Can Evangelicals Be Democrats?

"I grew up believing an evangelical couldn't be a Democrat."

Those are the words of Duluth resident Jonathan Merritt, 25 years of age and the son of a Baptist preacher, who has started to question the Republican Party.

... in the past year, as the presidential campaign has focused on the country's problems, [Jonathan]Merritt has begun to question the party of his father. There was his recent revelation that "God is green," a mission trip to orphanages in Brazil that caused him to worry about global poverty, an encounter with a growing strain of politically liberal evangelicalism that has taken off online, and a nagging sense that Bush's unpopularity has been an embarrassment to the evangelicals who overwhelmingly voted for him.

"When you look at the political party that has traditionally championed poverty, social justice and care for the least of these, it's not been the Republican Party," said Merritt, who now considers himself an "independent conservative" and is unsure whom he will vote for in November. "We are to honor the least of these above even ourselves. It's very difficult to reconcile totally." 

[Source:  Washington Post, "GOP Loyalty Not a Given For Young Evangelicals", August 15, 2008]

The article goes on to detail Merritt's worries including a concern about the loss of life in Iraq and the toll it is taking on families, economic and environmental issues.

After reading this Washington Post piece about young evangelicals, I'm not so sure John McCain and the Republicans can win over these voters just by running on social issues such as gay marriage and abortion.

Jonathan Merrit still isn't a Democrat, but he's undecided in the presidential race.

Tags: Evangelicals, Georgia, youth (all tags)



Re: Can Evangelicals Be Democrats?

Much as I'm uncomfortable about it, I think that they will be a growing constituency within the Democratic Party going forward and that we should try to peel off those that can be reached.

by rfahey22 2008-08-15 07:01AM | 0 recs
Re: Can Evangelicals Be Democrats?

I think you're right, unfortunately.  The Republicans are a lost cause now, but there was a time when a Barry Goldwater could say:

I think every good Christian ought to kick Falwell right in the ass.


You don't have to be straight to be in the military; you just have to be able to shoot straight.

and be nominated to run for the presidency.  Can you picture any Republican saying that today?

I fear for the Democratic Party, but I fear even more for my granddaughter & gay son-already the Democrats waffle and pander on the rights of women and GLBT people in the mere hope of slicing off a few evangelical votes.

If both parties are taken over by large groups of block voting evangelicals, women and gays can say good bye to the rights that they have gained over the last 30 years.

If you have gay children or female children or grandchildren, you might consider proposing to them emigration to some country where their rights will not be at the mercy of the rabid beliefs of fundamentalists.  A plus would be that they would have guaranteed health care, if they choose countries wisely.

by LIsoundview 2008-08-15 09:57AM | 0 recs
Re: Can Evangelicals Be Democrats?

Didn't Goldwater say those things about 30 years after being the republican nominee?

by Mobar 2008-08-15 10:45AM | 0 recs
Re: Can Evangelicals Be Democrats?

No......they can vote for Democrats but their intolerance of others prevents them from ever becoming a Democrat unless the Evangelical leaders change their preachings and their teachings.  You can campaign for their vote but to attempt to bring them onboard will get you what happened to the Republican party when they did that with them.  It is okay to learn from the mistakes of others, you don't need to check it out for yourself unless you are just determined to.  I'm tolerant of Evangelicals and I'm respectful of them but seldom are they the same way with me when they discover I have good friends who are in a gay relationship and I'm prochoice and welcome to Southeast Alabama.  To be a Democrat is to tolerate differences and promote diversity, not an Evangelical value.  How can you solve any of our real problems either when you are simply waiting for the rapture to save you from having to be ultimately responsible?

by Militarytracy 2008-08-15 07:05AM | 0 recs
Re: Can Evangelicals Be Democrats?

How old are those evangelicals that change after they find out about your gay friends?

To me, this is about a generational war within the Evangelical camp.

And, my take is, even IF we can't win them over, if we can weaken their ardor for the Repubs.

For a generation, since Reagan, they have been THE most loyal footsoldiers for the Repubs, and they have swung elections from dog catcher to President.

Take away JUST A BIT of that army helps us from the bottom to the top.

I also am VERY uncomfortable with the Evangelical agenda, but from a strategy and tactics point of view, I think this is worth doing.

by WashStateBlue 2008-08-15 07:13AM | 0 recs
Re: Can Evangelicals Be Democrats?

To me, this is about a generational war within the Evangelical camp.

