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Here come the evangelicals


This American Prospect article talks about evangelicals claiming political power.

On March 9, evangelical Christians will converge in Washington, D.C., for the annual convention of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), which represents various Protestant churches and denominations across the country with a combined membership of between 30 million and 40 million people. Anybody concerned about the increasing influence of religion on U.S. public policy ought to be paying close attention.

A key event during the convention will be the release of a 12-page statement of principles meant to serve as guidelines for unprecedented political engagement by U.S. evangelicals. Called For the Health of the Nation: An Evangelical Call to Civic Responsibility, this manifesto for a Bible-based public policy calls on evangelical Christians to recognize that it is their religious obligation to advocate for government policies that support their religious beliefs.

The preamble to the document quickly makes clear that the group is not looking to influence policy on the margins but to become a major voice in the political process: “Evangelical Christians in America face a historic opportunity. We make up fully one quarter of all voters in the most powerful nation in history. Never before has God given American evangelicals such an awesome opportunity to shape public policy in ways that could contribute to the well-being of the entire world. Disengagement is not an option. We must seek God’s face for biblical faithfulness and abundant wisdom to rise to this unique challenge.”

It is important to note that the March NAE meeting will not mark the launch of some bomb-throwing religious-right pressure group. The NAE has had a presence in Washington since the 1940s, and has long trod the middle road between mainline Protestantism and the separatist anti-intellectualism of fundamentalist Christianity.

Nor is this a short-term play for publicity meant to push a particular issue. The policy statement is broad in scope, has been years in the making, and has been vetted by hundreds of evangelical ministers from across the country.

What the March meeting will indicate is that American evangelicals have been thinking, planning, and, indeed, praying for a long time about how best to actively engage in the political process. What they have decided is that they are required, not just as citizens but also as Christians, to advocate for political change and, above all, to mobilize the more than half of self-identified evangelicals in the country who currently don’t vote.

That’s right: Half of the evangelicals in the United States -- the group largely credited with delivering a second term to President Bush -- don’t vote in most elections. Consider their power as a truly mobilized voting bloc.

Read the rest of the article, along with their manifesto at the site.

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Evangelicals on the march... again


Here's the BBC's take on the evangelical takeover of the US government:

Conservative conspiracy?

With President George W Bush in the White House and a Republican dominated Congress, the time seems right for Mr Farris and Patrick Henry College.

His students already have a level of access to Washington politics that few universities in the US can match.

Also, some 22 conservative members of Congress have employed interns from Patrick Henry over the past few years.

Critics see the college's very close connections to Mr Bush's White House as evidence of a conservative conspiracy to take over the institutions of power.

But Mark Rozell, professor of public policy at Washington DC's George Mason University, sees it differently:

"What Michael Farris is doing with Patrick Henry College is a perfectly legitimate part of the political landscape," he said.

"If other people feel threatened by it, they've got to get out there and mobilise their folks to be well-trained, serving internships, getting to Washington and so forth."

Democrat response

It is a message that is beginning to be heard.

Since November's election, leading Democrats such as Hilary Clinton are looking at how they can also engage in the language of God.

Jim Wallis, one of America's leading evangelical preachers, said it was time to end the Republican stranglehold on faith-based politics:

"Somehow Jesus has become pro-rich, pro-war and only pro-America," he said.

"How did this ever happen? Our faith has been stolen and it's time to take it back.

"There's a growing progressive evangelical movement in the US which cares about poverty and the environment and we're talking about what it means to apply faith to our politics."

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