Tonight's CBS Evening News included a fascinating new look at the evangelical movement, its priorities and its influence in the 2008 election. CBS found that, as young evangelicals focus on issues such as the crisis in Darfur, healthcare and, yes, even the environment, the movement's focus on social issues such as abortion and gay rights has dwindled significantly. In fact, according to a CBS poll of Americans who identify as evangelical, gay rights issues ranked a whopping 0% among issues they considered important to address. That's right: Zero.
That doesn't mean, of course, that all evangelical voters are abandoning the right-wing's 'bread and butter' tactics of attacking women and gays. Instead, a rift appears to be forming, as evidenced by stark contrasts in priorities as identified by the leader of the Southern Baptist Convention and Sojourners, a more progressive evangelical organization that is now gaining prominence in the movement.
That rift, however, may mean that, for the first time, evangelical voters do not line up behind Republican candidates, which could, in turn, mean a very significant shift in the 2008 election.
Katie Couric asked evangelical Christian writer and activist Jim Wallis: "Do you believe that evangelical Christians are still the domain of the GOP?"
"No, I think things are changing dramatically. They are up for grabs," he said. "Their votes are in play."
"Why were the followers of the prince of peace, the easiest ones to convince to go to war in Iraq?" Wallis said.
That's right . . . and he's an evangelical movement leader. And check out this quote:
"God is not a Republican or Democrat and people of faith should not be in any party's political pocket," Wallis said.
And that new attitude, according to CBS, could mean that evangelical voters are more open to supporting Democratic candidates for the White House. And among more conservative, traditional evangelical voters, a GOP ticket that includes social moderates like Rudy Guiliani could encourage a third party candidate for the Oval Office, further siphoning votes away from the Republican party.
Is anyone else having visions of the Ross Perot-George Bush-Bill Clinton 3-way of 1992? A similar dynamic in 2008 could considerably help the Democratic nominee again.
And that, in the end, could also mean good news for LGBT issues and voters, too.