Returns are still coming in, but the Christian Right’s early reaction to Barack Obama’s election as president ranges from gracious to courteous to deeply concerned. It’s also worth noting that the reactions do not include conciliation or surrender.
In fact, if you’re wondering whether Tuesday’s sweeping Democratic victory marked the end of the Christian Right’s influence in national electoral politics, Eagle Forum president Phyllis Schlafly offered this brief history lesson:
“The conservative movement will rise again, just as it re-rose in 1964 and nominated a little-known senator named Barry Goldwater, and rose again with the nomination and election of Ronald Reagan in 1980, and then, after (Bill) Clinton’s victory rose again and elected a big majority of Republican congressmen in 1994.”
Schlafly laid the blame for Obama’s victory squarely in the lap of President Bush. “The disarray of the conservative movement is the fault of George W. Bush and his advisor Karl Rove,” Schlafly told CNSNews.com. “I guess it turned out that he was not a conservative after all. He was a big government, big spending, globalist, ‘New World Order’-type of Republican
Other Christian Right leaders were more gracious in defeat.
In his blog this morning, R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, acknowledged that the “margin of victory and sense of a shift in the political landscape point to greater disappointments ahead” for conservative Christian voters. But, “Evangelical Christians face another challenge with the election of Sen. Obama, and a failure to rise to this challenge will bring disrepute upon the Gospel, as well as upon ourselves. There must be absolutely no denial of the legitimacy of President-Elect Obama’s election and no failure to accord this new President the respect and honor due to anyone elected to that high office. Failure in this responsibility is disobedience to a clear biblical command.”
Hugh Hewitt, conservative blogger and broadcaster, was equally generous: “It is an extraordinary thing, an achievement that will be recognized a hundred years hence, that Barack Obama has won the White House,” Hewitt said in his blog. “Even those of us who opposed him, and who will no doubt be opposed to many of his policy objectives over the next four years, must pause and say congratulations on an improbable, amazing rise.”
Like Schlafly, Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council pinned Tuesday’s failures on particular politicians, not principles. “This was not a rejection of conservative values,” but a rejection of Republicans who had abandoned conservative principles, Perkins said. “Clearly, our work is cut out for us.”
Officials at James Dobson’s Focus on the Family seem to agree. They chose to focus on the success of Tuesday’s anti-gay marriage ballot initiatives in Arizona, California and Florida. “A tremendous night for the cause of righteousness,” senior vice president Tom Minnery said on Focus’s CitizenLink webcast.
Southern Baptist leader Richard Land told Christianity Today that “Evangelicals did their part. The exit polling is showing that there’s no drop-off among evangelicals. The 2006 elections showed us that evangelicals can’t win elections by themselves. If indeed the three marriage initiatives win, it will show that the values voters were not the ones who lost this election. If evangelicals are sad about the election, I’m going to say, ‘Do you have faith in God? Is your faith in God or in government?'”
But Mohler sees the challenge in another way: “Will the Republican Party decide that conservative Christians are just too troublesome for the party and see the pro-life movement as a liability? There is the real danger that the Republicans, stung by this defeat, will adopt a libertarian approach to divisive moral issues and show conservative Christians the door.”
So who’s right? Mohler or Perkins? Was Tuesday’s Republican defeat a rejection of the party’s “conservative Christian” politics or of “Republicans who had abandoned conservative principles.”?