Ken Connor

There are reports of a growing disaffection for politics among American evangelicals. This should come as no surprise.

"Values voters", many of whom pinned their hopes for cultural transformation on politics, have suffered a series of bitter disappointments. Some of these disappointments have names, not the least of which include Tom Delay, Jack Abramoff, Mark Foley, and Larry Craig. Additionally, the lack of meaningful progress in eliminating abortion, the collapse of the campaign to pass a Federal Marriage Amendment, the explosion of congressionally approved "earmarks", and wanton spending by the Federal legislature—all of which occurred while Republicans, of all people, controlled the White House and the Congress—have also contributed to the current malaise. There is also the matter of the war in Iraq which many feel is being prosecuted poorly by the President in whom they initially reposed great confidence.

The danger, of course, is that evangelicals, who are known to suffer from what Howard Hendricks described as the "peril of the pendulum", will abandon their engagement in the public square and retreat pietistically to their prayer closets.

Lest we forget, however, it was the fruit born of a lack of civic engagement by people of faith that propelled evangelicals into the political arena. For decades in America, there was little organized involvement by evangelicals in the public square. Politics was deemed a "dirty business." Christians were discouraged from sullying themselves with such base and worldly pursuits. Pietism prevailed over politics.

Into that vacuum crept the indicia of an increasingly secularized society—abortion on demand, an explosion of sexually transmitted diseases, public schools stripped of prayer and hostile to religious expression, to name just a few. Awakened from their slumber by the likes of Jerry Falwell, Cal Thomas, Paul Weyrich, and others, evangelicals scarcely recognized their country. The Moral Majority was born, and in its wake followed groups that proudly advertised their faith-based roots, such as the Christian Action Council, the Christian Coalition, and The Center for Reclaiming America for Christ. Evangelicals became a political force to be reckoned with and provided the decisive margin of victory in a number of elections. The efforts of this brand of faith-based political engagement were so successful, the movement was dubbed the "Christian Right" by its adversaries. Intended as a pejorative term, Falwell and others wore the moniker with pride.

Ken Connor

Ken Connor is Chairman of the Center for a Just Society in Washington, DC.