Sunday, October 28, 2007

Howard Dean: Right again.

When Howard Dean spoke at DemocracyFest one of the things he spoke of at length about was how the Democratic National Committee was reaching out to find common ground among evangelical and other Christian groups. He made the point that these folks are moving away from the hard right positions of "God, Guns and Gays," and moving toward issues of the occupation of Iraq, poverty, social justice and environmental stewardship. Dean said that there is much common ground that can be explored in the next election cycle.

Last night I found this in the New York Times:

The extraordinary evangelical love affair with Bush has ended, for many, in heartbreak over the Iraq war and what they see as his meager domestic accomplishments. That disappointment, in turn, has sharpened latent divisions within the evangelical world — over the evangelical alliance with the Republican Party, among approaches to ministry and theology, and between the generations.
Meanwhile, a younger generation of evangelical pastors — including the widely emulated preachers Rick Warren and Bill Hybels — are pushing the movement and its theology in new directions. However conceived, though, the result is a new interest in public policies that address problems of peace, health and poverty — problems, unlike abortion and same-sex marriage, where left and right compete to present the best answers.

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,” 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.”

This ten page article in the Sunday Magazine offers much to consider as progressives try to find common ground with a constituency that was led astray by wolves in sheep's clothing (Fallwell, Dobson et al) that for far too long has held sway over the public presentation and perception of American Christianity.

“There was a time when evangelical churches were becoming largely and almost exclusively the Republican Party at prayer,” said Marvin Olasky, the editor of the evangelical magazine World and an informal adviser to George W. Bush when he was governor. “To some extent — we have to see how much — the Republicans have blown it. That opportunity to lock up that constituency has vanished. The ball now really is in the Democrats’ court.”


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