After the jump is the (hyperlinked) text of a column I filed last week from GodblogCon. Here are some related items worth exploring:
- “Evangelicals and Evil Empires: Religious voters have long had an interest in foreign policy,” OpinionJournal (HT: CT Liveblog).
- “Rudy’s Gamble: Giuliani’s audacious strategy for the nomination,” OpinionJournal.
- “Evangelical flocks on their own at the polls,” LA Times (HT: J-Walking).
- “On second thought, conservatives give Huckabee an amen,” LA Times.
- “Clarifying Media Distortions,” Focus on the Family.
- “Robertson for Rudy,” God’s Politics.
- “The Robertson Effect?” Townhall.com.
- A 1992 letter from Ron Weddington, co-counsel on Roe v. Wade, to then president-elect Bill Clinton, arguing for government provision of “vasectomies, tubal ligations and abortions…RU 486 and conventional abortions” (PDF) among the poor (HT: Judicial Watch). Compare this with Giuliani’s position as outlined in his 1989 speech.
My own feeling is that Mayor Giuliani is probably the most thoroughly tested and proven politician in the United States today and that he is well-equipped for the job. However, I do not support his bid, despite his clear competency. I feel a Giuliani nomination would be a major setback for pro-lifers in the sense that neither of the major parties would have a pro-life candidate at the top of the ticket, something that hasn’t happened for over a quarter of a century. In a time when we are considering something that seems to me to be a unique form of cannibalism (embryonic stem-cell research), I don’t want to see the Republican party back off on the life issue. Rather, I’m looking forward to a time when pro-life is a given stance among candidates just as racial equality is today.
“Rudy and the Godbloggers”
By Jordan Ballor
November 9, 2007
LAS VEGAS — If you think there’s a bit of irony in the third GodblogCon being held in Sin City , you’re not alone. The event, a satellite conference to the BlogWorld & New Media expo, puts some of America ’s leading Christian bloggers all together in a city usually associated with vices like gambling and prostitution.
While Internet mogul Mark Cuban delivered the keynote address at BlogWorld, prominent evangelicals such as Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Lexington, Ky. , were speaking to a diverse group of Christian writers and artists this week about the responsibilities and potential for new ways of engaging the broader culture. Evangelical and conservative Christian sponsors including Focus on the Family, the Family Research Council, and BreakPoint underscore how quickly social conservatives have embraced new media and attracted major support.
At a dinner for the GodblogCon sponsors, an illuminating discussion emerged about conservative Christian attitudes toward the current crop of GOP presidential candidates. The favorite of the 20 or so youngish Christian bloggers at the dinner was Fred Thompson although, as one wag put it, “the voters can’t be more enthusiastic than the candidate.” Mitt Romney — not Rudy Giuliani — was considered the GOP candidate with the best chance to beat Hillary Clinton.
At one point conservative media personality Hugh Hewitt asked the Christian bloggers to show, by a raise of hands, who would not vote for Rudy Giuliani under any circumstances. Five hands were raised, and mine was among them. The reasons for this position are simple and fundamental to social conservatism.
Giuliani’s positions on life issues, including abortion, are inimical to the basic pro-life commitments of social conservatives. Videos of a Giuliani speech to the “Women’s Coalition” in 1989 circulated widely on YouTube earlier this year. In this speech, Giuliani advocated government funding for abortions: “There must be public funding for abortions for poor women,” he said. Since that time Giuliani has consistently held this position.
When Christians live and work in a broader culture that doesn’t share their moral commitments, the question of how to engage that culture becomes paramount. Just as Godbloggers are faced with the difficulty of assessing how to interact with the broader, more secular, world of new media, evangelicals must determine how to think about a political situation in which the two major party candidates are consistently, clearly, and radically pro-choice.
Some decide that the only feasible option is to accommodate themselves to the political realities in order to maintain social power and relevance. Those are the sorts of calculations that are at play when a leader like Pat Robertson endorses Giuliani’s candidacy, as he did to much fanfare on Wednesday [Nov. 7].
Others, like the five of us who raised our hands, conclude that political expediency isn’t worth abandoning our commitments to consistently promoting a culture of life. Joe Carter, who runs the influential and hugely popular Evangelical Outpost, says his opposition to a Giuliani nomination “is about more than just not liking Giuliani. The nomination would be a clear signal that there’s no more room for social conservatives in the GOP.” Pointing to the Republican “fear-mongering” about Hillary Clinton, Carter doesn’t want to acquiesce to what could be considered manipulation of evangelical voters by the GOP.
A number of commentators have pointed to the fact that young evangelicals are becoming increasingly concerned with issues, such as the environment and international development, that old-guard evangelicals like Robertson have long ignored.
But what’s often missing in these descriptions of the new generation of evangelicals is the recognition that the broadened scope of evangelical attention doesn’t mean that we no longer pay attention to questions like abortion or stem-cell research. Many, if not most, young evangelicals are just as conservative on life issues as their forebears.
That’s bad news for the Giuliani campaign, which is counting on overcoming the core group of social conservatives who would never vote for him by making gains among the broad swath of independent and undecided voters.
Giuliani’s campaign reasons that the committed group of social conservatives who will not vote for a pro-life GOP candidate are passing away, and endorsements like those from Robertson give him some hope for optimism. But the consistent commitment of a growing generation of evangelical Christians to a culture of life pose a real threat to a Giuliani candidacy. For as many Christians as there are who decide to accommodate to the broader culture when faced with clear moral alternatives, there are more who will be unwilling to compromise their values.
Rudy Giuliani is betting that there are few enough of those latter folks to pose no threat to his campaign’s viability. But if the opinions of the young evangelical community are anything like those expressed in that GodblogCon dinner, then the odds facing a Giuliani candidacy in the general election could be long indeed.
Jordan J. Ballor is an associate editor and contributor to the Acton Institute’s PowerBlog.