Two weeks ago, I quietly waited on the set of the Leher News for the satellite broadcast to begin live from Washington, D.C. I wondered how effective I would be at presenting the fact that the conservative Christian movement is growing stronger and deeper than ever before. Suddenly, the lights came on and the action started. My section of the program began with a video clip of Pat Robertson’s endorsement of former Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Gwen Ifil did a great job of teasing out the nuances of the changing landscape of this unprecedented, presidential campaign. I found out later that some of her sensitivity to the Christian right comes out of her background - she is a pastor’s daughter.
My emphasis in the lengthy segment with Ifil was that the conservative Christian movement’s values will remain constant during this next election cycle. Despite the fact that some factions of the movement have chosen different candidates in this early part of the campaign, there may yet be a congealing of the movement around one candidate.
After the appearance, I considered two advantages that the conservative Christian movement has today that it did not have a few years ago. First, we have more conservative candidates who are pro-family and pro-life from which to choose. These candidates are Huckabee, Hunter, Romney, and Tancredo. Second, Democrats are actually appealing to the religious community for votes. These appeals to Christians are being made because liberals can count - contrary to Ann Coulter’s opinions. Both Republicans and Democrats realize that up to 80 million potential voters claim to be evangelicals. This is the largest block of voters in the nation.
I remember how shocked I was in 2004 when I saw blacks, whites, and Hispanics sitting together, developing specific strategies to protect marriage. The new coalition and friendships that began in that era are still in place, yet today, these committed Christians are like bricks without connection mortar. Essentially the Christian right became united around its fears instead of its dreams.
Unfortunately, the fears that united the group publicly were not strong enough to help them sort out many differences privately. The same groups that blocked Kerry’s election found it impossible to draft a universally agreed upon marriage amendment before their superman (Bush) succumbed to “kryptonite.”
The religious right is still awaiting a new political champion.
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.