Two stories today -- one in WaPo and the other in the NYT -- talk about a problem the GOP is only now discovering but has been evident for quite some time now. The usually reliable evangelical Christian vote which is often successful in getting out the vote (GOTV) to squash any Democratic aspirations of a return to power is slowly but surely crumbling away. The WaPo story also suggests that many dedicated "values voters" are not going to sit at home this year but are actually going to vote Democratic because, they believe, "God's Party" has abandoned its values. It continues to wage war without just cause, justifies torture, ridicules minority religions even though Jesus of Nazareth reached out to "other" groups in his day, and proved its "compassionate conservatism" in the wake of the totally inhumane reaction to the Katrina nightmare.
Meanwhile, the Times said today that the great hope of evangelicals -- teenagers -- are dropping their "born again" hats like some people give up fetishes as bad habits -- cold turkey. By some estimates, only 4 percent of teenagers will believe what the Bible says by the end of the decade. While many leaders in the movement see that number as being rather out of whack with reality, the fact is religion is no longer appealing to most adolescents. Those who do get caught up in it often are bound by extremists who preach no tolerance of those who are different from them; such as is evident in the current documentary Jesus Camp.
It's not just the exasperation with Dubya and Co, or the Foley sex scandal and the coverup by the House leadership, or the disaffection of young people who are the best targets of recruitment. It's that more people are finally beginning to understand the Bush penchant for speaking in code, and are turning against it. Remember two years ago when Bush in one of the debates with Kerry referred to "Dred Scott," the infamous Supreme Court decision that said blacks, even free ones, could never be citizens? It was his "code" to evangelicals that he would appoint judges committed to overturning the Roe decision which some religious people see as immoral as Dred Scott was. (Funny, especially when one considers the Southern Baptist Church, the leading evangelical organization in America, broke away from its northern cousins because the southern church supported slavery and segregation as being the "will of God.") The other day, Bush talked about Iraq being a "comma" in the long term war, saying history will record the insurgency as a comma. (Code for, "God never puts a period, where he intends to put a comma." In other words, it was "God's will" that America had to invade Iraq for its oil.)
Here's a rather extensive list of other Bush code words, found with a simple Google search. Oh, and I just loved it the other day when he said he was fighting the war on terror because he didn't want to burden future generations. Explain then, sir, why it's then OK to run up the debt over 8.5 trillion (and still climbing) so as to ensure future generations are burdened? Perhaps he takes the line where Jesus said people in debt will be made to pay the last penny in the end times; so he wants to make sure only the Baby Boom and older will get Raptured while Generation X and everyone younger will be left behind. (Of course, the Rapture is pure heresy, as most thinking evangelicals believe -- it's just confined to the small group who believes the crap expounded by John Scofield, Jack Van Impe and John Hagee -- hey, three Johns! Do they represent the three letters of John, all apocalyptic in nature?)
The good news is that more rank and file Republicans are finally figuring out what Democrats have known for years: That GWB wears his faith on his sleeve and not in his heart. And like most sleeves on shirts, it can be taken off when deemed expedient. Just a small shift of evangelical voters, even a few percentage points, could tip the balance in favour of the donkey. I hope that happens, but I also hope that those elected will actually practice what they preach and bring faith based values back to the House and Senate rather than just carry on with business as usual -- and speak in plain language that wins people back to the electoral rolls and to the churches. Including young people who will find both a new commitment to public service, and are led to churches that teach the real Gospel and not a heretical and hate-filled interpretation of it.
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