John Turner sends the following on our discussion of the religious left/right, and on America as a Christian Nation:
Building on John Fea's fine post, I've noticed since last year's midterm elections obituaries not just of key figures in the Religious Right, but of the Religious Right itself.
Earlier this year in TIME, Jim Wallis proclaimed that "The Era of the Religious Right Is Over." Wallis argued that evangelicals are deserting conservative politics in droves, driven by progressive issues like global warming, HIV/AIDS, and Darfur.
The deaths of Jerry Falwell and D. James Kennedy provide further evidence for such obituaries. Pat Robertson's influence continues to slowly wane. Ted Haggard fell from grace. Even Jim Dobson doesn't seem quite as formidable as he did only a few years ago. It is, perhaps, the end of an era.
This is not, however, the first time that pundits have proclaimed the passing of the Religious Right. This usually occurs in conjunction with Democratic electoral victories, such as those in 1992, 1996, and 2006. Ironically, as recently as 2004, the Religious Right looked stronger than ever by mobilizing opposition to gay marriage. The Religious Right's perceived strength seems to wax and wane in tandem with that of political conservatism more broadly. If the Democrats do indeed win a convincing victory in 2008, the Religious Right will seem like the relic of a bygone era.
There have been predictions of the rise of the Evangelical Left since the early 1970s – perhaps it will truly come to fruition. And perhaps young evangelicals will continue to move in progressive directions on issues like abortion and homosexuality. Progressive evangelicals, however, are still a long way from constituting anything approaching a mass movement.
It's hard to predict the future, but even without Falwell and Kennedy, prognostications of the Religious Right's permanent decline seem premature. Religious Right organizations remain well-organized, wealthy, and dedicated. When organizations fade or implode, they are quickly replaced. The Christian Coalition replaced the Moral Majority; Focus on the Family filled the vacuum when the Christian Coalition lost its momentum. I wouldn't be surprised to read about the resurgence of the Religious Right in 2010.