College professors trying to make young Evangelicals see the secular light might be making some headway, at least, according to the more left-leaning of these people of faith. “The majority of young Evangelicals polled say that James Dobson and Pat Robertson do not speak for them,” Dr. Robert Jones said in a conference call on March 10. “Among these same Evangelicals there has been a 15% change in identification.”
“There are 5% more Democrats and 10% more independents.” Jones, the author of Progressive and Religious, spoke in a teleconference organized by the Center for American Progress.
CAP commissioned a poll to examine the evangelical vote in the recent Ohio presidential primary. “There is a difference in generations,” Rev. Jim Wallis, author of The Great Awakening, says.
“Young Evangelicals do not agree with older Evangelicals on abortion,” Mike Slaughter, pastor of a church in Tipp City, Ohio, says. Slaughter’s church claims a congregation of 4,000.
“We serve on three different campuses in the Dayton area,” Slaughter says. He has heard “different definitions of the sanctity of life.”
“In our downtown campus, the issue is education.”
“The Darfur slaughter now counts as part of the sanctity of life for Evangelicals,” Wallis asserts. Wallis is the president of Sojourners which claims its “mission is to articulate the biblical call to social justice, inspiring hope and building a movement to transform individuals, communities, the church, and the world.”
Nonetheless, Rich Nathan, pastor of a church in Columbus which boasts of a congregation twice the size of Slaughter’s, says that “partial-birth abortion is still a hot button issue along with some of the more horrific procedures.” Indeed, “The number of states with a pro-life majority among their Republican primary voters, including Texas and Ohio, has soared to 19 out of 24,” Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council argued in his Washington Update.
Although published on the day of the conference, Perkins perspective was delivered independently of the CAP forum, although he did debate Rev. Wallis two days later. “Fifteen of those states register 60 percent on a pro-life scale!” Perkins observed.
In fact, Shaun Casey says, Evangelicals make up 14 % of Democratic voters and 37 % of Republican voters. Casey is a professor of Christian Ethics at Wesley Theological Seminary.
“A lot of my friends voted for President Bush in 2004 thinking he would end abortion and same-sex marriage,” Casey said on the CAP call. “Instead, they got Iraq, tax cuts for the super rich and Katrina.”
“Six out of 10 Ohio voters who said they attend church at least once a week went Democratic,” Jones says. “In 2006, white Evangelicals contributed more votes to Democratic candidates than Black Protestants did.”
Nevertheless, Casey alleges that “no candidate won a majority of the Evangelical vote in Ohio.” In Slaughter’s congregation, “Older voters go with Hillary, younger voters go with Obama.”
In the last race for an Ohio Senate seat, Democrat “Ted Strickland won with significant Evangelical support,” Nathan says. Jones agrees: In the 2004 presidential contest, among Ohio voters, the Democratic candidate Sen. John “Kerry got 35% of weekly church attendees,” Jones reports, while in the 2006 Senate race in the same state, the victorious Democratic contender “Strickland got 49%” of this same voting bloc.
This is particularly remarkable, especially given that Strickland’s opponent, Ken Blackwell, was, as Nathan put it, “No stranger to Evangelicals. Blackwell, now at the Buckeye Institute, is, by anyone’s estimation, a conservative stalwart.
Malcolm A. Kline is the executive director of Accuracy in Academia.