Politics

Schism Matrix

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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.

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54 responses to “Schism Matrix

  1. It might be too early to call it, but does anyone smell a little Dr. Paul Effect?

    I’m still hoping this evangelical movement will go Jonestown on itself. Those people are scary.

    I mean really, sorry to be so coarse, but the whole thing is like mass production faith.

    And actually, no, I’m not sorry for being coarse…

  2. Taktix –

    be interesting to see, because RP does have positions that appeal to the fundies (or the outcomes are supportable)

    The hysterical pro war crowd that was arguing over the weekend, throwing all of the “once-supported-now-against-the-war” on the Democrats and as “proof” how rotten HRC is should apply that hier.

    And the outcome – “they’re rotten” would be correct in each case. (but not solely for the reasons they give)

  3. As a completely nonreligious person, I have never really understood, in detail, what the “evangelical” movement is. Anybody care to give a quick summary so that I can be lazy?

  4. Once close to 90 percent, the president’s approval rating among white evangelicals has fallen to a recent low below 45 percent

    I guess he wasn’t God’s own president after all. Too bad it took these fuckwits 7 years to figure that out.

  5. George Bush is the messiah, he is fightin’ for our rights in Iraq, protecting freedom in the homeland and fixin’ our broken economy. There is a big hole in NYC where the terrorists attacked us, that is why we are in Iraq, to “drain the swamp” and get the terrorists that were responsible for 9-11 before there is another 9-11. Acording to the president, Iraq was responsible for 9-11. We have to “stay the course”. There will be piece on earth when all the Iraqi terrorists and other Muslims are converted peace. We have more fredom today in America because of the war, we have the freedom to be a Christian. America is Gods army, fighting the holy war against evil, which is what the president says is evil.

  6. “Christianity Today, the evangelical journal, has even posed the question of whether evangelicals should “repent” for their swift support of invading Iraq.”

    This is Generation Y we’re talking about, right?

    Get to be about 20 years old or so and it’s time for disillusionment to set in. The more idealistic they are, the harder they fall. Yeah, kids tend to be idealistic anyway, but Evangelical kids are probably more idealistic than average.

    We should roll out the welcome mat. Libertarianism offers a world that can handle the ugly practicalities of life and still offer the hope of a world where their personal ethics are more important than government.

  7. Epi –

    hier, FWIW

    (many don’t like the site Religious Tolerance dot org for a variety of reasons)

    David – cuz when they’re not in church, they’re drunk at titty bars or at tractor pulls (also drunk), so they’ve got a pretty packed schedule.

    hay jesus – are you in the bowling tourney – The Dude asked me to ask you…

  8. I run a lot in Evangelical circles, and at least the people I talk to have always (unwittingly) trended libertarian. They want a president to be “moral” and have a lot of personal integrity, but other than abortion, they don’t really want governmental action on “moral” issues.

    In fact, most of them I know belong solidly in the “just leave me alone” camp. A lot are homeschoolers, hate government regulations and taxes in general, and wish the Church as a whole would be more influential socially and stop being so political. I think a lot of it is a backlash against the Falwell movement, that promised so much back in the 1980’s, but ended up just tying people who are basically non-political to politics.

    I think the rabid support for Bush was that he sold himself as a “moral” man who was also a small government guy. He may still have a lot of respect as a good family guy, but no one can argue he’s a small government guy.

    My hope is that Ron Paul can grab a lot of these people. The message of less government can certainly gain traction.

  9. 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.

    I don’t understand why there is a “but” in that passage. The inevitable and glorious success of the Iraq War was among the greatest of the unrealistic expectations pumped up, in explicitly relgious and moralistic terms, but religious conservative politicians.

    The glorious triumph of our military, marching behind the president Jesus chose, was going to produce a realignment which gave “people of faith” a permanent political majority over the “decadent enclaves on the coasts.”

  10. You’d think that their realization that they can make drastically incorrect decisions about who to believe in would affect their religious views.

