When Would Jesus Bolt?

WHEN WOULD JESUS BOLT?….I have to confess that I’ve always been skeptical of the notion that liberals should spend much time trying to get the Christian evangelical community on our side. When push comes to shove, they just care way more about sex and “moral degeneracy” than they do about helping the poor or taking care of the environment, and that means that outreach efforts are ultimately doomed to failure.

Still, Amy Sullivan’s cover article in the latest issue of the Monthly, “When Would Jesus Bolt?” makes a pretty compelling argument that I’m wrong. As she points out, it’s not a matter of persuading every evangelical in the country to switch sides, it’s just a matter of persuading enough of them to make a difference at election time. And the story she tells about Randy Brinson, a conservative evangelical who became increasingly disenchanted with other conservative evangelicals the more he hung out with them, is enough to make you sit up and notice:

The newly converted are the most zealous, sharing the good news with gusto to any and all comers. Every few days, Randy Brinson calls me with another revelation. Republicans? ?The power structure in the Republican Party is too entrenched with big business. It’s not with evangelicals?they’re a means to an end.? The Christian Right? ?They just want to keep the culture war going because it raises a lot of money for them.? Abramoff? ?Evangelicals were being used as pawns to promote a big money agenda.? His fellow evangelicals? ?Can’t they see that Republicans are just pandering to them??? He once was blind, but now he sees.

Now, Brinson has not suddenly become a bleeding heart liberal, but he’s not working on behalf of the Republican Party anymore either. And he’s not a small time player: the organization he started in 2003, Redeem the Vote, “registered more voters than all of the efforts of the Christian Right heavyweights ? Focus on the Family, the Southern Baptist Convention, American Family Association, and the Family Research Council ? combined.”

Religion has been a big topic in liberal circles for a while now, and I have to admit that I always feel a bit like a bystander when the subject comes up. It’s not like I can fake being religious, after all. Still, no one is really asking people like me to do much of anything except stay quiet, refrain from insulting religion qua religion in ways that would make people like Brinson unwilling to work with us, and let other people do the heavy lifting when it comes to persuading moderate Christians to support liberal causes and liberal candidates. That’s not much to ask, and Amy makes a pretty good case that it would make a difference.

The full article is here. It’s worth reading.