Not Either/Or

November 12, 2008

In the aftermath of last week's presidential election, many people have made claims about the impact of religious voters. The results were mixed, so people on both sides made claims that support their own agenda. Barry Lynn and Jim Wallis have claimed that the election proves the "Religious Right" is losing its influence and might be a movement of the past, while Richard Land and Tony Perkins claim evangelicals stayed with Republicans and helped pass important ballot initiatives and thus prove their continuing influence. Although most white evangelicals voted for John McCain, Barack Obama did better than John Kerry had done four years earlier (and likely improved even more among evangelicals if all evangelicals were included in exit polls and not just white ones). Obama especially made gains among younger evangelicals and among evangelicals in important swing states (like Colorado, Indiana, and North Carolina) that helped give him the presidency. So, both sides have enough pieces of evidence to make it fit their own hopes. However, the real picture seems to be more complicated than what either side is offering.

One especially poor argument made in considering how the evangelical vote played out in the election was a line offered by Richard Land (whose poor record of political punditry was exposed in a piece I wrote recently for Ethics Daily). Land argued that evangelical support for McCain was because "they would never exchange pro-life views for pro-Earth views." But why must it be either/or? Why must there be an exchange? When one becomes pro-Earth, that does not mean one is no longer pro-life (in fact, it could be seen as an extension of pro-life views). These are not mutually exclusive beliefs. To pit them against each other is contrary to biblical teachings.