    You’d be wrong.

  11. and it’s not the “leave me alone” as much as the, “I want to be free from having to confront stuff I’m ignorant, and therefore fearful, of.”

  12. The Extispicator,

    That’s been my experience too as far as them trending “libertarian”*. I separate “fundamentalists” from “evangelicals”, and say that fundamentalists tend to be extremely wary of government, where some evangelicals are apt to see government as a guarantee or a tool. …the dividing line between the two groups doesn’t necessarily follow denominational lines.

    But many fundamentalists believe that the government is destined to turn against them and persecute them for their beliefs. Separation of church and state is seen as Protestant by definition…

    *note to others… if you think “libertarian” means atheist and pro-drug legalization, no that’s not what I’m talking about.

  13. “some evangelicals are apt to see government as a . . . tool.”

    Most libertarians kind of consider government as being a real tool too. Hopes for a common perception.

    “if you think “libertarian” means atheist”

    It certainly doesn’t.

    ” . . and pro-drug legalization. . . ”

    It probably does, a bit.

  14. Christianity Today, the evangelical journal, has even posed the question of whether evangelicals should “repent” for their swift support of invading Iraq.

    That would be a good start.

  15. 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.

    Too much reading for a Monday. Some of us patriotic Americans were up late watching the World Series. I’ll bet they aren’t happy with NCLB and Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage.

  16. I love the odd grammatical point in one of the bumper stickers in the article. “Whom would Jesus vote for?” It’s great. They’re sticklers for using whom in the objective case, but have no problem with mangling the prepositional phrase in the first place. You’d kinda think if they were gonna use “whom” instead of “who”, that they’d use the structure “FOR WHOM WOULD JESUS VOTE?”

    I’m just sayin’

  17. The Christian right’s disillusionment with RP is nothing but good news. They will either not trust to vote for his rivals and vote for him instead (if nothing else, for his personal views on abortion and illegal immigration), or will get their own party (thus taking away votes from his republican rivals, who will feel left naked in the wilderness, really).

    This actually happened to the Arab/Muslim American voters in 2004. They overwhelmingly voted for Kerry even though, in 2000, the statistic is that 80% of Arab/Muslim Americans voted for Bush (for issues related to “morality”, and, funny as it may sound now, on promised civil liberties and “humble” foreign policy in the Middle East). If that block of (up to 6 million) voters had voted for W in ’04, W would have had a much more comfortable margin of victory.

  18. I’ve never understood why the Christian Right stood by GWB in the first place. Even before 9/11 there was No Child Left Behind and the Farm Bill and Prescription Drugs etc etc. How did the hated librul agenda become so righteous just because the “right” guy was doing it. It’s like they think he IS Jesus Christ.

  19. Warren:

    For the same reasons the Muslims overwhelmingly voted for W in 2000: they believed in him.

  20. Ken,

    Then what are you talking about?

    …and say that fundamentalists tend to be extremely wary of government…

    In general or merely on issues they are concerned about?

  21. Warren,

    That’s second-tier stuff.

    George Bush was the Sword Arm of the Almighty.

    You don’t stop supporting the president Jesus chose to lead us through These Dark Times just because he made compromises on a few second-tier issues.

  22. I guess was in the 10%. Im going to go ahead and call it the smart 10%. Although, most of those who disliked Bush from the beginning where lefty evangelicals and not libertarian evangelicals.

    The Reagan Revolution was to bring together Goldwater Republicans with the Religious Right. I think for Paul to win, he has to do something similar – bring together paleocons and evangelicals. Along with some anti-war lefties and, of course, the non-evangelical/atheist libertarians. The coalition will eventaully (about 48 hours after the troops come home) lose the lefties, but oh well, such is life.

  23. The Reagan coalition also required the Reagan Democrats in order to become a majority. Fundies and small government conservatives don’t quite get you there.

