Are Evangelicals Always Conservative?

Image from http://www.istockphoto.com/file_thumbview_approve/384031/2/istockphoto_384031-evangelism.jpg

In today’s world, it seems like evangelical Christians are the farthest right people in the entire country. When most liberals think of evangelicals, a picture of Rick Santorum or Michelle Bachmann most likely comes to mind. This view of fundamentalists certainly has its basis in facts. After all, 74% of politically active evangelicals voted for John McCain in the 2008 presidential election. [1] Schools like Liberty University don’t give the fundamentalist movement a good image either, since Liberty has an openly conservative bias and teaches creationism over evolution. [2] However; quite a few evangelical leaders, both current and former, have been members of the Democratic Party or supported liberal policies. Among these leaders are Jimmy Carter, Billy Graham, William Jennings Bryan, and Rick Warren.

The 39th President of the United States of America, Jimmy Carter, was a fundamentalist and possibly more religious than Ronald Reagan. Carter was certainly one of the most religious presidents we’ve ever had. He would pray several times a day and always asked himself the question, “If you were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” [3] Instead of becoming a blind follower to the ironically named “Moral Majority”, he still showed his loyalty to the Democratic Party and instituted liberal energy policies and liberal foreign policy towards Russia.

Billy Graham, possibly the most famous evangelical of all time, is in fact a Democrat. [4] Although he believes that religion needs to stay separate from politics, he still retains his membership with the Democratic Party. Billy Graham has publicly stated that he believes that evangelicals need to stop associating themselves with the Republican Party. As Reverend Graham once stated, “I’m for morality, but morality goes beyond sex to human freedom and social justice. We as clergy know so very little to speak with authority on the Panama Canal or superiority of armaments. Evangelists cannot be closely identified with any particular party or person. We have to stand in the middle in order to preach to all people, right and left. I haven’t been faithful to my own advice in the past. I will be in the future.”

William Jennings Bryan, a founding member of the modern Democratic Party, retained an extreme fundamentalist view towards religion his entire life. Although he defended creationism in the infamous Scopes Monkey Trial, he was a leader of the Populist movement and a staunch supporter of liberal economic policies. Bryan was so beloved by the poor and many middle class people that became known as the “Great Commoner”. In his time, he was an avid supporter of anti-imperialism and as big a trust buster as Theodore Roosevelt. Bryan is famous for his “Cross of Gold” speech, which if you haven’t read yet, is possibly the most liberal economic speech ever.

Finally, current evangelical leader Rick Warren holds many liberal views, although he still remains backwards on some issues such as gay marriage. Obama was so impressed by Rick Warren that he decided to invite Rick Warren to give the invocation at his inauguration. [5] Rick Warren is one of the leaders in fighting world poverty, through his famous P.E.A.C.E plan. Not only is he passionate about helping the poor, but he has come out in his support for protecting the environment and acknowledges the fact that humans are responsible for global warming. [6] Although Warren is a believer in traditional marriage, he does show that he actually cares about the sanctity of marriage. Warren has publicly stated that divorce is a much greater threat to marriage than homosexuality, a statement that most conservative leaders wouldn’t even come close to saying.

As liberals, we must always remember to be tolerant and to take a strong stance against prejudice. This includes the evangelical movement! Despite the fact that evangelicals are the most conservative voting block in America, many evangelicals can still be open-minded people and will vote based on what they believe to be the most moral decision.

1. http://brandtao.wordpress.com/2008/11/06/demographics-for-us-presidential-election-2008/
2. http://www.wiretapmag.org/wire/86552/
3. Carter, Jimmy; Richardson, Don (1998). Conversations with Carter. Lynne Rienner Publishers. p. 14.
4. http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/8326362
5. http://articles.cnn.com/2008-12-17/politics/obama.warren_1_gay-marriage-gay-equality-gay-rights-proponents?_s=PM:POLITICS
6. http://www.nytimes.com/2006/02/08/national/08warm.html?ex=1155787200&en=19d0c89eb3b4f5c6&ei=5070