Douglas Todd, a reporter for the Vancouver Sun, wrote an excellent article regarding Turtle Island Evangelicalism: http://www.vancouversun.com/news/state+North+American+evangelicalism/5627764/story.html
Turtle Island evangelicals are those who claim to believe in Jesus Christ,and that the words of the Holy Bible are all inspired by God. They have formed denominations and churches all across the continent, and planted the same throughout the world. They are frequently cited in the US and Canadian media, and have a political and cultural clout beyond their numbers.
For example, evangelicals are highly influential in the US Republicans´ Tea Party:
– one of their own sites: http://www.teapartyexpress.org,
– http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2011/08/18/tea-party-is-it-the-christian-right-in-disguise.html. A quote from the article about American evangelicals´ current influence:
Whether intentional or not, the almost universal overlap of the Christian right with the Tea Party somehow largely avoided media scrutiny. But after the midterm elections, it was immediately clear where the passion had come from: newcomers to the 112th Congress came overwhelmingly from conservative religious denominations. Suddenly populated with all manner of home-schooling activists, youth ministers, abstinence proponents, former members of radical anti-abortion groups, and even a Mennonite, the current House of Representatives is one of the most religiously conservative in recent history.
Evangelicals are a powerful voting bloc courted by many of the present Republican candidates in the current US election process (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303863404577285750449448424.html?mod=googlenews_wsj):
The Evangelical Vote
Evangelical Christians are carrying more weight than ever in the GOP primaries, but they aren’t throwing it behind a single candidate, an analysis by the Faith and Freedom Coalition finds.
Just over half the votes cast so far have been by people who identified themselves as evangelical Christians, up from 44% in 2008. The vote has been split among the three leading candidates, according to the analysis of exit and entrance polls from the 16 states where such surveys were conducted.
The foundation, a Christian conservative group, found that evangelicals gave the most votes to Rick Santorum, but not by a big margin. He won a 33% plurality, with Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich drawing about 30% each. Rep. Ron Paul drew almost 8%.
Ralph Reed, founder and chairman of the foundation, said evangelical turnout was a reflection, in part, of the large number of candidates explicitly courting evangelical voters—including some who have dropped out, such as Rep. Michelle Bachmann and Texas Gov. Rick Perry. In 2008, only Mike Huckabee made a concerted appeal for the evangelical vote.
“There have been a lot of candidates—including Gingrich and Santorum—who are heroes to these voters,” said Mr. Reed. “There have been a lot of pro-family champions, and some have been explicit about their faith, which is not always the case.”
The share of GOP primary voters calling themselves evangelicals is far larger than the share of adults so identified in the nation at large: In 2008, evangelicals made up 26.3% of adults. Some 20% of registered voters are white evangelicals, according to an analysis of 2011 data by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press.
Back to Todd´s article. He states a few more interesting facts about Turtle Island evangelicals:
– Evangelicals were the biggest force behind 8 years of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney in the White House, which led to 2 wars against the majority Muslim nations of Afghanistan and Iraq
– Evangelicals are 35% of the population in the US and 9% in Canada
– Evangelicals lead the battle charges in the so-called ¨culture wars¨
– Evangelicals leaders such as the US´ Pat Robertson, James Dobson, Benny Hinn (a former Canadian), Sarah Palin and Canada’s Charles McVety take up ¨pro-family values¨ stances that get huge media coverage
– Evangelicals are one of the main forces opposing homosexual marriage, abortion, the teaching of evolution in public schools, and the Muslim religion
– Speaking of Muslims, pollsters have uncovered the fact that Turtle Island evangelicals are the biggest opponents to Islam. This antagonism toward Muslims has led evangelicals to pressure their respective governments in Canada and the US to keep a watchful eye on domestic and overseas disciples of the Koran.
– You´ll find evangelicals everywhere in your neighbour, including your dentist, banker, kid´s teacher, mayor, security guard, union leader, swimming coach . . .