  24. The kind of “wary of the government” that is characteristic of evangelicals that I’m aware of is the kind where you think that the government would be interfereing if they eliminated medicare or soc security, and that there are “activist judges” who try to force us to accept people of all races, religions, and all other categories.

    In other words, they want the government to stop doing additional things they don’t like, but certainly not to reverse the things they’ve done.

  25. Reagan also relied a neocons that wanted someone to get tough on the Soviet Union. One of Reagan’s great (?) abilities was to be all things to all Republicans.

  26. “Then what are you talking about?

    …and say that fundamentalists tend to be extremely wary of government…

    In general or merely on issues they are concerned about?”

    In general people tend to be more concerned about issues they’re concerned about. Specifically, I’d say they’re libertarian on things like private schools and taxes and spending and free trade and welfare and Second Amendment rights and all sorts of other things.

  27. joe,

    The Reagan democrats were evangelicals, especially in the South.

  28. robc,

    Ronald Reagan didn’t win Michigan and Massachusetts because Sully and the guys down at the hall were evangelicals.

  29. joe,

    No, but it is how he won KY. There wasnt a republican in this state in 1980. But there were a lot of very conservative democrats.

    Ford won Michigan (yeah, yeah, same reason Carter won Georgia) in 1976, so it wasnt like they werent used to voting Republican already. Were those “Reagan Democrats” that were voting for Ford?

  30. Just to add to my last post. Compare the 1976 map to 1980. The big difference is the South. That change was conservative, protestant (mostly evangelical) democrats voting R instead of D.

  31. 1976

    1980

    The big difference appears to be both in the South AND the Northeast.

  32. Ken,

    Well, lots of groups are “libertarian” on some sub-set of issues. So, so what?

  33. Anyway, when I think of a ‘Reagan Democrat’ archetype I think of a “northern” blue collar worker, not a Southerner. This is largely because the Nixon campaign had already cracked the “Solid South” in the 1968 and 1972 campaigns.

  34. One of Reagan’s great (?) abilities was to be all things to all Republicans.

    Indeed. The man has garnered praise from hawks and isolationists, free traders and protectionists, libertarians and theocrats, Bushies and deficit hawks, and every other pair of opposing Republican interests.

    Say what you will about him, but that’s a darn skilled politician!

  35. robc,

    When I hear the term “Reagan Democrat,” I think of people who were actually swing voters – mostly-northern working class white people, many union members who were turned off by the cultural liberalism of the 70s-era Democratic Party. I think of the people you’re talking about in Kentucky as a different set of voters. The former keep going back and forth between the parties, while the latter has become the Republican base.

  36. “Well, lots of groups are “libertarian” on some sub-set of issues. So, so what?”

    I was commenting on another comment:

    “I run a lot in Evangelical circles, and at least the people I talk to have always (unwittingly) trended libertarian. They want a president to be “moral” and have a lot of personal integrity, but other than abortion, they don’t really want governmental action on “moral” issues.”

    —The Extispicator | October 29, 2007, 10:39am

    I was agreeing with him–that’s all.

  37. There’s no doubt in my mind but that the cultural identity Republicans in the South today are the successors of the cultural identity Democrats who came before them. …and if it wasn’t Reagan that brought them over, it sure seems like he was the one that burned the bridge behind them.

  38. …and if it wasn’t Reagan that brought them over…

    It pretty clearly wasn’t.

  39. Stupidity is no defense.

    Karma will be a bitch for these guys.

    These morons (I am choosing my words carefully) must have thought as Iraq as a new place to go spread their version of Christ upon the thirsty souls of Eye-Rakkis.

    These are the folks who pride themselves in being “simple folks” and following their “hearts”. Well, stupidity and enthusiasm combined is a dangerous cocktail.

    As an agnostic I find the evangelicals as unreasonable and potentially dangerous as the Wahabis.

    Oh, and for my blasphemous post above I’ll be calling into Pat Robertson’s 1-800-SALVATION and have a highly professional Prayer and Incantation Specialist Coordinator pray for me to baby jesus for forgiveness in exchange for my tax-deductible donation to broadcast the 700 Club to make Mongolia, Zimbabwe and Madagascar accept Jesus as their personal savior.

