Evangelical Christians who shun involvement in politics in an effort to remain “pure” are handing over by default an important realm of life “to those who don’t share the moral vision of Christianity,” says American Baptist Paul Henry, a political science professor at Calvin College and a Republican county chairman.

His is one of many voices in the past few years calling for evangelicals to get involved politically. There is mounting evidence lately that the idea is catching on.

A number of developments make this election year one of special interest for evangelicals. Among them:

• Of the leading presidential candicates, four are professing Christians: Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, George Wallace, and Ronald Reagan.

• Religion is getting national attention in campaign press coverage.

• Hard feelings have developed between some Christians in Congress over differences in political ideology.

• Bill Bright of Campus Crusade for Christ has become a center of controversy in connection with politically oriented statements and activities.

Ford is open, though not vocal, about his religious views. A lifelong Episcopalian, he credits the spiritual deepening of his life in recent years to involvement in prayer groups, study of the Bible, and the influence of other Christians, especially evangelist Billy Zeoli. In a letter to Zeoli he stated that he had received Christ as his personal saviour and was being helped through prayer and Bible study (he and Zeoli study together periodically using the paraphrased Living Bible). He encouraged his son Michael to select an evangelical seminary. But he smokes a pipe, dances, and drinks cocktails before supper, and these practices disturb many conservative Christians (Episcopalians traditionally have not ...

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