When evangelical pastor and best-selling author Rick Warren announced he would undertake a preaching mission to North Korea next year, it raised a number of eyebrows in the conservative religious community.
North Korea, after all, is a keystone in President Bush's "axis of evil" and, according to the State Department and human rights organizations, a gross violator of human rights and religious freedom.
Warren, author of the hugely popular Purpose-Driven Life books, cancelled a preliminary July 17 trip to Pyongyang in the wake of heightened tensions between the reclusive regime and the West over North Korea's July 5 test of seven missiles.
But while Warren's trip was canceled, he insisted his preaching visit would go on next year despite criticism from other evangelicals and the Bush administration's efforts to totally isolate the country. "Regardless of politics, I will go anywhere I am invited to preach the gospel," Warren said.
Warren's stance is just one of a number of indications that, at least on foreign policy issues, the president can no longer automatically count on the supportor at least quiet acquiescenceof conservative and moderate evangelicals as he did in the run-up to the war in Iraq.
Whether the differences on North Korea will translate into differences on other issues remains to be seen. Evangelicals have been notably silentneither critics nor cheerleaderson the continuing crisis in the Middle East and the Bush administration's unrelenting support of Israel's offensive in Lebanon and Gaza.
Only one evangelical organizationthe International Christian Embassy in Jerusalemhas said it "will pray for Israel's unqualified victory" over Hezbollah and Hamas, according to a summary of ...