Generic 'evangelical Christians,' deja vu

Here we go again.

"Aspirations of a President" is the title of a new video by Republican presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty.

The six-minute video opens with inspirational music and a U.S. flag rolling across the screen in what resembles the introduction to a "West Wing" episode.

But it's the content -- the former Minnesota governor and his wife, Mary, discussing their Christian faith -- that caught the attention of major media.

From the Washington Post:

Former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty made a unabashed pitch to Iowa’s evangelical vote Wednesday with the release of a video featuring the presidential candidate and his wife, Mary, talking unguardedly about their religious Christian faith.

The video attests to his opposition to abortion and his view that marriage should be only between a man and a woman.

I know it's too late, but I'm not a big fan of multisyllable editorialization in newspaper ledes, so I cut two of them. And while I was at it, I went ahead and changed "religious" to "Christian," just to be specific. If you must, sue me.

In the video, the candidate talks about growing up Catholic before joining an evangelical church after meeting his wife in law school. Mary Pawlenty remembers her Evangelical Covenant Church upbringing, but notes that she and her husband attend the Wooddale Church, which is associated with the Baptist General Conference but describes itself as an "interdenominational evangelical church."

A Godbeat friend tells me:

Pietists is the best term to use, I think, to describe the Covenant church and the BGC, which is also known as Converge Worldwide. They've got a high view of Scripture, send out a lot of missionaries and tend to be on the liturgical side. They also stress Christian living rather than doctrinal nitpicking. The BGC, the Covenant and the Evangelical Free church are all splits from the state church of Sweden.

Interesting. To me at least. Of course, none of that kind of information — not even the name of the Pawlentys' church — made it into any of the stories I read on Pawlenty's video, including reports by Politico, the Huffington Post, the Wall Street Journal and the Des Moines Register.

Instead — and honk if you've heard this before in this space — the generic term "evangelical Christian" is used pretty freely to describe the Pawlentys and the voters they're targeting. From the Post:

Perhaps no group is more important to the outcome in Ames than evangelical Christians, who make up nearly half of likely Republican caucusgoers in Iowa, higher than the national figure for GOP voters.

From Politico:

The former Minnesota governor’s main message had been focused on jobs, the economy and management experience. The changes Wednesday mark the first time since announcing his 2012 run that Pawlenty has talked so openly and extensively about being an evangelical Christian, though he wrote about his faith prominently in his book, “Courage to Stand” and has kept a stump speech line, “We need to be a nation that turns toward God, not away from God.”

Bachmann, who’s leading in Iowa, has made her evangelical faith a centerpiece of her presidential campaign. But while Bachmann signed the controversial marriage pledge from conservative evangelical group The Family Leader, Pawlenty also announced on Wednesday that he wouldn’t, carefully staking out his own ground.

The Wall Street Journal came the closest to actually explaining the Pawlentys' brand of evangelicalism:

In the video, Mr. Pawlenty and his wife talk about the role church played in their early lives and how Mary Pawlentygot her husband to convert from Catholicism to an evangelical strain of Christianity.

“My family and I were Catholics when I was growing up, but when I met Mary in law school, she was an evangelical and introduced me to the Lord in new and powerful ways,” he said.

What say ye, GetReligion readers: In a story such as this, does generic "evangelical Christian" work? Or do readers need more detailed information concerning the specific beliefs and backgrounds of the voters -- and the candidates?

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