SLOW DOWN THERE….This, with apologies to Andrew, is hooey. “What we’re seeing,” writes Andrew Sullivan, “is a huge fundamentalist Christian revival in this country, a religious movement that is now explicitly political as well.”
Hate to point this out (no, actually, I don’t–I’ve been saying this for a while now), but the “huge fundamentalist Christian revival” took place about thirty years ago, not last month, and it has always been explictly political. If I may condense a few decades of history into one sentence, the perfect storm that led to what we now call the Christian Right was this combination:
Angry reaction by conservative evangelicals to court rulings on school prayer, Bible-reading in public schools, and abortion motivating them to enter the political realm for the first time
Outrage among Catholics, who had previously kept kind of quiet while focusing on assimilating amid anti-Catholicism, after Roe v. Wade, mobilizing them into a politically active force
The realization by Republican strategists that they need to form a cohesive electoral block and that their best bet for winning the South was partnering with white church leaders, since those institutions were the last acceptable bastion of racism
Rock-solid coalition of Christian Right and Republican Party.
And as a result, for a good twenty years now, people have assumed that if you’re religious, you’re a Republican and that if you’re a Democrat, you can’t possibly be religious. We know that isn’t true. What’s more, John Kerry’s campaign (particularly in the last stretch of October) made great strides toward knocking down that mistaken belief. But unfortunately, it’s going to take more time until perceptions match reality.
I gotta say, it doesn’t help much when exit polls and sloppy reporting use terms like “moral values” and “moral issues” as shorthand for very narrow, divisive issues like abortion and gay marriage, feeding into twenty years of Republican rhetoric. Opposition to the war in Iraq is a moral issue. The alleviation of poverty is a moral issue. Concern about abortion is a moral value, yes, but you can stay at the level of empty rhetoric about a “culture of life” or you can talk about how to actually reduce abortion rates, which is what most people care about more. (Did you hear once during this election season that abortion rates have risen under W. after they fell dramatically during Clinton’s eight years in office?)
“Religious” does not mean Republican. And “moral” does not mean conservative. There’s going to be a lot of discussion about all of this over the coming weeks and months, and it’s incredibly important to make sure we’re neither sloppy about our terms nor overly broad in how we characterize “the faithful.”