Some Christians insist we should stay out of politics and stick to the task of winning souls for Christ. But the two activities are hardly mutually exclusive; indeed, they're complementary. It's not enough for Christians to fight for their values only at the level of the culture, because by doing so, they ignore the profound impact of politics and government on the culture.
Granted, the Supreme Court probably couldn't have "legalized" abortion or outlawed voluntary nonsectarian payer in public schools in a cultural vacuum -- unless there were a degree of receptiveness to those decisions in the culture. On the other hand, the Court's decisions in such cases greatly accelerated the coarsening of the culture. For Christians to fully and effectively engage in the Culture War (among many other reasons) -- they must participate in politics and government.
So I disagree with George Will's implication that certain Christians are invoking a "religious test" of sorts when they confess, for example, that Rudy Giuliani is not their first choice for president. Rudy's religion -- whatever it may be -- has little to do with it. It's his position on social issues that makes him less than the optimal candidate, despite his other admirable qualities and qualifications.
Most Christian conservatives care as much about social issues as the economy and national security. Unless candidates share their values, they will not resonate with Christian conservatives on all bases.
That's why it's almost humorous to read of a conference of secular liberals at the City College of New York called "Examining the Real Agenda of the Religious Far Right," or an analysis of the liberal think tank, the Progressive Policy Institute, arguing that Democrats are suffering from a severe "parent gap." Do they really need conferences and issue papers telling them what is patently obvious: that parents are concerned about "morally corrosive forces in our culture"?
The way to reach Christians -- or values voters, if you prefer -- is the same as reaching any other group. You must stand for -- not just pay patronizing lip service to -- the things they believe in.
Most Christian conservatives are not single issue -- or even single category of issues -- people. But they do care deeply about social issues and believe in electing executives who will appoint constitutionalist judges and legislators who will confirm them -- and who share and will promote, within the law, their values.
For liberals to woo Christian conservatives, they must stop the pattern of abuse and get on the right side of the Culture War. Pretending to do so just won't be enough.
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