Christian involvement in conservative politics today looks radically different from the activism of the eighties.

The morning after last month’s California primary, Traditional Values Coalition (TVC) founder Louis Sheldon was tired, but exultant. He had stayed up much of the night awaiting election returns, and his assessment was simple: “The Christians won.”

The California primary had indeed been a season of unprecedented grassroots mobilization of conservative Christian activists. TVC combined efforts with a powerful regional chapter of the Virginia-based Christian Coalition (CC) and a bevy of well-informed citizens affiliated with groups that included Concerned Women for America, Focus on the Family, Operation Rescue (OR), and Citizens for Excellence in Education. They staffed phone banks, walked precincts, distributed tens of thousands of voter’s guides, volunteered in campaigns, and in many cases, ran for office themselves.

Sheldon and other religious activists say the results of their efforts are undeniable: Hundreds of “prolife, profamily” candidates won at all levels, from school boards to Congress. Eleven out of 13 pro-family candidates in targeted California state assembly races were victorious. Ironically, the biggest victory by the conservative Christians came in a race for the U.S. Senate, where Jewish television commentator Bruce Herschensohn narrowly upset moderate Republican Tom Campbell.

What was at work in California was not Jerry Falwell’s Religious Right. Rather, it was a new generation of well-organized, politically sophisticated Christian activism that is rising up across the country. Its emphasis is a grassroots approach that looks radically different from that of the 1980s.

“There has been a strategic ...

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