November 16, 2007
Foreign Policy Trumps Abortion for Many Evangelical Voters
Is Pat Robertson's endorsement of Giuliani all that surprising?
Many have called Pat Robertson's endorsement of Rudy Giuliani hypocritical. Robertson has compromised his position on abortion and gay marriage in order to hitch his wagon to the presidential contender.
Not so, says Naomi Schaefer Riley, in a opinion piece in today's Wall Street Journal. (It deserves to be read in full.) In fact, Robertson's decision fits in a long tradition of evangelical support for an agressive foreign policy toward ideologies deemed to threaten Judeo-Christian civilization.
Riley quotes Richard land, who says evangelicals have long been interested in foreign policy. "The only part of the country that had majority support for Roosevelt's interventionist policies was the South." Then, after World War II, came godless communism. "Communism was seen as a direct threat to the Christian faith and Judeo-Christian civilization. Among Catholics and evangelical Christians, this message resonated first and with the most intensity."
For decades, evangelical missionaries returned home to their churches with stories from behind the growing menace. "Every year, we heard a speaker or two who had come from 'behind the Iron Curtain,' " says John Wilson, editor of CT's sister publication Books & Culture. They had harrowing tales to tell, sometimes first-person, sometimes not. There was a palpable sense of a world-scale conflict with godless communism."
Though some disagree that the threat of Islamic extremism equals that of communism, a similar pattern is emerging among returning missionaries. "In the past you had missionaries come back and talk about being imprisoned. Now you have reports from people about beheadings and bombings," says Timothy Shah, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.
The fact the Robertson's endorsement has raised such objections shows that there isn't the same kind of wide agreement on foreign policy as there was in the heydays of evangelical anti-communism. It remains to be seen both if Islamic extremism is believed to be the threat that communism was and if Giuliani can be seen as an equal opponent as Ronald Reagan was.