I find it amazing how all the news channels and talk shows are talking about the Bush campaign tactic of wooing the evangelical vote. It's the major news story of this election: Republican strategist Karl Rove's tactic of appealing to this group of people and getting them out to vote in reation to their feelings about abortion and gays.
According to this election, the only issues that evangelicals really care about are abortion and gay marriage. This is how the media sees it, this is how Karl Rove saw it, and the results of the election seems to prove it to be true.
The message that we championed (initiated and led by Jim Wallis of Sojourners Magazine) failed. tWe tried to get across the point that Christians need to be more than one-issue voters.
We were unable to get evangelicals to think more holistically about issues. The message we tried to tell people is that Christians need to define more broadly the important "religious issues" in our society.
The Bush campaign succeeded to team with the Religious Right to keep the focus solely on gay marriage and abortion. The Falwells and Robertsons and Dobsons even said that good Christians could only vote for the president, and let it be known that they were sure that Bush was God's candidate.
But Wallis rightly insisted God is not a Republican (or a Democrat).
He was also right in pointing out that poverty is also a religious issue, pointing to thousands of verses in the Bible on the poor.
The environment - protection of God's creation - is also a Christian religious concern.
And I am one of millions of Christians in America who believe the war in Iraq was not a "just war."
And I also contended, along with many (including PBS's Bill Moyers) that the Bush Administration lacked integrity in how they over-sold the war by stretching their intelligence reports to include Saddam Hussein's alleged nuclear capabilities. (Now, Moyers and I may be wrong in that contention, but it certainly is worthy of Christian dialogue, instead of unquestioning loyalty to an "evangelical Christian" president.)
In any case, our message that Christians should be discussing many "religious issues" in this election (poverty, hunger, creation care, greed, health care, peace, along with abortion, stem-cell research, and homosexual marriage) failed.
But, to be honest, there is only so much that Wallis, et. al. can do if the candidate (in this case John Kerry) fails to embrace that message.
It was not until the very end of Kerry's campaign that he began to talk about his religious beliefs and how they might influence his decision-making. This was the most religiously-focused election in recent memory, and yet Kerry refused to engage in that conversation!
He deserved to lose because of that.
Until the Democrats come to terms with the fact that a vast majority of people in America are deeply religious, they will continue to fail to win their votes.
As Wallis famously said earlier this year, when it comes to the most important "religious issues" in our country, "The Republicans get it wrong, and the Democrats just don't get it." Bush defined religious issues as one or two things, and so he is the winner. Kerry refused to be aggresive in pointing at other issues as important religious issues, and so Kerry is the loser.
But until either party can more clearly communicate how their views will impact a complete range of Christian "religious" concerns, we are all losers.
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