Absolutely true.  Older evangelicals see Dobson et al and think "that guy's on to something"; younger evangelicals are thinking "who the hell is this guy?"  Most young evangelicals I talk to are desperate to not be associated with the intolerance of the Religious Right... no matter what they might personally think, they tend to by and large be unwilling to legislate that onto everyone else (unlike their parents' generation).

No, I think the real challenge for Democrats in reaching out to younger evangelicals isn't going to be to convince them that we're right on the issues that matter to them, but that they should get active at all.  There's a growing segment of young evangelicalism, led by people like Shane Claiborne, that think Christians shouldn't get involved in party politics but should concentrate on doing good in the world.  While a nice thought in theory, in reality it does nothing but enable the abuses of the powerful.

by mistersite 2008-08-15 07:35AM | 0 recs

Have you not heard enough about TRINITY??

oh, no, they can't be democrats. nevermind that we're about to elect one of them president.

by BlogSurrogate57 2008-08-15 08:04AM | 0 recs
Rev. Wright certainly wasn't waiting

for no rapture.

In his liberal evangelical church, in a mainline protestant denomination, he led prison ministries, aids ministries, campaigned for women as clergy, and was in general pro-homosexual.

That's how they do evangelical in Chi-town.

by BlogSurrogate57 2008-08-15 08:05AM | 0 recs
Re: Rev. Wright certainly wasn't waiting

Exactly, that how we did it in NYC when I was a kid. AIDS treatment, drug rehab, day care centers for the poor, food pantries, job training, after school programs and spiritual counseling.  This went for both Catholic (Liberation Theology) and Protestant churches.

by TennesseeGurl 2008-08-15 08:52AM | 0 recs
Some definitions please

What do you mean by evangelical?  Are you using it as a synonym for fundamentalist?

by JJE 2008-08-15 08:13AM | 0 recs
I am a Evangelical Christian Democrat

Princeton Def.
evangelical (of or pertaining to or in keeping with the Christian gospel especially as in the first 4 books of the New Testament)

Some folks take the bible figuratively (like myself) others take it literally. I was raised in the AA Baptist church (ok my mom was and grand dad were Catholics but my Nana was a Baptist. She was the boss so I went to her church).. We are not as rare as some might think. I just don't wear my religion on my sleeve nor do I use it to judge other people. I use my religion to guide my life. The thing that keeps my faith strong was the teachings of Jesus and his commitment to the poor.. Progressive Evangelicals are very real.. Here is a list of progressive denominations.
American Baptist Churches, USA  (Evangelical)
American Friends  
Catholic Church of Antioch  
Community of Christ  
Disciples of Christ  
The Emerging (postmodern) Church  
Episcopal/Anglican Church  
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America  
Liberal Catholic Church  
Liberal Catholic International  
Metropolitan Community Church  
Reformed Catholic Church  
Presbyterian Church, USA  
Progressive Seventh-Day Adventists  
Quaker Universalists  
United Church of Christ  
United Methodist Church  
Unitarian Universalist Association  
Unity Church

by TennesseeGurl 2008-08-15 08:43AM | 0 recs

I go to a south, rural pentecostal church and I am a liberal! There are thousands of democrats who believe in the evangelical faith, just many do not profess it on their sleeves like the republicans.

by hocuspocus 2008-08-15 08:45AM | 0 recs
Re: Can Evangelicals Be Democrats?

Yes, yes they can.  What party can honestly answer yes to the question, "Are you your brother's keeper?"  Only one and that is us.  We are the party that believes that in order to create more democracy, more justice, we have to take care of the least among us.

Although I am not religious, my Mother certainly is and she is a bleeding heart liberal.  She believes wholeheartedly both in private charity and in social programs.

My sister is very religious and is an independant that tends to be fiscally conservative and socially liberal (like me!).  Some things like abortion trouble her, but she is not willing to impose her will on others in such a personal matter.

by Sychotic1 2008-08-15 09:00AM | 0 recs
Re: Can Evangelicals Be Democrats?

I hope this is a rhetorical question.  Of course they can.  Any Democratic Party that rejects evangelicals out of hand is a party doomed to perpetual defeat.

by markjay 2008-08-15 09:41AM | 0 recs
How about

"are Democrats required to be Atheist?"

It's the equivalent question, but with the silliness exposed.

by Neef 2008-08-15 11:00AM | 0 recs
Re: Can Evangelicals Be Democrats?

Sure, many people with both commitments exist.

