Brookings expert E.J. Dionne discusses his new book “Souled Out: Reclaiming Faith and Politics After the Religious Right” and the role of religion in politics on Washingtonpost.com Book World.
St. Mary’s City, Md.: I wish I could share your optimism about the era of the Religious Right being over. The movement appears to have grown in power during the Bush years, at one point controlling such institutions as the Air Force Academy and the Office of Faith-Based Initiatives. Signs of its growing influence have become more numerous recently — a Jewish member of Congress felt afraid to vote against HR 847, which was a symbolic endorsement of theocracy; Romney catered to Religious Right voters by bashing secularists as traitors; and Huckabee has openly called for a theocratic rewriting the Constitution. Huckabe’s “God’s standards” comment was made in the context of abortion and gay marriage. But it’s very likely he [might] go further and enact the rest of the Religious Right’s agenda, such as requiring schools to ban evolution and hold mandatory prayers, or even banning contraception.
E.J. Dionne Jr.: That is a very good question
E.J. Dionne Jr.: As I said, that was a very good question. My argument is that while some of the older organizations of the religious right still exist, many evangelical Christians, including conservatives, are broadening the agenda of their movement beyond issues such as abortion and gay marriage. I write in the book about Rich Cizik of the National Association of Envagelicals, who has been a leader in the movement to have us take global warming. Evangelican environmentalists talk about our obligation to “creation care.” I also write
about Rick Warren, the well-known preacher and author, is certainly a conservative, but he has said: “Jesus’ agenda is far bigger than one or two issues. We have to care about poverty, we have to care abour disease, we have to care about illiteracy, we have to care about corruption in government, sex trafficking. There are whole kinds of issues that are far more than just the few that evangelicals have been most known for. I care about those.” Many evangelicals are insisting that there movement should not simply be part of one party’s political machine. I argue there is a New Reformation going on among conservative Christians. As for Huckabee, I obviously have my political
disagreements with him, but I do think it’s significant that he talks quite a lot about poverty, education and health care. Theologically, he is very conservative. But many Establishment conservatives (such as Rush Limbaugh) are strongly against him because they see him as a populist and a different kind of evangelical. These are the kinds of changes I write about. Thanks for your contribution.