There can be no question that evangelicals helped push President Bush over the top on November 2nd. A large-sample Barna Group poll released earlier this week reports that born-again Christians voted for Bush over Kerry by a 62% to 38% margin. That is very significant, given the number of born-again Christians in the current electorate.
On the other hand, no one should imagine that the Republican Party will enjoy a permanent hammerlock on moral issues. Those quickie exit polls that rated moral issues above Iraq and the economy were pretty meaningless because no specific moral issues were identified by the pollsters. A later and more careful issue-by-issue poll (Zogby, November 9th) found that the war in Iraq was the top issue for 42% of voters questioned — more than triple the number who mentioned abortion (13%) and quadruple the number who volunteered same-sex marriage (9%).
I think there is a great danger that some Democrats, stunned by their loss, will think the answer is for them to drop the words “God” or “Jesus” into their speeches or to quote scripture in their district newsletters. This will not impress religious voters. Instead, they will be impressed when Democrats start taking strong, principled, consistent stands on the immorality of growing child poverty, families without health care, excessive corporate greed, and the injustice of CEOs receiving excessive salaries and bonuses when workers’ wages and benefits are being cut.
For Republicans, the danger is that they too will fail to understand that moral issues cut much deeper than gay marriage and abortion. One issue, for example, on which religious folk of all flavors will concur is that the amount of soft porn on the airwaves and cable channels today is unacceptable. This issue exposes a massive contradiction between supporting unlimited prerogatives for corporations and being concerned about the pollution of popular culture. To what do we owe the hypersexualized world of advertising, pop music, movies and TV if not to big corporations (including News Corp.), that use sex and objectify women and children to sell products?
I believe that the unholy alliance between the Fortune 500 and "The 700 Club" will come apart over this contradiction. And when that happens, conservative Republican rule will be a thing of the past.
Rev. Peter Laarman is executive director of Progressive Christians Uniting. He served for 10 years as senior minister of Judson Memorial Church in New York City. He was also the convenor of New York Common Ground, a new interfaith effort to bring congregations and congregational leaders into current economic and social justice struggles.