THE EVANGELICAL CRACKUP….I missed this when it came out a couple of weeks ago, but David Kirkpatrick, who covered evangelicals for the New York Times in 2004, went back to take another look at the evangelical community earlier this year to see where they stood now. Answer: on the verge of a crackup:
The backlash on the right against Bush and the war has emboldened some previously circumspect evangelical leaders to criticize the leadership of the Christian conservative political movement. “The quickness to arms, the quickness to invade, I think that caused a kind of desertion of what has been known as the Christian right,” [Bill] Hybels, whose Willow Creek Association now includes 12,000 churches, told me over the summer. “People who might be called progressive evangelicals or centrist evangelicals are one stirring away from a real awakening.”
….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.
I’ve posted about this in passing several times in the past, and it continues to look like a real phenomenon. To a surprising extent, a considerable chunk of the evangelical community is rebelling against both the movement’s obsessive focus solely on abortion and gay marriage as well as its exclusive association with the Republican Party. Kirkpatrick’s piece is a nice look at where the fault lines of this crackup up are, and the near impossibility of any current GOP candidate inspiring the kind of devotion that George Bush got from evangelicals for the first few years of his presidency. It’s worth reading the whole thing.