Say it ain't so! Today comes a Newsweek article (via MSNBC.com) about Democratic presidential candidates sucking up to evangelical Christian leaders. The very notion &mdash embodied in the accompanying photo of Barack Obama chatting with Rick Warren &mdash chills my blood.
I understand the tactical politics involved: Evangelicals are quite correctly disenchanted with the Republican frontrunners such as Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, and Mit Romney, none of whom truly embodies evangelical values. Even the folksy Fred Thompson has a racy history, and is none to reliable (from the evangelical point of view) on abortion. So perhaps, with the right approach, Democrats can, if not win over evangelicals outright, at least persuade them to stay home in November. I get it.
But at what price is this tactical advantage gained? The alliance forged between evangelical Christians and secular conservatives since the Reagan administration is arguably what got us into the mess we're in... the mess some of us hope to at least begin reversing by sending a Democrat to the White House. However disaffected they may be with their erstwhile secular partners, it seems unlikely that evangelicals will suddenly align themselves with the public policies favored by most Democrats. Almost as an inherent consequence of their beliefs, it seems to me that evangelicals lean toward authoritarianism and away from personal liberty.
I understand that America is a religious country; I'm not suggesting it's possible (even if it were desirable) to run a completely secular political campaign. But if we must appeal to people of faith, let's appeal to those whose doctrines emphasize charity and social justice &mdash values that harmonize with those of liberals and progressives &mdash rather than people whose religious beliefs deemphasize "good works" in favor of biblical inerrancy, divine authority, and enforcement of Old Testament mores.