  40. Dr. James Dobson is looking for a third party candidate to back that has the same values as the church. When he officially backs someone, the others will follow. Preachers will be telling congregations how to vote in God’s best interest. As the support grows, others will follow from the republican evangelicals as now they have a moral choice that might win. Everybody likes to back a winner. And the press starts talking up the christian candidate, giving them more traction. Many will see the race as a choice between the lesser of two evils or the righteous candidate. ( see: Jimmy Carter)
    That’s how the fundies and evangelicals
    can win the presidency.

  41. There aren’t enough of them, brotherben. The Fundies are a faction in the Repubican half of the 50/50 party split.

    Going third party isn’t about winning. It’s about punishing the Party for not concentrating enough on their issues, and about setting up a plausible “not conservative enough” explaination for why the Republican is going to lose next year.

  42. These morons (I am choosing my words carefully) must have thought as Iraq as a new place to go spread their version of Christ upon the thirsty souls of Eye-Rakkis.

    There will be piece on earth when ar the Iraqi terrorists are DEAD. America demands DEATH fot the terorists from Iraq what caused 9-11. DEATH DEATH DEATH!!!

    Give me liberty or give me DEATH DEATH DEATH!!!

  43. I read that Marsden book in a course in college. It’s pretty fascinating.

    If you like that book, I would recommend Understanding Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism also by Marsden.

  44. When I hear the term “Reagan Democrat,” I think of people who were actually swing voters

    Considering that KY has gone to the winner in every prez election since 1964, there arent many people more “swing” than conservative KY democrats. Now, Im not sure if they are actually swing voters of if they are jsut suckers for southern democrats (Johnson,Carter,Clinton). Then again, they didnt vote for Gore. But he couldnt carry TN, so its hard to call him a southerner.

  45. This is largely because the Nixon campaign had already cracked the “Solid South” in the 1968

    Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, and Georgia would disagree.

  46. Just checked: only KY, MO, TN, and OH have gone to the winner in every prez race since 1964. Of them, only MO went to Kennedy in 1960. So, the Show Me State wins the award for going to the winner the longest – they did, however, vote for Stevenson in 1956.

  47. Let’s see, there’s Ford, Chevrolet, Toyota, Japan, Rising Sun, Hiroshima, Atomic Bomb, Enola Gay, oh and Miata.

  48. Market dog blue asphalt, the fly the goat philidelphia won fish breakfast bear.

  49. Uh Oh, looks like Juanita got out of the Looney Bin again.

  50. robc,

    Yes, those states went to Wallace, the American Independent party candidate. Note that the term “Solid South” refers to the Democratic party’s former dominance in the South. Of course that dominance in Presidential campaigns really started to show signs of problems in 1928 (Al Smith’s campaign) if one really wants to go out that far. Of course it is interesting to note that Adlai Stevenson was able to keep the South largely within the confines of the Democratic party when the rest of the country went for Ike. And of course Goldwater won the string of “Deep South” states in 1964.

  51. Syloson

    Al Smith’s Catholicism would’ve been a problem in the South, n’est-ce pas?

    On the other hand, I can’t see Southern voters going for Hoover.

  52. Isaac Bartram,

    The 1928 Presidential campaign was the first time that former Confederate state went for a Republican since ~1880 (in the post-Redeemer era) except for perhaps one election when Tennesee (a border state) went Republican. In the South nearly only the “Deep South” tier of states voted for Smith.

  53. Isaac Bartram,

    The underlying fractures within the Democratic party were dealt with by the Roosevelt admistration and did not resurface in an election until 1948 when Strom Thurmond carried the Deep South.

  54. To me the whole religion/politics thing is sort of like expecting Jesus to partner with Cesear.

    Religion and politics were never meant to go together. It’s harmful to religion. Politics is the devils work.

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