FaithWorld

U.S. “Religious Right” riled but lacks committed Christian leader

USA/Wanted: a leader for the U.S. social conservative movement. Must be able to press all the right buttons, be a committed Christian and have a vision to propel the Republican Party back to power.

U.S. social and religious conservatives will be searching for someone to fill that void as they gather in Washington this Friday to Sunday for the fourth annual summit of self-styled “Values Voters.” (Photo: Conservative protesters near the U.S. Capitol in Washington, 12 Sept 2009/Mike Theiler)

Dubbed the “Religious Right,” they have been stirred by a summer of discontent when their activists went on the offensive against Democratic President Barack Obama’s top domestic priority of healthcare reform, taking part in widely publicized town hall meetings on the issue that often turned raucous.

Formerly high-profile leaders of the religious right such as televangelist Jerry Falwell and political operative Ralph Reed have died or retreated from prominence. Last year’s economic crisis helped propel Obama to the White House.

“Social conservatives are looking for leadership and this is one of the places these folks are going to be shopping,” said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, a conservative Christian lobby group organizing the summit.

U.S. conservative Christians sound “cap and trade” alarms

America’s social and religious conservatives are turning up the heat as they galvanize heartland opposition against the latest example of President Barack Obama-inspired “socialism” — a climate change bill that aims to reduce fossil fuel emissions, which most scientists have linked to climate change.  

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The Democratic Party-led House of Representatives passed the bill on Friday. It would require large companies, including utilities and manufacturers, to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases associated with global warming by 17 percent by 2020 and 83 percent by 2050, from 2005 levels. It must still go through the U.S. Senate, where its ultimate fate remains uncertain despite the Democratic majority there.

Conservative Christians, a key base – if not THE base — for the out-of-power Republican Party, are among the biggest skeptics of human-induced global warming. In the eyes of many environmentalists, they were part of an “unholy alliance” with the energy industry that enjoyed its zenith under former president George W. Bush, who pulled America out of the Kyoto Protocol aimed at cutting emissions in the developed world. The Bush administration was widely seen as hostile to any attempt to cap emissions as well as the science behind it.

Southern Baptists (and Republicans): old, white and in decline?

The evangelical Protestant revival has been one of the most dynamic religious and social movements in the United States in the last three decades. According to the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, one in four U.S. adults now count themselves as followers of this faith tradition.

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So it may come as a surprise to some non-American readers of this blog that the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) – with 16 million members, America’s largest evangelical denomination and the country’s second largest after the Catholic Church — is ringing the alarm bells of decline.

Its research arm LifeWay Research released the following projections this week at the convention’s annual meeting in Kentucky:  it said its numbers would fall nearly 50 percent by 2050 “unless the aging and predominantly white denomination reverses a 50-year trend and does more to strengthen evangelism, reach immigrants, and develop a broader ethnic base.”

Gallup first: more Americans now “pro-life” than “pro-choice”

America may have a president and Congress that support abortion rights, but a new Gallup poll suggests that for the first time such a stance is not the majority view.

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Gallup said on Friday that a new poll, conducted May 7 to 10, found “51 percent of Americans calling themselves ‘pro-life’ on the issue of abortion and 42 percent ‘pro-choice.’ This is the first time a majority of U.S. adults have identified themselves as pro-life since Gallup began asking this question in 1995.”

The new results, obtained from Gallup’s annual Values and Beliefs survey, represent a significant shift from a year ago, when 50 percent were pro-choice and 44 percent pro-life. Prior to now, the highest percentage identifying as pro-life was 46 percent, in both August 2001 and May 2002.”

Another day, another faith coalition

Is it my imagination, or are there lots of new faith coalitions and initiatives sprouting up these days?

The newest one, launched on Wednesday, is The Mobilization to End Poverty. Its main driver is Sojourners, which claims to be the biggest group of self-styled “progressive” Christians in the United States.

The coalition will hold a conference in Washington from April 26-29. The organizers describe it as a “a historic gathering where thousands of Christians and antipoverty leaders will engage in a transformative experience of education, worship, community, and activism in Washington, D.C. Together, this powerful group will call on President Obama and the new Congress to make overcoming poverty a political priority and to develop a national plan that addresses this moral and spiritual crisis.”makeshift

WashPost column: “Armband religion killing Republican Party”

Has religion turned into a vote loser in U.S. elections? In covering the U.S. presidential campaign, most analysts took religion as an important vote-getting factor and asked which candidate was appealing most to which religious group. Much was made about how the Democrats were more comfortable with “Godtalk” on the trail.

Now Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker has asked whether religion has turned into a serious vote loser for the more faith-friendly party, the Republicans:

“The evangelical, right-wing, oogedy-boogedy branch of the GOP is what ails the erstwhile conservative party and will continue to afflict and marginalize its constituents if reckoning doesn’t soon cometh. Simply put: Armband religion is killing the Republican Party … the GOP has surrendered its high ground to its lowest brows. In the process, the party has alienated its non-base constituents, including other people of faith (those who prefer a more private approach to worship), as well as secularists and conservative-leaning Democrats who otherwise might be tempted to cross the aisle.”

Can Democrats hold gains they made with faith voters?

DALLAS – In a country where religion plays a big role in politics, U.S. Democrats have made some big gains with voters of faith.

A number of exit polls have shown that President-elect Barack Obama narrowed the “God gap” that existed when President George W. Bush, a Republican, defeated Democratic challenger John Kerry in 2004.

According to Faith in Public Life, a non-partisan resource center, and Public Religion Research, Obama increased the Democratic share of the tally among all groups categorized by how often they attend church.