Opposition to Health-Care Reform Revives Christian Right
The Christian right, facing questions before the presidential election about its continuing potency as a force for cultural and political change, has found new life with Barack Obama in office, particularly around health care.
As the president prepares to address a joint session of Congress on Wednesday night to press for health-care reform, conservative Christian leaders are rallying their troops to oppose him, with online town hall meetings, church gatherings, fundraising appeals, and e-mail and social networking campaigns. FRC Action, the lobbying arm of the Family Research Council, has scheduled a webcast Thursday night for tens of thousands of supporters in which House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) and other speakers will respond to the president's health-care address.
"Movements do better when they have something to oppose," said D. Michael Lindsay, a sociology professor at Rice University who studies evangelicals. "It's easier to fundraise in those kinds of situations. It's easier to mobilize volunteers because you have an us versus them mentality, and that plays very well right now for the Christian right."
After seeing their bread-and-butter issue of abortion take a back seat during the election last year, the Christian right has been a prime force in moving it back to the front row by focusing on it as a potential part of health-care reform.
Experts say the resurgent interest is proving that predictions of the death of the Christian right -- widespread before the election -- were again premature. But they say the recent flurry of activity does nothing to solve the underlying challenges facing the movement -- the lack of younger leaders to replace aging ones and ways to engage younger evangelicals who want the movement to embrace a wider range of issues.
But, for the moment, conservative Christian leaders are riding high on opposing health-care reform.
"Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid and Henry Waxman have done more to energize Christian conservatives than any conservative leader could have done with this health-care package," said Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. "I, who never believed that we were dead, did not believe that it would happen this quickly."