I know that there are plenty of people out there who consider Fred Barnes of The Weekly Standard to be the ultimate scribe for the GOP and the Bush White House. I mean, check out the illustration I attached to this post. However, I think it's crucial to realize that Barnes is a cultural, yea, even a religious conservative, before he is a pure GOP loyalist. In fact, he is clearly identified with the cultural wing of the GOP that keeps clashing with the Libertarian wing, a faith-related story that we discuss here at GetReligion from time to time. Plus, as reporters who work in this town know, all of those years that Barnes spent on the political beat at The Washington Star, the Baltimore Sun and, yes, The New Republic created a Rolodex that is rather deep on both sides of the political aisle.
With that in mind, check out this interesting little story by reporter Ann Rodgers of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, one of the most savvy Godbeat veterans in the land. This is a simple advance story, but I think Rodgers knew that some of these quotes pointed to some changes on the U.S. political landscape.
By the way, you'll note that Barnes totally accepts the pivotal role of the abortion issue in America's arguments over politics and religion. Sorry ’bout that. This is natural, since Barnes was visiting Rodgers' turf to speak at a Choose Life Month event.
That cause, Mr. Barnes said, was the single most important factor in creating what became known as the religious right, and its only close rival is the more recent issue of gay marriage. Beyond that, he said, there is great diversity on public policy among theologically conservative Americans.
"Abortion is still the fundamental concern," he said. "When you talk about foreign policy and the broader domestic issues, you may not have agreement at all."
In fact, there are many people who oppose abortion who are theologically conservative, but not "politically" conservative. In fact, they may be hardcore liberals, progressives, populists or whatever you want to call them. They would certainly, for example, not agree on the war in Iraq. Right, President Bush? And, meanwhile, we have yet to see what will happen in Congress with those new pro-life Democrats. Barnes bluntly observed that there "weren't as many pro-life losses as there were Republican losses -- only about half as many."
And there is one more interesting point from Barnes, who may or may not be a GetReligion reader. I don't know, but this final theme sounds very, very familiar to me. Click here and see if you agree (or maybe Barnes and I simply agree on this point):
[Barnes] believes that conservative Christians have been misrepresented in the mainstream media, in part because journalists often chose to interview activists outside the evangelical mainstream.
"They call on Jerry Falwell, when he is not representative of broad evangelical Christianity," he said. The public would gain a more accurate picture of evangelicals if it turned to one of its flagship institutions, such as Wheaton College in Illinois, or to pastors such as Purpose-Driven Life author Rick Warren, he said.
"I have to say that the media has caught on to Rick Warren," he said. "I thought that John McCain, when he wanted to repair his relationship with the Christian Right, made a mistake when he went down and talked to Jerry Falwell. He would have been much better off talking to Rick Warren."
And what about that Pat Robertson guy?