To the dismay of the secular left and the surprise of even many conservative Christians, the evangelicals appear to have been the cavalry in George Bush’s charge to victory. It was the MSM that first reported this and it has been the most prominent point in post-election analysis.
The next question being asked is “What will the evangelicals expect from the President?”
At the President’s first post-election press conference, he was asked how in choosing the next Supreme Court justice he would balance the pressure from evangelicals and his stated desire to reduce the nation’s partisan tensions. He said only that there is no current vacancy.
Michael Cromartie, director of the Evangelicals in Civic Life project at the Washington-based Ethics and Public Policy Center, said evangelicals may not win every political battle ahead, but there is no question they will loom large in the Republican Party for years to come. “They’re not taking over the party,” he said, “but they are major players in the party. They’re major players at the table of Republican discourse.”
But just what is it evangelicals want? What will evangelicals request of a President who was re-elected because they worked so hard for it?
A few thoughts here. First, it is interesting to observe the MSM now calling the group “evangelicals,” not the Christian right, or religious right, or fundamentalist fringe. That’s a new thing.
Second, it is more complicated than some may think to answer the question of evangelical desires, because evangelicals are not a monolithic group, any more than Catholics or union members, or Hispanics. On many issues of economic policy or foreign policy evangelicals have many views. In fact, the group can’t agree on many theological issues—its made up of the dispensationalists and the charismatics, the Wesleyans and the Calvinists, the fundamentalists and the grace movement. They say if you have two Baptists in the room there are three opinions.
But there are some actions that a large majority of evangelicals would want from President Bush in his second term. Here’s what I believe are the 10 things evangelicals want from the President:
1. Conservative Supreme Court Justices. Evangelicals believe that many of their set-backs are the result of an activist judiciary. This isn’t just about Roe v. Wade. We agree with Bush’s statement at his press conference that he should choose justices who know “the difference between personal opinion and the strict interpretation of the law.”
2. Constitutional Amendment on Marriage: Although evangelicals have varied opinions on what recognition and benefits should be provided to gay unions, most believe that the Federal Marriage Amendment is necessary because the courts still pose a danger to definition of marriage. Evangelicals believe the only way we are going to settle it once and for all is by an amendment to the Constitution.
3. Compassionate Conservatism: Encourage American citizens to care for the poor and give a lift to those who are struggling to make it. Without increasing the role of government, advance the efforts of the church-based and non-profit sectors, of volunteerism, and the efforts of what the first President Bush called “points of light.”
4. Security for America and Western Civilization: Strengthen America in the War on Terrorism and also in the clash of civilizations against radical Islam. Evangelicals recognize and can say what the Administration has had to be more diplomatic about—this battle against terrorism is largely against Islamic extremists who are seeking to dominant the world.
5. Religious Freedom Around the World: Defend the persecuted Church and others of faith around the world, and drive for religious freedom as a part of emerging democracies, even in the Muslim world and in China.
6. Religious Influence at Home: Defend the right of people of faith in this country to be part of the free exchange of ideas, to include religious thought in the public square. Evangelicals want a level playing field in our own country, with no preference given to secular thought or even Islam.
7. Personal Moral Leadership: Evangelicals expect the President and his Administration to demonstrate personal morality. While recognizing that the President is not minister-in-chief, when morality is modeled in the Oval Office, it is more widely honored throughout the country.
8. Sanctity of Life: Apart from the question of the Supreme Court, evangelicals want the President to do what he can to preserve the sanctity of life by resisting the encroachment of abortion, euthanasia, cloning, and embryonic stem cell research.
9. Promote Character: Use the “bully pulpit” to speak out against real racism, to call for personal responsibility, to call for people to grasp opportunity and take initiative, and to argue against the victimization mindset. Evangelicals believe in hard work, taking responsibility, and accepting the consequences of bad decisions.
10. Human Rights: Emphasize in foreign policy the protection of human rights, whether it’s stopping sex-trafficking, slavery and genocide in Sudan, the spread of AIDS in Africa, or the remaining human rights abuses in China.
Congratulations, Mr. President. There’s the list. It’s what the evangelicals waited in line for on election day. Now you know.