Consider, for example, the following article I translated from the Oct. 24 edition of El Mundo, which, with a center-right political orientation, is the second-most widely read newspaper in Spain, just behind El País, which has more left-wing leanings…
You get to the vote through the church
CINCINNATI. – The Democrats may have the labor unions and the environmentalists. But the Republicans have the churches. American churches have become propaganda centers for conservative political ideas, especially in the South and the West.
In Ohio alone, the Patriotic Pastors association has 1,000 members. Each one of them is committed to seeing to it that at least 300 of their church members are registered to vote, which would mean adding some 300,000 conservatives, or, as the organizers of the initiative prefer to call them, "values voters," to the electoral census.
The message of these religious leaders is clear: any candidate who opposes abortion and homosexual marriage has their support. In addition to these, there are other issues, like cutting public spending, or the allocation of social programs to the oversight of religious groups, the right to bear firearms, and tax cuts.
Although these groups are not officially Republican, they totally identify with the ideals of that party. Their influence is not limited to mobilizing voters.
In the Ohio governor’s campaign, Ken Blackwell, has received about $27,000, that is, 25 times more than his opponent, Strickland.
However, the power of these groups is excessive, even in the opinion of many Republicans. Since their influence within the party is so great that, if a candidate wants to win the primaries, he/she must lean so much towards the conservative side that he/she frequently ends up losing the backing of the centrists, who, in the end, are the ones that decide the outcome of the majority of elections.
Such is the case for Blackwell. «During the Republican primaries, there was a race between the candidates to see who was the most conservative. Blackwell won. And now he’s stuck in a dead-end street," Burke explains. On the 14th, after a Republican rally in Kentucky, just south of Ohio, a member of the Republican machinery didn’t hide his distaste for the evangelical Christians (ultra-conservative Protestants) who were leaving the building. "These people are going to cost us the elections," he said.
Evidently, it is possible that they will cost the election for some candidates. But the temptation to court this influential sector is very great. In Ohio, 25% of voters define themselves as "evangelical," and three out of every four members of that group voted for Bush in 2004.
Among those that go to their religious events (to call their ceremonies "masses", which are more like TV shows than religious functions, would be an exaggeration), 97% voted for the President.
Up against this religious wall, the Democrats haven’t had any choice but to organize the labor unions, and introduce initiatives such as a referendum to raise the minimum wage in Ohio, with the object of mobilizing their voter bases. So, in the end, the war between the churches and the labor unions is going to be one of the keys in Ohio on November 7.
The majority of Spaniards are not supportive of American right-wing conservative politics. Up until recently, Evangelicals, in general (not to speak of Baptists as an even smaller subset), due to their miniscule representation among the Spanish population (0.4%), have been a pretty much unknown element in Spanish life and public opinion. For some reason, though, whenever Evangelicals do make the national news in Spain, it usually has something to do with our "less seemly side."
For example, back a few years ago, the Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart scandals made headlines in Spain, even though no one in Spain had ever even heard of them before the stories broke. When Pat Robertson declared that the US ought to "take out" Hugo Chávez in Venezuela, that also made the news in Spain. But, more than anything else, since George W. Bush’s election as President, and especially since the war in Iraq, the majority of the times Evangelicals are mentioned in the news seem to be related to Evangelical political activity, and their support for President Bush and his policies.
I consider myself to be generally conservative in my personal political views. I am especially interested in defending the rights of the unborn, and of traditional families. At the same time, I am deeply concerned about poverty and injustice, both in the United States and around the world, especially in places like Darfur. I am in basic agreement that, as Christians, we should not silence our prophetic voice on these crucial issues.
However, I think it is important that, as people who give lip-service to the "core value" of world evangelization, we are aware of the effect our political activity in the States has, at times, upon our efforts to preach the Gospel in other parts of the world. These things are very hard to measure with any degree of objectivity. But, I myself have sensed a decreasing a priori openness to me as an American in Spain ever since the Iraq war. Yes, by being humble, sincere, friendly, non-judgmental and demonstrating a servant attitude, some of these attitudes can be overcome with time. Nonetheless, there are real barriers for us as American missionaries that were not quite as hard to get past before all of this happened as they are now.
Even worse, at times, the non-believing Spaniard who is confronted for the first time with the claims of Christ, must evaluate whether identifying him/herself with the evangelical community will also involve identifying him/herself with American conservative politics.
How do we deal with this dilemma? I do not believe the answer is easy. I do believe, however, that whenever we choose to openly link ourselves as Evangelicals with certain political views, we must be fairly confident that the views we take are really a result of an authentically biblical worldview, and not merely a reflection of certain provincial cultural values. What are our true core values? Does world evangelization really rank as high on our list as we say it does?
Woe to the world because of its stumbling blocks! For it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come; but woe to that man through whom the stumbling block comes!
Matthew 18.7 (NASB)