February 19, 2008

Missouri's evangelicals stereotyped

The Columbia Tribune ran my latest column today. It is entitled "Missouri's evangelicals stereotyped" and deals with the fact that the media only asks Republican voters in exit polls if they are evangelicals. This continues despite evidence proving that evangelicals cannot be accurately depicted as only voting for Republicans. As I point out in the column, a recent survey commissioned by Faith in Public Life found that one-third of white evangelicals in Missouri voted for a Democratic candidate, making white evangelicals nineteen percent of the Democratic vote. Such a significant group should not be ignored. In the piece I consider the implications of such stereotyping and urge the media and others to stop inaccurately stereotyping evangelicals.

8 comments:

  1. Brian,

    The sad reality of this story is that it was necessary for you to correct the media because they associate understandably evangelicals with biblical stances on the banner moral issues--abortion and homosexual marriage.

    Thus, the secular media doesn't understand how a Christian could either adopt the Democratic Party stance on such issues, or de-prioritize these issues in favor of ideological, economic, or ambiguously-moral ones.

    Neither do I!

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  2. You wrongly stereotype politicians. Some Democrats are pro-life and some Republicans are pro-choice. Thus, you should not vote based on party but on positions.

    Even then, though, the point is not about de-prioritizing the two issues you mention, but about properly prioritizing other biblical issues that Christians are called to work on. If you only think that the Bible addresses the issues of abortion and homosexual marriage, then you are not reading very much of the Bible. It is time to not vote on just one or two issues but to consider the whole package. To do otherwise is to forget much of our biblical duty.

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  3. Let's stay on topic here, Brian.

    First, we're not talking about politicians, we're talking about voters.

    Second, I didn't claim those two issues are the only important ones to Christians. You've ignored my point about the secular media's assumptions--which is the topic.

    Everyone--including the secular media you're chiding--knows that the Democratic Party is generally platform liberal, including pro-choice and pro-homosexual stances, while the Republican Party is generally biblical on those two issues.

    Thus, the secular media doesn't think that evangelical Christians would either adopt the Democratic Party stance on such issues, or de-prioritize these issues in favor of ideological, economic, or ambiguously-moral ones.

    And, if we were talking about politicians in the case of this presidential race, the two Democrats are clearly pro-choice and the two remaining Republicans clearly pro-life.

    You may wish that waterboarding and global warming were as decisive issues as are the big two, but to the media and many evangelicals and fundamentalists, clearly they're not.

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  4. I'm on topic (after all, I created the topic!). My point about politicians not fitting your stereotype is that that helps explain why voters cannot be stereotyped. Even evangelicals who only vote on the issue of abortion could not be accurately said to only vote Republican.

    You didn't claim they were the only important ones but you act like they should trump all other issues. This is a point that Richard Land has made as he believes that the issue of abortion trumps all other. But such a limited view keeps us from fulfilling our full biblical calling.

    You again use the line "de-prioritize these issues in favor of ideological, economic, or ambiguously-moral ones." I'm not sure exactly what you are suggesting but it seems you are trying to define certain issues as non-moral concerns. However, if you read the words of Jesus and the prophets you will learn that economic issues are often moral issues. Those should not be treated as two separate and opposing issues. In fact, the Bible speaks much more about economic issues than the two issues you prioritize.

    What you--and the media are missing--is that many evangelicals have already broadened their focus. That is why one-third of evangelicals voted for Democrats. And considering the lukewarm reception that John McCain gets from evangelicals, it is quite possible that many will vote Democratic this fall. You can keep saying that you think it makes sense that the media would stereotype evangelicals, but that ignores the point that the stereotype is flatly wrong. Thus, perhaps there are some things that you and the media do not understand about evangelicals and priorities.

    You point out that the Democratic presidential candidates are pro-choice, but should that be the only factor to consider in voting? After all, Republicans have been president for 25 of the 35 years since Roe v. Wade and what have they really done on the issue? If we are only voting on one issue that is never dealt with by those we are voting for, then it seems like a wasted vote. Don't get me wrong: I am strongly pro-life. However, it seems that politicians are not going to solve the problem so we have to find other ways, like educating people. That is why abortion rates are falling.

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  5. Brian,

    I understand that the media's stereotype is incorrect. This is why I said in the first sentence that it was necessary for you to correct them. Again, I think it's sad that the media is mistaken.

    That first comment was as comprehensive a point as I intended. I wasn't focusing on how evangelicals are, or ought to be, voting, because your post didn't appear to. I was addressing the reasons for the media's understandable stereotyping.

    It's secondary to my point that I agree with Richard Land, in that I will vote for an anti-Roe v. Wade candidate over a pro-choice candidate. This is the way I wish all pro-life evangelicals and fundamentalists would act. And, apparently, this is the way the polling media expects them to act.

    I won't get into pro-choice evangelicals here. That seems oxymoronical.

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  6. You can try and say it makes sense for the media to stereotype evangelicals, but the fact is that it is clearly wrong. We should not make excuses for them because their job is to report the facts, not their inaccurate stereotypes.

    I disagree with the idea of single-issue voting (especially when politicians are doing nothing about that issue). I think such voting has been used by some politicians to exploit Christians. I do agree, however, that evangelicals should be pro-life (on all issues, of course).

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  7. This isn't just dangerous to the political situation - it limits and damages peoples' faith too.

    Here in the UK many Christians confuse theology with politics in the sense that they stay solidly in one theological camp (either liberal or evangelical) but only because of the political associations.

    For many years I don't think I took the Bible seriously enough because it seemed that you couldn't do this without being a generally right-wing, homophobic and xenophobic person. Thank God I found a way through this.

    I hope that more evangelicals vote liberal (or democrat) politically and more theological liberals are able to explore more evangelical theology. The package deal has to end!

    Best wishes with your blog, it's very very good. I'll be reading with interest.

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  8. dawntreader: Thanks for stopping by and commenting! You are absolutely right. I think the biggest problems come for Christianity and not the political parties.

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