The war war among evangelicals

war in iraqJulie Sullivan of Religion News Service has a good article on the current position evangelical Christians hold on the war in Iraq. Their position is significant because it has been their support that gave Republicans undivided rule of Washington for six consecutive years. Evangelicals have also been some of Bush's most consistent supporters. The challenge in doing a story like this is finding ways to truly measure the wind among conservative evangelicals. Reporting on what their leaders say shouldn't be the sole method, and even polling data is subject to plenty of interpretation. It's also important to note that while it's one thing to not support President Bush on the war, it is another thing to oppose him on it.

Are a significant number of evangelicals indeed opposing the war?

No polling data show conclusively that opinion has shifted among conservative evangelicals. But some national evangelical leaders say debate about -- and, in some cases, opposition to -- the war is breaking out among Christian conservatives whose support was key to President Bush's election victories. Frustration with Republicans' failure to overturn abortion rights is said to have fueled skepticism among some evangelicals. Others decry the war's human toll and financial cost and are concerned about any use of torture.

"This war has challenged their confidence in the party," said Tony Campolo, an evangelical Baptist minister and author who lectures across the country on social issues. "Add to that that they feel the Republicans have betrayed them on the abortion issue, and you are beginning to see signs of a rebellion."

The National Association of Evangelicals, which says it represents 45,000 churches, recently endorsed an anti-torture statement that says the United States has crossed "boundaries of what is legally and morally permissible" in its treatment of detainees and war prisoners in the fight against terror.

These are some questions I'd like to see answered: Why evangelicals did support the war in the first place? Was it a basic loyalty to the man they believed would support their issues? Was taking down Saddam a high priority for them in determining who they supported?

But since 2003, polls have shown that conservative Christians were more likely than other Americans to favor military action. The National Association of Evangelicals, the same group that condemned torture, even linked the efforts of evangelical "prayer warriors" to the killing of Saddam Hussein's sons.

Daniel R. Lockwood, president of Multnomah Bible College and Biblical Seminary in Portland, Ore., said he has seen a "sea change" among his students, who are looking beyond conservative issues such as abortion and homosexuality to the environment, children with HIV/AIDS and the poor.

"More and more, students are very interested in social justice and issues often associated with the middle and the left," Lockwood said, "and the war is a piece of that."

This article also could have explored the tone among the publications read and supported by evangelicals. What has Christianity Today said on the war lately? What of World magazine? What level of support are their pages showing these days?

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