Shameless plug for MSNBC friend

Allow me to jump in here quick with a shameless plug for an essay by a friend of mine, producer Alice Rhee of MSNBC, who has posted a lengthy guide to “evangelical” — whatever that word means today — reactions to the reality that is the nation’s new Liberal Oldline Protestant In Chief.

You start with the essential fact that President-elect Barack Obama openly courted white evangelical Protestants and won very, very few new votes there. It would be safe to say that there was at least one MSM report on the rise of the new, smart, broad-agenda evangelicals for every 1000 of them who pulled a lever for Obama in a voting booth.

The key stat: evangelical Christians went 74 percent to 24 percent for Sen. John McCain (and you KNOW how much evangelical loyalists loved that man).

So there are a number of major evangelical camps to visit. Here is a key one — African-American pastors:

Pastor Tony Evans from the Dallas Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship is well accustomed to the intersection of presidential politics and faith. He was one of the first spiritual leaders whom then-Gov. George W. Bush reached out to — seeking prayer and counsel — before he launched his first presidential bid.

“From an evangelical standpoint, there was great affinity for [President Bush's] spiritual priorities. In my case, he’s a friend, and because I knew of his faith, there is that sense of loss. But I’m not ready to say that all of that is gone with Obama. I don’t want to pre-judge him.”

Yet Evans says it’s important for the evangelical church in America to soberly take in the message of November 4. “It is a wake up call… It means we can’t be totally committed to politics. I don’t believe our answers will ultimately come in on Air Force One.”

“From a Christian perspective,” he added, “God is an independent. He doesn’t ride the backs of elephants or donkeys.”

But near the end of her piece, Rhee arrives — once again — at the essential issue that looms over the transition. What will Obama do to please the lifestyle left, without repeating the early errors of President Clinton? Can he dare to talk about compromises and centrist policies with the likes of the Rev. Rick Warren? Will those on the true right talk to him? Read on:

Joe Watkins — an ordained minister, MSNBC political analyst, and former White House aide to the first President Bush — describes it this way: “The concern for evangelicals is that he either doesn’t share their core beliefs in God’s infallible word or he isn’t willing to support Christian faith and values issues as president. While he doesn’t appear to be openly hostile to evangelicals, effectively opposing the issues that they care about has the same effect.”

George Barna, the evangelical pollster and researcher of the Barna Group, echoes that sentiment. “His first act in office would be to sign an executive order that allows abortion,” he said. “That, more than anything, has sent the signal to evangelicals — he’s not one of us, he will not be one of us, we’ve got to do something.”

And Barna points not only to immediate actions, but also the real fears he claims evangelicals have about Obama’s election. “He may be in office maybe four years or eight years, but his impact will be felt for 30 years. He will change the Supreme Court. They realize this going to be a long, hard stretch. I don’t know if fear or it’s distaste or mistrust. But certainly, they realize that they have very little in common.”

And over and over again, many evangelicals say it comes down to one moral issue that prevents them from wholeheartedly embracing the 44th president: abortion. …

Jay Sekulow predicts that any forward movement on Obama’s part to sign the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) as he’s pledged to do will “cause a revolt in the evangelical community.”

Read it all. A solid collection of names for reporters’ files.

The story contains a big idea: How many evangelicals have decided that the world’s problems cannot be addressed through political victories?

Video: Dr. Tony Evans in full flight.

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • Jerry

    How many evangelicals have decided that the world’s problems cannot be addressed through political victories?

    I would have stated that as “How many evangelicals have decided to return to a more traditional belief that the world’s problems cannot be addressed through political victories?” In other words, rather than political victories, the task is to get people to make moral choices based on their highest understanding of the truth rather than trying to use the coercive arm of the state to compel them to make proper choices.

    I’m also very interested in how many will be willing to join in the call to abandon ideological trench warfare from BOTH sides where ideas are automatically rejected because they come from the other side. This is not to say that there won’t be sharp disagreements and opposing positions, but maybe we’ll start at least listening to each other’s points and looking for areas of agreement while not compromising core beliefs.

    I know I’ve said it before, but I’ll be interested in reading any reports showing if people can work together to reduce the number of abortions even as we continue to disagree about abortion’s legality. And part of that is basing choices on research into what actually works no matter what our (left/right) beliefs are about what we think should work.

  • Joe

    Define lifestyle left. Is there a lifestyle right?

  • tmatt


    Sure. But most journalists call it the Religious Right.

    On the left, there is a religious left and a secular left. I often put them together, in a political context, into this term — lifestyle left. I know that angers some people. But what unites them is shared convictions on a collection of cultural, moral and, yes, lifestyle issues.

  • dalea

    Just what does “revolt in the evangelical community” mean? There does not seem to be much that can be done since so few evangelicals voted for Obama. What are they talking about?

  • Jerry

    Terry, there is a secular right as well as a religious right so I think the media should avoid assuming that all conservatives are member of the “religious right”.

    I also think calling left wing atheists and believes ‘lifestyle left’ is too much of a stereotype. One can easily find evangelicals who are on the left economically without giving up their concerns about such things as abortion and promiscuity.

  • John

    There should be no doubt as to Who is ultimately in charge. That is the one comforting fact in every election. Left, right, conservative, liberal, evangelical, pentecostal….blah, blah, blah….

    At the risk of sounding “too Christian,” I submit that the obsession with the politics of God is blasphemous…

  • FW Ken

    One can easily find evangelicals who are on the left economically without giving up their concerns about such things as abortion and promiscuity.

    Catholics as well; in fact, Catholic social doctrine, while not simplistically statist, is not incompatible with many goals more typically associated with the left.

  • danr

    “From a Christian perspective,” he added, “God is an independent. He doesn’t ride the backs of elephants or donkeys.”

    I agree with Pastor Evans’ sentiments entirely, but couldn’t help notice the irony of his assertion relative to Scripture:

    John 12:14-5 “Jesus found a young donkey and sat upon it, as it is written, ‘Do not be afraid, O Daughter of Zion; see, your king is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt.’” :-)