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Today's sermon

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An extensive article in today's NY Times magazine (link fixed) examines the split among politically active conservatives in the race for the Republican nomination but also a much larger theme -- resistance to the war in conservative pulpits and a turn to broader issues (Jesus' teachings on social justice) away from the all-abortion-and-gays-all-the-time message of the old lions of the Religious Right. A hopeful quote from an influential conservative preacher, William Hybels:

In the past, Hybels has scrupulously avoided criticizing conservative Christian political figures like Falwell or Dobson. But in my talk with him, he argued that the leaders of the conservative Christian political movement had lost touch with their base. “The Indians are saying to the chiefs, ‘We are interested in more than your two or three issues,’ ” Hybels said. “We are interested in the poor, in racial reconciliation, in global poverty and AIDS, in the plight of women in the developing world.”

He brought up the Rev. Jim Wallis, the lonely voice of the tiny evangelical left. Wallis has long argued that secular progressives could make common cause with theologically conservative Christians. “What Jim has been talking about is coming to fruition,” Hybels said.

Mike Huckabee is mentioned as a candidate from the religious right whose themes echo the changing interests of conservative congregations.

But the leaders of the Christian conservative movement have not rallied to him. Many say he cannot win because he has not raised enough money. Perkins and others have criticized Huckabee for taking too soft an approach to the Middle East. Others worry that his record on taxes will anger allies on the right. And some Christian conservatives take his “gestation period” line as a slight to their movement.

“They finally have the soldier they have been waiting for, and they shouldn’t send me out into the battlefield without supplies,” Huckabee told me in exasperation. He argued that the movement’s leaders would “become irrelevant” if they started putting political viability or low taxes ahead of their principles about abortion and marriage.

“In biblical terms, it is like the salt losing its flavor; it’s sand,” Huckabee said. “Some of them have spent too long in Washington. . . . I think they are going to have a hard time going out into the pews and saying tax policy is what Jesus is about, that he said, ‘Come unto me all you who are overtaxed and I will give you rest.’ ”

It's a fascinating article. Giuliani is the most popular candidate among evangelicals, apparently, pro-choice or no.

ALSO: Frank Rich synthesizes all this, particularly Giuliani's prominence, in a column that notes a poll in which evangelicals put poverty far ahead of abortion on their lists of concerns. Referring to the Family Research Council and James Dobson, among others on the far religious right (these good Christians are behind the gay-obsessed Family Council in Arkansas), Rich says one explanation for Giuliani is:

These self-promoting values hacks don't speak for the American mainstream. They don't speak for the Republican Party.

I agree with Part I. Time will tell on Part II.

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