The election of 2008 will be a defining moment in American politics. In addition to the oval office, this election will also determine who will control Washington for the next eight years. The current political atmosphere feels like an “agenda limbo.” Republicans seem to be gasping for breath, while Democrats are clumsily wielding their newfound power. The average person has an overwhelming sense that all the bantering in November and December about bi-partisan cooperation was just well-timed, political rhetoric. In less than 90 days, the gloves have come off and the real power struggle has begun. So much for new beginnings!
Only the 2008 election will remove the current stalemate. Then both parties will be graded on their performance. We could debate for months about the nuances that will develop in both policies and positions during the next 20 months. The war, immigration, and the economy are sure to be major concerns. But what group will rally and decide who wins the dogfight?
In the 2000 election, evangelical Christians supported George W. Bush but they lost the popular election. In 2004, gay marriage and pro-life concerns woke up fearful evangelicals. They showed up and voted their values. In 2006, faithful evangelicals voted their values despite the lack of a clear, battle cry and misgivings about the true morality of the GOP. Unfortunately, evangelicals have fallen into the rut of being defined by what they are against, instead of what they advocate.
Much has been written about the waning influence of evangelicals in the political arena. Many sectors of our electorate hope that true believers will just “go back to church.” This is nothing more than wishful thinking---a theology of social involvement has been preached for over 30 years. In addition, there are students who are preparing to enter the public square---especially politics and law---at schools as diverse as Liberty University to Harvard For these reasons, the pulpit’s influence in politics will continue.
The questions of the hour, however, are: What will this army of voters do in 2008? Can evangelicals find their voice in the next election? Or, will the mid-term defeat of the Republicans give them social laryngitis? I believe the day of blind allegiance by evangelicals to any party will soon come to an end. Leading evangelicals are painfully aware of the failings of both parties. In 2008, conservative evangelicals will begin to advocate culturally transforming policy initiatives. They will also begin to shun the image of being mean-spirited spoilers. After all, the word “gospel” does mean “good news.”
Bishop Harry Jackson is chairman of the High Impact Leadership Coalition and senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, MD, and co-authored, Personal Faith, Public Policy [FrontLine; March 2008] with Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.