– Evangelicals actually come from a variety of social and philosophical backgrounds
– While most members of the Religious Right are evangelicals, and include conservative Catholics, not all evangelicals are part of the Christian Right
– Canadian evangelicals are less hard-line and ¨bombastic¨ than their US counterparts
– Despite 50 years of declining church attendance on Turtle Island, evangelicals have bucked the trend, and their churches have continued to thrive and hang on to their share of the spiritual market demographic
– Evangelicals have been very successful in establishing mega-churches that both entertain and instruct their flocks. Canada´s Willingdon Church in Burnaby, British Columbia has been growing for decades. Over half of Willingdon´s adherents are ethnic Chinese, mostly immigrants, who along with other Asian groups are attracted to the conservative theology and sexual mores.
– As opposed to the ¨more theologically liberal, old-line Protestant denominations, such as the United Church of Canada, Anglicans, Lutherans and Presbyterians¨, Turtle Island evangelicals have succeeded in pleasing their flocks through jazzing up their church services with pop music, however shallow it may seem. They also have been able to attract more men, often with it´s ¨wild at heart¨, ¨muscular¨ brand of Christianity.
– Evangelical church services often get straight to the point in their sermons et al and include many times of ¨testimony¨ sharing which many people enjoy
– Evangelicals are often involved in charity work and a number of social and political causes. In Canada, evangelicals were a main voting bloc helping elect Stephen Harper and his Conservative Party, with a huge number of Members of Parliament from evangelical and conservative Catholic and Jewish backgrounds.
– Despite having heads of government who openly declare themselves Christian, such as Harper in Canada, and Obama and Bush in the US, evangelicals still harbour what we call a ¨Persecution Complex¨. That means evangelicals often view themselves as being under siege, attacked from all sides by liberals, gays, Muslims, womens´ rights advocates, abortionists, evolutionists, etc. This has, in turn, led to evangelicals pushing their governments to implement policies curbing the influence of all these groups.
– Evangelicals make up 2/3rds of those opposed to curbs on pollution control, according to a recent Pew poll. ¨Global Warming¨ has been recast as ¨Climate Change¨, and is not as serious as scientists claim, say the evangelicals. Consequently, many of them oppose government initiatives to combat global warming, as seen when Canadian evangelical Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Conservative party canceled Canada´s commitment to the Kyoto Protocol. A recent news piece shows the Harper government hushing up revelations that Canadian scientists casting doubt on the perils of global warming were being funded by the Heartland Institute from Chicago, a think tank that used to question studies about the harmful effects of secondhand smoke, and now promotes a public school curriculum that downplays the dangers of global warming:: http://www.canada.com/technology/Feds+discreet+about+foreign+funding+climate+skeptics/6290316/story.html. Info on this think tank: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Heartland_Institute. Here is another article regarding US evangelicals´ stance on global warming: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/22/evangelicals-evolution-climate-change-poll_n_975699.html. They state that they don´t buy into the doom and gloom, such as presented in former US president Al Gore´s documentary, An Inconvenient Truth: http://www.christianpost.com/news/evangelicals-push-back-against-climate-change-hoax-42126/. Nevertheless, there are some evangelicals sounding the alarm on the issue: http://climatide.wgbh.org/2011/05/evangelical-christians-deeply-divided-on-climate-change/ and http://christiansandclimate.org/.
– 40% of Canadian evangelicals actually vote for the federal Liberal (centre) and NDP (left) parties
– Although it may seem that evangelicals have a history of being quite anti-intellectual, historian Mark Noll,¨arguably North America’s leading historian of religion¨, sees signs of hope in Christian institutes of higher learning, especially in Canada. In his recent book called, Noll advises evangelicals to quite reacting to the issues of the day with fear and alarmism, but instead take a more balanced approach, engaging the realms of science, art and politics not by seeking out ¨wedge issues¨ but by building bridges.
My apologies for such a long post, and a seeming rehashing of Douglas Todd´s article, but it was certainly beneficial for my own sake to put evangelicals under the microscope and dissect their involvement in Turtle Island´s social context. I hope you as a reader could learn little something.
North American evangelicals are a force to be reckoned with, and are not going away any time soon. For outsiders, it is helpful to know all you can about them, in order to respond in a knowledgeable way. For evangelical insiders, I hope that you recognise your own influence at this junction of world history, and will wield your power with more love toward the true God, Yahweh, and toward your neighbours on this little island that resembles the shape of a turtle.