Mark Tooley on Evangelical Politics
In a Weekly Standard blog post today, Mark Tooley took a moment to evaluate the state of Evangelical politics in America in the wake of the 2010 mid-term elections. The polling data shows that Evangelicals supported Republicans at a rate of 77%, higher than even the 2004 election, in what was dubbed by many the “year of the Evangelical.” As Tooley points out, this data comes on the heels of many reports from the Evangelical Left that a seismic shift was occurring within Evangelicalism. As Jim Wallis was fond of saying only a few short months ago, “The monologue of the Religious Right is over!” It now appears, however, that the Left has some work to do if they are to aquire any staying power. Tooley’s analysis is quite interesting on this point, he states:
“Exit polls of actual voting by evangelicals indicate that the evangelical left remains primarily a phenomenon among evangelical elites on seminary and college campuses and among some parachurch and activist groups. The prolonged wars, culture clashes, and ultimate financial collapse during the George W. Bush years undoubtedly moved some evangelical elites and young people to the left. But the ongoing recession, explosion of government spending, and liberal stances on abortion and homosexuality by the Obama administration …, along with the president’s discomfort with American exceptionalism, have likely solidified grassroots evangelicals overall within their traditional conservative politics. Like left-leaning mainline Protestant elites starting decades ago, evangelical elites increasingly will probably denounce their own constituency for its lack of political enlightenment.”
His concluding prediction is certainly dire, and on our current trajectory may indeed prove to be accurate. The disjunction in ideas between “elites” and “grassroot” Evangelicals can undoubtedly lead to tension. Those on the Left who are tempted to look down on the unenlightened for their political positions must recognize that the vast majority of Evangelicals, as Tooley demonstrates, are still conservative. If American Evangelicals are going to undergo any shift in ideology it must come from a reformulation and broadening of the Religious Right’s agenda and methodology, not by a wholesale replacement with an ideology of Liberalism, as Wallis and Co. are so prone to do.