Skip to comments.Why Sarah Palin's Speech Will Not Win Over All Evangelicals
Posted on 09/04/2008 7:58:19 AM PDT by mathprof
I teach at a Catholic university. I study and write about evangelical Protestants. I have no religious convictions of my own. This bothers people who insist that if you are not yourself religious you cannot possibly "get" religion. I leave it to others to decide whether my lack of faith helps or hinders my capacity to understand the subject. But I do know one thing. Because of where I teach and who I study, I have come across some remarkable people I otherwise would never have met.
Familiar with the Catholic tradition, I cannot say I am surprised to meet learned Catholics with a deeply honed sense of social justice. But I have been taken aback by how many evangelicals to whom I have spoken who think deeply about the obligations we human beings have toward each other, take seriously a command to lead lives of good purpose, and resist having their faith corrupted by the temptations of money and power. Megachurches and Christian colleges and seminaries have more than their share of people who love God and want to make the world a better place.
Sarah Palin's speech last night was rapturously received by the delegates to the Republican convention, most of whom are conservative Christians. But just because most Republicans are conservative Christians does not mean that all conservative Christians are Republican. I have the feeling that Palin's speech will not wear well among many of the primarily younger evangelicals I have come to know.
To be sure, Palin's personal story will resonate with them, especially the story of Trig. (At one evangelical event in Atlanta I attended, I was bowled over by the parents of a quadriplegic child to whom they had clearly devoted their lives; I do not think I have the same level of devotion within me). But three aspects of Palin's speech are likely to bother them.
Evangelicals are becoming increasingly persuaded that Christians are under an injunction to preserve and protect the natural environment bequeathed to us by God. They will not be attracted to destroying the beauty of Alaska to fill our all-too- human urge to drive cars. Christians are from time to time called on to sacrifice for their beliefs, and if we have to cut back our energy consumption to protect God's gift, that is as worthy a sacrifice as there is. Palin rhetorically called for clean energy but her words lacked conviction, especially when compared to her calls to drill and drill some more. This will be noticed.
Palin's speech, secondly, was too partisan to be easily swallowed by younger, post-partisan, evangelicals. These are people who disagree with Barack Obama's position on abortion but respect him as a Christian. Palin's over-the-top sarcasm toward Obama will not play well with them, especially her implicit questioning of his patriotism. To the extent that these younger evangelicals are political, they look for a politics of elevation. The whole tone of last night's convention will prove to be a bit too sour. You do not call for change and adhere to the Rove-Schmitt style of attack.
Finally, and most importantly, Palin did not speak to the powerful sense emerging among evangelicals that all Christians, and not just Catholics, should do their best to insure social justice in this world. On the contrary, Palin mocked Obama's service as a community organizer, an odd thing to do given that so many community organizers are inspired by their religious convictions. Promising to cut taxes appeals to country-club Republicans. It is not nearly as resonant a theme to those who understand that the programs financed by taxes help the neediest and most dependent. If Palin said one word about how to make this world a fairer place or indicated at any point how to realize the common good, I did not hear it.
This is the moment for Sarah Palin to have her day. But great speeches are meant to be digested over long periods. This is not one that future generations of evangelicals will turn to for inspiration.
Alan Wolfe is a TNR contributing editor and director of the Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life at Boston College.
Alan Wolfe - was a member of the collective that put out the Marxist-oriented journal, Kapitalistate, whose pages featured articles by such writers as Poulantzas, Claus Offe, Ralph Miliband, and Bob Jessop. By the early 1980s, Wolfe's politics had become more centrist.
A contributing editor of The New Republic, The Wilson Quarterly, Commonwealth Magazine, and In Character, Wolfe writes often for those publications as well as for Commonweal, The New York Times, Harper's, The Atlantic Monthly, The Washington Post, and other magazines and newspapers. He served as an advisor to President Bill Clinton in preparation for his 1995 State of the Union Address...
what is a “C”, why and how is it messed up, and why are you a former “C”?
LMAO... the New Republic is now an expert on Evangelicals!
LOL, very funny.
“...I cannot say I am surprised to meet learned Catholics with a deeply honed sense of social justice.”
Social justice. That’s all I needed to know about this guys opinion.
True enough but to add one bit to it, one can not support abortion and be a Christian.
Freep-mail me to get on or off my pro-life and Catholic List:
Please ping me to note-worthy Pro-Life or Catholic threads, or other threads of interest.
Obama Says A Baby Is A Punishment
I am a white, conservative, middle class evangelical.
I think I will write a column on how Barak Obama cannot win over the votes of homeless, cross-dressing African Americans.
“I have no religious convictions of my own. “
I love the pretentious condescending I speak for you tone of this author
LOL. I am sure evangelicals are more drawn to Barry and his worldview than those of Palin.
Sure. She REALLY has them worried. They probably had already paid for renovations to the White House. I hear they were going for a Temple of Delphi theme.
Complete with smoke machine and a theatrical lift system so that Barry can be lowered down from the Heavens when meeting with foreign leaders.
I have no idea why people seem to believe they are all Conservative. It just makes no sense at all.
These liberal believers actually think Jesus was a liberal reformer, so there ya go.........
I am sorry, but I don’t do “religion”.
“I teach at a Catholic university. I study and write about evangelical Protestants. I have no religious convictions of my own.”
“Why would someone with no religious convictions want to teach at a Catholic university?” I asked myself. Then I saw that this was Boston College...no Catholic university it.
I’m not an evangelical, nor do I play one on TV, but I think this guy is out to lunch.
First of all, the headline: Of course her speech won’t win over ALL evangelicals. That was never in question. That’s as stupid as saying one Obama speech can win over ALL African-Americans.
To the specifics: I don’t recall Sarah Palin saying that we should be “destroying the beauty of Alaska to fill our all-too- human urge to drive cars.” This moron seems to think Palin called for oil derricks to be set up across 100% of Alaska’s pristene, scenic landscape. ANWR is not pristene or scenic, nobody sees it but a bunch of caribou, and we’re only talking about a small percentage of land there, anyway.
This was a political convention. Conventions are, by their very nature, partisan. There’s a news flash for you. Go back and watch Biden’s speech. Or Obama’s. Do you hear any partisanship there? But, I guess THAT won’t turn off evangelicals, because evangelicals like leftist partisanship. And when did Palin “implicit[ly] question... [Obama’s] patriotism.”? I’m not sure what speech this guy was watching.
Finally, how is a “community organizer” working for social justice? Isn’t he, rather, working to build up a voting base and curry favors? Most Catholics, evangelicals, and any other Christians who want to work for the benefit of their communities do so through charitable works that their Church performs. They don’t spend their time registering Democrats to vote.
Well, at least this is on the issues. He’s not calling for the death of her child and grandchild.
It must be those Christians who agree with Hebrews 11:6 "And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him."