Election night did not go the way most evangelicals wanted. President Obama's reelection, losses by social conservative candidates in red states, and outcomes of four same-sex marriage ballot initiatives are all causing some evangelical leaders to reexamine what it means to be an "evangelical" in American politics.
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary president Al Mohler called the election a "catastrophe" and a "disaster" for evangelicals. Mohler told The New York Times that the "disaster" was more than the outcome—it was how social conservatives lost.
"It's not that our message—we think abortion is wrong, we think same-sex marriage is wrong—didn't get out. It did get out," Mohlersaid. "It's that the entire moral landscape has changed. An increasingly secularized America understands our positions, and has rejected them."
While social conservative groups think that the election loss was due to a failure of Republicans to emphasize social issues, other evangelical leaders are calling for a divorce of evangelicalism from partisan politics.
Sojourners president Jim Wallis said the elections were not a disaster for evangelicals per se, just those who "had again tied their faith to the partisan political agenda of the Republican Party."
Wallis wants evangelicals to be defined by their faith, not their politics. "Evangelical," said Wallis, is too often equated with "conservative white evangelical."
According to a post-election poll by the Pew Center for the People and the Press, 22 percent of Americans are white, self-described evangelicals. Of these, 84 percent voted for Republican candidate ...1