth-Century Evangelicalism, 1870-1925.