I think you're talking about people who went along with the social conservative line and defaulted to the Republicans from, oh, about 1994 to 2005.

I'm not sure they will ever be enthusiastic Democrats, to put it simply.  But genuine partisan neutrality and voting on real merits on their part is an improvement.

by killjoy 2008-08-15 12:16PM | 0 recs
Re: Can Evangelicals Be Democrats?

My parents are evangelical Republicans, and they led me, inadvertently, to become an evangelical Democrat.

The message of the New Testament is to love your neighbor as yourself -- to consider others' interests ahead of your own. It's pretty clear, pretty unequivocal. My parents taught me that God wanted that kind of selflessness from me. When my interest turned to politics, it didn't take long to discover the party that actually cared about other people and not about their own interests were the Democrats.

It actually confuses me that any evangelicals are Republicans, to be honest. The best explanation I've heard is from George Lakoff's work where he says that the Republicans have a "strict father" model of what love is. So whereas for most people, to love someone means to respect them, promote their well-being, stand alongside them, etc., the strict father model says that loving someone is like a father controlling his children. Which helps explain why the Republican party is more willing to fall in line behind a candidate and be pressured by authority to do illegal things (read: DOJ) because they have a hierarchy and understand that. Democrats, because they are a respecter of persons, tend to be more fragmented because each faction is given equal consideration.

This helps to explain some of the Republican agenda when it comes to abortion and gay marriage or gay rights. By giving women rights to make choices about their own lives, they are not under the control of their fathers/husbands/government, which undermines the strict father model. By giving gays and lesbians the right to marry or adopt, they are fearing that societal hierarchy becomes muddled. The same goes for the opposition to single parenthood and welfare, which were bigger issues in the '80s, because they reward or accept behavior that undermines external control. Other hot-button issues: Immigration swells the ranks of non-rich, non-white people in this country. Education gives the poor a voice and the knowledge of how to rise up. Race warfare is an attempt to keep the "lesser" in their place. Endless war and unilateralism is a way of scaring the public into deferring to their leaders, "as it should be".

The older generation of strict father Christians imagine that something will "awaken" the public consciousness and that we'll all realize we've gone too far with this tolerance and acceptance thing. They say: How can you love and respect people who go looting during a crisis? How can you love and respect someone who is taking away your job? How can you love and respect someone who might be ending a life in her womb? They fervently desire that people's goodwill will break and they'll draw a line in the sand where such and such is unacceptable.

But the good news is that so-called "collapse of society" continues and fewer and fewer Christians are growing up in a family where the strict father model is practiced. Fewer and fewer young pastors are demanding that their flock submit to their opinion in all matters. Once the idea of "love" through control evaporates, the idea of love through respect and self-sacrifice can push through. The questions we are exploring in our younger churches are: "what does it mean to love your enemy?" "what does it mean to care for society's outcasts?" "what does it mean to live with compassion and to pursue justice?"

These are all questions for which the Democrats have answers, or at least experience in wrestling with, whereas the Republican party is bone dry. As younger evangelicals begin to take over churches and public pulpits from the older generation, expect to see evangelical Christians either leave politics aside and begin serve society through their churches, or to defect outright to the Democratic Party. What we're hearing about now is just the first trickle of support that will eventually burst the dam.

by indythink 2008-08-15 01:25PM | 0 recs
Re: Can Evangelicals Be Democrats?
I think about 20 or 30 years ago, evangelicals began being taken over by the big preachers on TV-the Falwells, Jim Baker, those types. The preachers saw the influence, the money and the fame they were accumulating and used it politcally (some of you might remember the "Silent Majority") to influence policy and politicians. Wealth and big churches became more important than helping the poor, the sick and the community. Influence and being seen with politicians became more important than the teachings of the bible.
What I think we're seeing is a generationally driven change, driven by younger people who realize that their future is in doubt, because of global warming.
Episcopalians are embracing gays and allowing women to become priests. Some churches are questioning whether hell really exists.
There is definitely a shift away from traditional beliefs and practices (except perhaps in the Catholic church) by the younger set, which is a good thing.
They're still and always will be anti-abortion, and many are still anti-gay, but I think Democrats should at least be open to accepting these people into our party. Many of them are going to be voting for Obama this year.
by skohayes 2008-08-15 03:05PM | 0 recs
a moral opposition to abortion

is very different from a political one.

by BlogSurrogate57 2008-08-18 09:47AM | 0 recs


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