Bob Jones University sign at entrance on Wade ...

I’ve been telling the national media for years now that unlike Iowa Christians, South Carolina Evangelicals are a diverse lot, particularly when the candidates have similar positions on social issues.

I’ve also said that within Evangelicalism in the Palmetto State there is a Movement Conservative element that is more self-conscious and to a greater extent see themselves engaged in a culture war versus a biblical but more worldly Rotarian Evangelical group.

In the South Carolina Republican Primary, Newt Gingrich penetrated down through the Rotarians and deep into the Movement on Saturday.

Exit polls showed Evangelicals making up about 65% of South Carolina Republican Voters. Newt won 44%, Romney 21% and Santorum 21%.

But, at the Bob Jones University precinct in Greenville, the aggressively social issue candidate Rick Santorum eked out only a 15 vote victory. The finally tally at Greenville 27 was Gingrich 31%, Santorum 34%, Romney 18%, and Paul 17%. An impressive showing amongst religious conservatives for a guy whose adultery led the presidential debate two days before.

The combination of a desire to draw a sharp contrast with the incumbent president and hatred of mainstream media were factors in the Gingrich win among the hard core. It was as if even the strictest South Carolina Evangelicals were saying: “The war is on. The bullets are flying. We are pinned down on the beach and you want to know about the commander’s personal life? Get back to us later on that…if we survive.”

But another clue may be found in the words of a popular Christian catch phrase found on automobile bumpers all across South Carolina. That phrase? “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven.”

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