Unfortunately, the powers that be at the New Yorker have not seen fit to put Frances Fitzgerald’s Annals of Religion piece up on the web–the latest effort to answer the question: Is the old religious right giving way to a new, broader, more moderate engaged evangelicalism? Fitzgerald, who’s been on the beat off and on since she investigated Jerry Falwell and his church for her Cities on a Hill back in 1981, thinks she does see a turning of the tide, though she doesn’t omit notes of caution. The article revolves around Joel Hunter, the Orlando megachurch pastor who deserves to be considered one of the leading figures in the movement, if movement it be. Hunter’s religious identity was formed in an Ohio Methodist church, and even as he found his way to a conservative evangelical theology, he has clearly retained the inclusive, community-building strain of Midwestern Methodism. (For more on this, see Andrew Walsh and my One Nation Divisible: How Regional Religious Differences Shape American Politics, forthcoming from Rowman and Littlefield in a few weeks.)
At the end of the article, Hunter says that in the Florida primary he voted for Mike Huckabee as
“the first iteration” of a new type of evangelical leader–someone who cared about climate change and the plight of the poor, and didn’t take himself all that seriously. “When I am looking for a candidate, I am looking for a person who doesn’t have his wallet or his gun where his heart should be,” he said at the time.
But at the present moment, the first iteration is looking like nothing so much as a Republican hack. Huck Blog has turned into a succession of puffs for some of the least attractive GOP officials ever to walk down K Street–reaching even unto the likes of Alaska’s Don Young. On the issues, he seems more about wallets and guns than heart. Maybe Huck’s just biding his time. But I suspect the Hunters of the world are starting to look around for New Evangelical Candidate 2.0.