Republicans Seek to Rekindle Evangelical Zeal

Friday, 03 Jun 2011 12:08 PM

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Republicans are hoping to reignite the political zeal of evangelicals that once was a deciding factor in national elections. The first test of whether it can be done is taking place this weekend at the Faith and Freedom Coalition conference in Washington that will include nearly all the GOP presidential contenders, The Washington Post reported.

The group bills itself as a 21st-century version of the Christian Coalition, but much has changed since the Christian Coalition became a political force more than three decades ago. Gone from the front lines are the Moral Majority’s Jerry Falwell and the Christian Coalition’s Pat Robertson, the Post reported, noting that today’s pastors are more likely to focus on the gospel than turning out the vote.

However, GOP leaders contend that the enthusiasm is there, as evidenced by the Christian involvement in the tea party movement. A Pew Research Poll showed last year that 42 percent of tea party supporters said they agree with the religious right, the Post reported.

“What’s likely to happen is what a lot of us have wanted to see happen for a long time — a social conservative movement that speaks to a broader set of issues but which never strays from the foundational issues of life and family and marriage,” Ralph Reed told the Post.

As the 33-year-old leader of Christian Coalition in 1995, Reed was called “The Right Hand of God” on the cover of Time magazine. However, he suffered a serious setback when he was defeated in his 2006 run for Georgia lieutenant governor and was harmed by association with the scandals surrounding former lobbyist Jack Abramoff, the Post reported. He is now heads of the Faith and Freedom Coalition.

Although white evangelicals have voted Republican since the 1980s, many have soured on partisan politics. Jim Daly, head of the Focus on Family group since 2005, has turned it in a less partisan direction. He has described “the idol of political power” as “one of the errors that we’ve made, to be forthright and honest.”

“Christian leadership has become about the victory, and that’s led to us becoming the predator and the world our prey. That’s not very much a Christian doctrine,” he said recently according to the Post. “I’m very concerned about the politicization of the faith . . . I think being owned by a party is dangerous.”

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