BU evangelical Christians define political voice

By Adam Harris


Religious values and established voting patterns have traditionally been very influential in the way ballots are cast.

The nation saw its first “born-again” Christian president with the election of Jimmy Carter in 1976.

Dr. Andrew Hogue, author of “Stumping God: Reagan, Carter, and the Invention of a Political Faith” and political science lecturer, considers the 1980 presidential election to be the point at which evangelical white Christians found their political voice.

Among other efforts, around three million members of Jerry Falwell’s “Moral Majority” group registered to vote. The Moral Majority group was founded in 1979 in an effort to support the ideals of the evangelical Christian community through politics.

In the election, these votes ended up going to the Republican Party, and Ronald Reagan was ultimately elected. The Christian vote played a part.

Since the 1980 election, the “Christian Right” has been composed of evangelical Christians who align themselves with many of the social values the Republican Party holds, Hogue said. Their ideas on social policies like abortion and gay rights agree with the religious ideals they hold.

“Something like 74 percent of evangelical white Christians voted for John McCain in the 2008 election,” Hogue said. He said this high number is a decrease compared to voters in the past. Hogue said there was a difference when it came to younger members of this religious group. “Younger white evangelicals have been more likely than their parents to vote Democratic,” he said.

As a private Christian university, Baylor comprises 89.8 percent Christians including Catholics and Protestants, in its undergraduate student body, many of whom are of age to vote in the upcoming election.

Some students are saying they won’t vote for one party or the other solely based on their religion.

Emily Roberson, Tatum sophomore, is a Southern Baptist. Roberson said she believes there is a generational difference when it comes to politics.

“I believe differently than my parents on some issues,” Roberson said. She said that she leans toward the candidate who shares the majority of her ideas on hot-button topics.

Dallas sophomore Stephanie Shaerrell echoed Roberson’s statement about the individual stances of politicians.

“There are so many different topics that you need to know your stuff,” Shaerrell said.

She said her religion plays a part in how she thinks but doesn’t completely mold her ideals.

“It’s more about the stances they have,” she said.

Others take a conflicting stance toward the generalization. Houston junior Victoria Manon, said she considers these generalizations a poor decision.

“It’s upsetting,” Manon said. She said she believed voting based solely on a religious affiliation is a mistake.

“If you’re going to vote, be informed,” Manon said.

Others are taking a more public stance.

Aaron Weaver, a doctoral candidate at Baylor, has a Master of Arts in Church-State Studies from the J.M. Dawson Institute and has written a book called “James M. Dunn and Soul Freedom,” which focuses on the idea of separating religious identity from politics.

When he was growing up, Weaver had a bumper sticker on his guitar case that read “Christian and a Democrat.” He says today, groups such as evangelical white Christians seem to support the Republican Party overwhelmingly.

“Now if you are an evangelical white Christian, you are told to be a Republican,” Weaver said. He says that this thinking is bad for Christianity and creates a “hyper-Americanized” group that finds itself generalizing their political ideals.

Weaver said that as a Christian, members of the religion should be involved with politics.

He says every Christian is a lobbyist in the same way that they are advocates. This means that as a citizen, they should have a voice for the views they hold.

Both parties have focused their energy to find ways to appeal to the religious values of their voters. Like the Republicans who focus on social values, Hogue said the Democratic Party uses its views of social injustice to provoke the votes of religious groups. These social matters include care for the poor as well as work to help the environment.

This leads to an increase of Democratic votes in the young community.

“Their issues tend to resonate among young voters,” Hogue said. “I think we need to exercise care in assuming that one political party has it all right.”

Hogue said there are many questions voters must ask themselves before voting.

“What can those offices reasonably achieve with respect to our values?” Hogue said, “No political party can fully encapsulate the will of God.”