What evangelicals?

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Yesterday, Terry Mattingly was beating his familiar drum on the uncertain ontology of evangelicals. What is an evangelical? Why do journalists seize on a character like pastor Rod Parsley and imagine that he somehow speaks for all of them? Why tmatt, religion reporter since the dawn of time, doesn’t even hardly know who Parsley is!
Enough already. Yes, evangelicals are a more amorphous group than, say, Catholics. But for purposes of political discussion, they are simply those people who identify themselves as “evangelical or born-again Christians.” For all their differences, denominational and otherwise, they in fact constitute a coherent voting bloc; indeed, white evangelicals are a far more coherent voting bloc than white Catholics are. They tend to vote as Republican as Jews vote Democratic. And their leaders are as worth paying attention to as Catholic bishops and the likes of Bill Donohue.
As for Parsley, he’s not just one of any number of megachurch pastors who have notably conservative views on abortion, gay marriage, and Islam, as Mattingly would have it. He’s been the leading figure on the religion right in Ohio, a not inconsequential state in recent years, politically speaking. For enlightenment in this regard, take a look at this 1986 [correction:: er, make the 2006] New Yorker piece by Frances Fitzgerald. When John McCain solicited and received Parsley’s support (before rejecting it), he wasn’t just picking some pastor out of the crowd.

  • Ted Olsen

    FYI, that Fitzgerald piece is from 2006, not 1986. In 1986, Parsley was still in his 20s.

  • Mark Silk

    Whoops, what was I thinking? Maybe about Fitzgerald’s book on Falwell…