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Tuesday, October 02, 2007

The End Of The Religious Right?

After reading this article, Southern Baptist historian and blogger extraordinaire Nathan Finn seems to think so. He writes:
I am an historian, not a prophet. Nevertheless, I have been predicting this move for years–in blog posts, private conversations, and class lectures. I understand their frustration–it stinks to get empty promises from politicians who secretly (and some not-so-secretly) think you are a whack job. But this is a dumb move, albeit one that I think is inevitable. Make no mistake about it: if Dobson and company move forward with their ill-conceived plan to run a third party candidate, it will be the end of the Religious Right. And if that happens, Southern Baptists may actually have to listen to expository sermons, pass resolutions calling for integrity in church membership statistics, and generally focus on the gospel at our annual meetings. We won’t know what to do with ourselves.

One can only dream that Dr. Finn is correct. But who has time for such wishful thinking? Journalists, bloggers, and authors have predicted the "end of the Religious Right" for years now. Same song, different verse.

I do wonder why Finn and others consider such a move to be so ill-conceived? I commend Dobson and Perkins for trying to be principled. Both have built their careers on the pro-life movement. Opposition to abortion-rights is the cornerstone from which their entire political ideology and strategy has emerged. Randall Balmer would most likely disagree and cite his Abortion Myth thesis. However, for the sake of this discussion, I'm willing to dismiss that notion. So kudos to Dobson for showing a wee-bit of consistency. Why is it ill-conceived when any person chooses to stand on principle rather than selling out to what may be more politically expedient? If my own personal career was built on demonizing pro-choice Christians, wouldn't that make me a first class hypocrite if I turned around and supported a pro-choice candidate?

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Anonymous Michael Westmoreland-White said...

Finn is wrong. That wouldn't necessarily spell the end of the Religious Right--just its irrelevance for this campaign season. In fact, running a 3rd party candidate could strengthen their hand in the future. The GOP would realize they couldn't take the Religious Right for granted. They might kiss up to it even more--and push harder to get their issues met once in office.

I have seen the Religious Right counted out so many times since 1980 and they kept coming back. But I would like to see them try this 3rd Party candidate--because it would surely mean a complete route for the GOP in '08.

12:08 PM

Anonymous Stephen Fox said...

Bdiddy: Having technical difficulties today, but please check my blog immediately and if you can make a reference in the Handles Post at bl.com; and thanks for the encouragement and support.
I need to get back on the board to chat about this.
You and Kaylor, maybe Lamar etc can be my accountability group for good behavior there for six months if that will satisfy Flick.

3:26 PM

Anonymous Chuck said...

I appreciate your point, Big Daddy. Folks like me have a difficult "choice"--throw away votes for principle, or do what we can with what we have, basing our votes on other issues such as economy, national defense, etc.

I'm a pragmatist, so I'll vote for whoever runs against Obama or Hillary.

4:19 PM

Anonymous Nathan Finn said...

Aaron (and Michael),

Thanks for engaging my post. I have posted a follow-up tonight that I hope clarifies where I was coming from. I was admittedly a bit unclear the first time around.


4:33 PM

Blogger haitianministries said...

For the sake of principle and consistency, the religious right is doing the right thing to opt for a third-party candidate over, say, Guliani or McCain. Though, I'm surprised that they're seriously considering that route while having totally ignored Mike Huckabee, who seems like the "ideal" r.r. candidate. Surely, they aren't so deluded that they actually think a third-party candidate is more "electable" than Huckabee.

5:56 PM

Anonymous Lee said...

I think the hypocrisy of the religious right, and the reason why the Republican party takes them for granted, can be found in their failure to support Mike Huckabee. He's the only candidate in that whole field who represents their values and their views, but they are chasing after Romney and Thompson, who will take their votes and fail to deliver on their promises, again. Without any support of Christian social issues, Romney, Giuliani, McCain and Thompson are inferior candidates to those in the Democrat party field.

The 2008 election is shaping up to be a major victory for the Democratic party, in terms of winning a landslide presidential victory and picking off another chunk of Congressional seats. This might be a good time for the religious right to take a shot at a third party candidate.

7:20 PM

Blogger Lin said...

Think Ross Perot = Clinton elected.

Check out how many so called 'Evangelical' votes Clinton got both times. Scary.

I think we need to figure out what exactly IS the 'Religious' Right. We cannot assume it means emergents or even seeker type churches anymore.

Even Billy Graham lent credibility to Hillary at the NY Crusade.

1:14 PM

Anonymous Lee said...

Virtually every post-election analysis of Clinton's two elections showed he would have won both elections even if Perot had not been involved. According to Gallup, in both 1992 and 1996 there were not enough Perot voters who would have supported Clinton's Republican opponent to change the electoral vote in a single state.

If the religious right is ever to have its social agenda taken seriously by a major political party it will have to disengage from unqualified support for everything the Republicans do, and from supporting candidates who have no understanding at all of their emphasis, and run on its own credibility.

7:29 PM

Anonymous YetAnotherRick said...

Michael, I think you're right, but I also don't think they will ever have the same degree of influence.

Lee, You're right about Huckabee. Even some folks at Street Prophets were recently discussing how much they actually like the guy. I think he's the republican candidate that would be most likely to lead bi-partisan efforts in issues that matter to many progressives. I'll a Yellow Dog Democrat for the foreseeable future (I'm generally a mushy centrist), but if he's elected, I won't despair as much.

Lin wrote: "I think we need to figure out what exactly IS the 'Religious' Right. We cannot assume it means emergents or even seeker type churches anymore."

That assumption was an inexplicable and profound error. The various labels, Religious Right, Christian Right, Fundamentalists, Evangelicals, Values voters, are not synonomous, even though there is often some overlap. Some of you may remember that in 2000, Bill Hybels, pastor and founder of the Mother of all Seeker Churches, Willow Creek, invited Clinton to discuss the issue of his repentance. Hybels thought too many conservatives weren't being forgiving enough.

3:27 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The GOP is done. Welcome in a new ear of political parties. The Christian Right completely runs against the shifting cultural tides of classic liberalism and change. Once the baby bombers now in their 60s start to die off in the next 10 years or so, the Republician party as we know it today, is DONE. I suspect Ron Paul and others like him, are the only hope to restore the GOP. Huckabee has little chance to make it through the primary. I doubt he will be significant anywhere but Iowa. That simply isn't enough, particularly with 600,000 on hand. That's one radio ad for two weeks. Too little too late!

1:46 AM


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