No one owns the evangelicals

Matthew White

Evangelicals — those Christians who emphasize the New Testament and personal salvation through Christ — are some of the best people America has to offer.

Evangelicals are reliable people who live traditional, clean lives with a strong focus on their family, their community and utmost on God. And, while the evangelical movement is easily and shamefully parodied, its membership is spread throughout America’s dying steel towns, rural country sides and urban sprawl.

In fact, for many of us at Kent State, the evangelical movement includes our own family, friend and acquaintances, many of whom have been stable, reliable leaders of our home communities in turbulent times.

Unfortunately, all too often evangelicals are seen as a prize to be won in the political tug-of-war of an election. Many people involved in politics view people of faith as a voting bloc rather than the decent, hard-working, patriotic Americans who vote their conscience.

And this is where both the Democrats and Republicans fail them.

Without a doubt, political commentators on all the major cable news shows will be discussing how the Republican party “lost” the vote of the evangelicals in the 2006 midterm election.

The truth is the Republicans and the Democrats never owned their vote to begin with, and thus they couldn’t have lost it.

Evangelicals voted against a scandal-ridden Republican party that too often promises more than it can deliver. Does anyone remember President Bush’s promise for a constitutional ban on gay marriage?

The truth is, Republicans tend to be Christians, but this isn’t enough. Republicans hoping to win the vote of evangelicals had better be Christians tending to be Republicans. The distinction here is important, and one too often not recognized. If you want the Christian vote, you’d better be a Christian first and a Republican second, not the other way around.

If Republicans (or Democrats, for that matter) want the Christian vote when the 2008 election rolls around, they had better turn away the checks from lobbyists and turn back to their values. The Republican party is in a bad place right now — it has experienced multiple scandals and suffered defeat throughout the nation — but rather than view this as a defeat, it would be wise to view it as an opportunity.

Enshrining socially conservative legislation into the fabric of our nation isn’t as important as providing a positive example of evangelical leadership. People vote for candidates who share their values, who share the same perspective on the world. It’s time that conservative Republican candidates dropped their pandering to evangelicals, such as banning gay marriage, and picked their Bible and began living the lifestyle.

As Dwight D. Eisenhower said: ” The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office.”

Matthew White is a senior magazine journalism major and point/counterpoint columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].