What do evangelicals want? Marcia Pally attempts to answer that question for at least some evangelicals in a recent essay at The Immanent Frame titled “Evangelicals who have left the right.” As with many previous pronouncements that something new—less judgmental, more generous—was afoot in evangelical-land, the little ripple of excitement around Pally’s essay gives me a distinct sense of deja vu. “The Beginning of the End of Christianism?” asked Andrew Sullivan; “The End of the Religious Right?” pondered Walter Russell Mead.
I’ve heard that ripple before—I watched Richard Cizik describe, in 2007, this “slow-moving earthquake”; in 2008 I covered a group of evangelicals unveiling “The Evangelical Manifesto” that Pally makes much of, though I’ve not heard a single person mention it since. Each election cycle since 2006 has generated a little burst of God-talk from Democrats in the hope of wooing disgruntled evangelicals from the GOP. It’s slow, alright, and perhaps more of a rumble than a quake. And while the durability of a new movement is always difficult to assess when it’s young, it is nonetheless already clear that the politics of the “new” evangelicals are more complicated than its evangelists often portray.
Pally’s essay is an update of her 2011 book and essay on the same subject, both of which appeared during the 2012 presidential campaign. In this latest essay she takes stock of evangelical voting trends in the election—79% of white evangelicals voted for Mitt Romney—and seeks to persuade us, in spite of this rather homogeneous voting pattern, that they are not as monolithic as we might think.
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