There is nothing vainer than the idea that we can restore a nation, rebuild our once great country, and leave Christ out. That’s the whole conservative movement in a nutshell. It’s been apart from Christ.[1]

Studio Picture of Jim Dobson of Focus on the FamilyWithout much fanfare, Evangelicalism and conservative politics got married in the 1970s.[2] Its progeny, the Christian Right,[3]  was conceived in the shadows of Roe v. Wade (1973) and saw the light of day in the release of Francis Schaeffer’s books[4]  and films How Should We Then Live (1976) and Whatever Happened to the Human Race (1979); the ascendancy of James Dobson’s Focus on the Family radio broadcasts (starting in 1977); and the founding of the Moral Majority by Jerry Falwell and Paul Weyrich (1979).

Political foundations for the evangelical surge were built a bit earlier when Phyllis Schlafly started the Eagle Forum in 1972, which eventually led to her successful fight against the Equal Rights Amendment. Though a Catholic, she could be called the midwife of the Evangelical Right.

Many evangelicals voted for the “Born Again“[5] Baptist Sunday School teacher Jimmy Carter in 1976, but Ronald Reagan wooed them to the Republican Party in 1980 and 1984 with his strong pro-life message and book, The Conscience of a Nation.

The growing movement did not generate a candidate of its own until 1988, when Christian Broadcasting Network and 700 Club founder and broadcaster Pat Robertson finished a strong second in the Iowa caucuses behind Bob Dole. Robertson’s campaign rather quickly fizzled not long after he finished fifth in the New Hampshire primary. From 1992 to 2000, evangelicals split their support among many candidates during Republican primaries, including Pat Buchanan, Alan Keyes, Orrin Hatch, John Ashcroft and Gary Bauer, but they also helped propel George W. Bush to the White House. Bush had given a credible testimony of his personal conversion and faith in Christ during the primary season leading up to the 2000 election.

For almost 30 years then, politically-minded evangelicals worked mostly through the Republican Party, arguably seeing little progress[6]. For years we played second-fiddle to other conservative interests, most of which we whole-heartedly agreed with: lower taxes and less regulation, strong defense, home-grown energy and free markets. We have been strong advocates of the Constitution, whether the 2nd Amendment right to bear arms or the 10th Amendment limits to the power of the federal government. Questions remain. Have we been wasting our time seeking political solutions to what are essentially spiritual problems? Or have we been going about politics the wrong way all along? Are evangelicals gaining influence in the Republican Party and the country? If so, is this a good or bad thing?

In the chapters that follow, I will try to provide an antidote to our political ills, which I believe are a symptom of spiritual ills. And I will demonstrate that the problems do not come from too little political involvement, but rather from lack of knowledge concerning who God is and what He requires in the political process. Bright ideas, hard work and lofty goals, as important as they are, can never replace the blessing of the Maker of Heaven and Earth.

Few Christians today look to the Bible for guidance on the question of who to vote for or what government is supposed to look like. We’ve been hoodwinked or browbeaten into thinking that it is illegal or unethical to mix church and state, politics and religion. We have had a vague sense that we have a duty to vote for candidates who advocate prevailing conservative notions about abortion or homosexual marriage, but, sadly, this sense of duty is fading in the face of “more pressing problems.”

In 2008, 24% of professing Evangelical Christians voted for Barack Obama,[7]  even though as a politician he had never lifted a finger to protect any unborn children[8]  nor protected any of those that mercifully managed to escape the hand of the abortionist.[9]  It should have been apparent where he would take the country. He strongly supported homosexual marriage[10] and the agenda of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) movement, [11] though his public stand seemed more moderated.

Other believers think the Bible doesn’t address issues specifically enough to be helpful in our modern society, or they don’t want to offend someone by taking a stand on controversial issues lest they lose the opportunity to share Jesus with them later. These are some of our ills.


[1] John Lofton, quoted in Gregg Jackson and Steve Deace (2011) We Won’t Get Fooled Again, JAJ Publishing

[2] For a discussion of earlier influences on the Christian Right, see Steve Wolfgang, Millennialism and The American Political Dream Guardian of Truth XXVI: 4, pp. 54-58.

[3]  Politics also had a sister who got married to liberal Christianity and helped spawn the religious left.

[4]  Schaeffer’s books have been cited by both Mike Huckabee and Michele Bachmann as having a profound impact on their lives.

[5]  Newsweek, October 25, 1976, cover story, “Born Again—Evangelicals”.

[6]  Other than the G. W. Bush appointment of two assumed pro-life Catholics to the US Supreme Court (John Roberts and Samuel Alito), the religious right has seen little progress. See Blinded by Might: Can the Religious Right Save America? Cal Thomas and Ed Dobson (1999) Zondervan: Grand Rapids, and also Why Government Can’t Save You: An Alternative to Political Activism by John MacArthur (2000) Word: Nashville

[11]  http://obama.3cdn.net/36ddd2f5daac41cb21_rym6bxaax.pdf

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Part Two of the Introduction to With Christ in the Voting Booth

 

 

2 comments
  1. the christian right goes back much further IMO. It really began during the cold war era in sunbelt locales like Orange County, CA. Many christians had an americancentric view of the world and that the u.s. was exceptional in its religiosity and that the new left was going to destroy what they thought was a “christian republic”. They believed that christianity was the only thing keeping the U.S. away from what they saw as a statist/atheistic soviet union. So you have guys like Billy James Hargis, Fred Schwarz and groups like the Christian Anti-Communist Crusade or the John Birch Society gaining popularity in that time period

  2. As a Christian with European background, conservative business views and left-wing social views, I have bias. 

    We all do.

    A divide between the views espoused and actions taken by some nominally Christian individuals exists.

    A respect and love for authority are pre-requisites of Christian faith, and are often well argued by the right.

    Fallibility and salvation through grace are also essential Christian teachings – if less apparent, self-righteousness is implied, which lacks humility. 

    Where seen this is to be reproved.

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