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"Losing my faith in humanity ... one neocon at a time."

Monday, January 17, 2005

A journey into the evangelical fortress of darkness

posted by Jazz at 1/17/2005 08:41:00 AM

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Gary Stern, religion reporter for New York's Journal News, took a trip into the heart of Ohio, Butler County to be exact, to do a report on the relationship between religion and politics in that swing state. His coverage, while in a smaller media outlet, is definitely worth a read.

He found a frightening collection of people comprising unlikely demographics in even more unexpected settings who were basing their votes and their politics on sermons from the pulpit far more than issues from the campaign trail. It might help to explain a lot of the mind boggling election results. It's a long article, but the portion quoted below was taken from interviews done with white, middle to upper class evangelicals attending a recently open "born again" church in Butler County, Ohio.

Some stereotypes about evangelicals don't hold up at The River Church. The congregation is almost entirely composed of super-educated, professional young families. They're engineers, scientists and computer geeks who make small talk about their kids' schools.

They opened a new church in September that looks like an oversized ranch-style home, right next to a cornfield. It's decorated in muted blues and grays and centers around an open cafe that could be the setting for a TV sitcom.

Most River-goers would look right at home in downtown Rye or a Piermont boutique.

That is, until they start talking politics and morals. They mock liberals and Democrats with the same tone of confidence and bewilderment that many New Yorkers direct at voters who emphasize moral values.

"The way George Bush wants to lead the country is much more in tune with how we want to lead our family," said Margaret Bush, 38, a first-grade teacher. She and her husband, Brian, 40, who works in customer service, have three children, ages 12, 9 and 2.

"(President Bush) is more supportive of those values than, not just John Kerry, but the whole Democratic Party," she said.

These people aren't wasting valuable brain cycles worrying about things like Social Security, deficits, or body bags coming back from Iraq. They are looking at George Bush and reading the "Born Again Christian" tag in the back of his shirt collar and saying, 'That's the guy for us."

The author took the time to sit down with a number of the members of the congregation and try to discover the link between their religion and their curious political beliefs. The results go beyond surprising and straight into frightening. Here are a few of the answers he received.

"The stance President Bush was willing to take on certain issues, even though he went against popular thought, was influential to me," said Joyce Russell, 37, the pastor's wife. "I like his steadfastness. I know he is fallible, a man, but I also know he seeks wisdom."

"It's important in a world leader that you don't flinch," said Dan Stevning, 41, who works in pharmaceutical sales.

The group was about as conservative as a Karl Rove staff meeting: Wholly supportive of the war in Iraq as part of the war on terror, critical of media coverage of the war, dismissive of John Kerry as a flip-flopping stooge, and still unforgiving of Bill Clinton for reasons that hardly need to be stated.

The evening's hostess, Terri Dehner, a 41-year-old cardiologist, visited Times Square after Thanksgiving and confessed to being surprised by the lack of "personal space," but having an overall feeling of safety. When the group's talk turned to abortion, she criticized a doctor she knows who aborted a 27-week-old fetus because he believed the mother's health was in danger.

"Even if the mother's health was at risk, there are people walking around who were born at 27 weeks," she said.

There you have it. These are the people who are deciding the country's future. Welcome to the new frontier, people. If you're not thumping a Bible, be sure to keep a low profile.