Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

A quirky picture of conservative evangelicals

E.J. Dionne, Jr. reviews this book by Andrew M. Greeley and Michael Hout, which purports to complicate our view of conservative Christians.

One example of how the complications work: did you know that lots of African-Americans are conservative Christians, yet they hardly vote in overwhelming numbers of Republicans? If the authors and reviewer mean to say that thee’s no straight line between theological affirmation and political position, I agree wholeheartedly. But let’s at least look for what might the factors are that might be complicating the relationship. And let’s not lose sight of how those factors are present or absent in other conservative Christian communities.

And how about this?

[C]onservative Protestants were marginally more likely to watch PBS news programs daily than other Americans-with the exception of those who say they have no religion, who watched at about the same rate. “If one finds the temptation irresistible to picture all ‘Jesus people’ as religious fanatics,” Greeley and Hout write, “one should picture a fifth of them glued to PBS stations every evening.”

Without knowing more, this doesn’t tell me anything. How are they watching? What else are they watching? Is this a rejection of network news, or is it just preparation for the nature and cultural programming that follows?

And, finally, there’s this:

Interestingly, the authors report that conservatives were “more likely to admit infidelity in the course of a marriage than were Mainline Protestants.” On this point, they choose to depart from the data to make a moral point. “We wondered in passing why the leaders of the conservative denominations, so eager to denounce threats to the institution of the family, seem disinclined to criticize these relations (about which they claim to be ignorant), which are either fornication or adultery by their own moral standards,” they write. “Homosexuals, it would seem, threaten the family but not infidelity or living in sin.” Greeley and Hout are right to call our attention to this moral inconsistency.

No conservative Christian I know winks at infidelity, but there’s no explicit pro-adultery position in the public arena against which to react (unless, of course, you regard those who would in various ways weaken the bonds of marriage to be pro-adultery).

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