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December 31st, 2011
10:00 PM ET

Why do Iowa’s evangelicals wield so much political clout?

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

Des Moines, Iowa (CNN) – At first blush, it’s just another standard-issue political rally.

Inside Mitt Romney’s Iowa headquarters – a former Blockbuster store on a commercial strip outside downtown – Romney and his wife, Ann, are introduced by former presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty and his wife, Mary.

“It is an honor to be supporting Gov. Romney and Ann,” Mary Pawlenty tells the crowd of a couple hundred, a silver cross dangling from her neck. “They are good people, they share our values – these are people that we are delighted to call friends.”

How Mitt Romney's faith shaped him

A few moments later, Mitt Romney mentions his five sons and hands his microphone to 36-year-old Josh, who calls his dad “my hero.”

“He taught me my great love for this country,” Josh says, “and my great love for my family.”

Sounds like typical political posturing, right? Many Americans wouldn’t give such gestures a second thought.

But experts on religion and politics say the message to one particular subculture – evangelical Iowans – is clear: Mitt Romney may be Mormon, but he shares evangelical Christian values, including a rock-solid commitment to family, and counts high-profile evangelicals like the Pawlentys as friends and supporters.

“It’s less an attempt to create a trust among evangelicals and more to defuse a distrust,” says Dennis Goldford, a political science professor at Drake University in Des Moines.

Mark DeMoss, an evangelical PR specialist and Romney campaign adviser, puts a more positive spin on the strategy: “A number of evangelicals are really enthusiastic about him and have endorsed Romney, and for the same reason that I like him – he shares my values.”

Romney’s Mormonism and his past social liberalism have fed doubts about him among some evangelicals. But with the first-in-the nation Iowa caucuses just days away, the former Massachusetts governor is hardly the only candidate honing his message for evangelical Iowans.

Newt Gingrich has met with hundreds of evangelical pastors in the state, talking policy but also about past marital infidelity, which many Christians consider a sin. Rick Perry has given Sunday morning testimonials from the pulpits of Hawkeye State megachurches.

Newt Gingrich's faith narrative

And Rick Santorum, who is riding a late-breaking surge in Iowa polls, and Michele Bachmann have all but staked their candidacies on winning big among evangelical Iowans, claiming to be more conservative than the rest of the Republican field on hot-button issues like abortion and gay marriage.

How did one faith-based demographic come to wield so much power? The answer is basic math – and passion.

“Relatively few people participate in the Iowa caucuses, so it’s ideal for a group of highly committed activists to have a big influence,” says John Green, an expert on religion and politics at the University of Akron.

Unlike conventional primaries, Iowa’s caucuses, scheduled for Tuesday, require voters to attend what are essentially community get-togethers at which participants can speak publicly for candidates. It’s more cumbersome than pulling a lever in a voting both, and a relatively small minority of registered voters attend.

“Evangelical churches and interest groups have been able to generate that kind of activity,” Green says. “They’ve been active in Iowa for a long time, so a tradition has taken hold there.”

Rick Perry's long faith journey culminates in White House run

In 2008, evangelical Christians accounted for 60% of Republican caucus-goers. With just 119,000 Iowans participating in the GOP caucuses that year – high by historical standards – the bloc helped propel Mike Huckabee, a former Baptist preacher, to a first-place finish.

In previous election cycles, evangelicals accounted for a more modest share of the Iowa GOP electorate, but their ranks have nonetheless hovered around 40%.

That makes evangelical Iowans unusually influential even by the standards of the national Republican Party, in which evangelical Christians have constituted the base since Ronald Reagan was elected president.

From Carter to Bush

Despite the modern GOP-evangelical alliance, it was a Democrat who first tapped that power base in Iowa.

Jimmy Carter was the first presidential candidate in modern American politics to call himself a born-again Christian, and he spent long stretches in Iowa during his 1976 campaign. Finishing ahead of every candidate (“uncommitted” took first) there lent early momentum to a candidate who’d been virtually unknown nationally.

Before Carter, says Drake’s Dennis Goldford, “evangelicals didn’t participate in politics because it was seen as this “worldy, corrupting, evil thing, and you stayed away from it.”

Modern American evangelicalism emerged in the late 19th century, built around biblical literalism and an emphasis on human sin and redemption. The movement was largely a reaction to Darwin’s theory of evolution and questions that modern science raised about biblical authority.

The 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial, which struck down the teaching of evolution in Tennessee schools, turned the evangelical movement into a national laughingstock and provoked an evangelical retreat from politics.

Carter, a Baptist Sunday School teacher, brought them back together.

But many evangelicals wound up feeling betrayed by Carter’s liberalism, and Reagan’s courtship of first-generation Christian right leaders, as well as his conservative rhetoric on issues like abortion, sent hordes of evangelicals to the GOP.

In 1988, televangelist Pat Robertson finished second in the Iowa caucuses, ahead of then-Vice President George H.W. Bush, putting Iowa evangelical power on the national map. Says Goldford: “They came out of nowhere.”

In the 1990s, with the rise of Robertson’s Christian Coalition, many evangelicals landed positions of power within the Iowa Republican Party. Catholics and other religious believers also became more active in the state GOP, raising the profile of issues like abortion and marriage, but they could not compete in number with the evangelicals.

Since then, Republican presidential hopefuls have tailored their messages to evangelical Iowans. When George W. