It is Rev. Gene Carlson speaking, an aging conservative leader and pastor from Wichita, Kansas. According to a feature-length article in the New York Times Magazine by David D. Kirkpatrick, we are on the verge of a sea change in political thinking in evangelical circles.
"The religious right peaked a long time ago," [Carlson] added. "As a historical, sociological phenomenon, it has seen its heyday. Something new is coming."
I myself have been watching the very cozy relationship between the Republican Party and the so-called religious right with a great deal of squeamishness from my vantage point north of the 49th parallel. It was my opinion that when the church gets in bed with politics, she just gets screwed. Like in any bad relationship, there is a point where she has to realize that staying will only result in an ongoing erosion of independence and integrity. And it looks as if this realization is sinking in. Some of the old guard conservative religious leaders are being repudiated, others are changing their tune, and still others risk becoming irrelevant to their own constituency.
The new leaders are tired of being defined in terms of what they stand against instead of what they stand for, and while they have not dropped their opposition to gay marriage and abortion, they see a number of other issues that are just as important, while questioning whether the political road is the best one to follow to see the changes they desire.
"In the evangelical church in general there is kind of a push back against the Republican party and a feeling of being used by the Republican political machine," he continued. "There are going to be a lot of evangelicals willing to vote for a Democrat because there are 40 million people without health insurance and a Democrat is going to do something about that."
Democrats, on the other hand, should probably not read that and rejoice too loudly. While they are likely to benefit in the short term, it should be noted that millions of evangelical Americans are not turning in their Republican Party membership cards in exchange for Democratic Party ones. They are going independent.
High time, I say. No political party should ever believe they have any church in their pocket, and no church should ever allow itself to become the mouthpiece of a political organization. I do not mean for a minute that Christians should not speak out on political issues, but rather that they should maintain an independence of movement and thought. Christians who enter politics should remember where their highest loyalty lies (and I honestly salute those who have chosen to enter the fray) and not prostitute themselves for political gain.
This growing political sophistication of the American evangelical movement can only be a good thing, as I see it. And who knows, maybe it will help heal the destructive polarization that has characterized the American political discourse for too long now.
Read the whole article, it is fascinating.
Technorati tags: Evangelical Politics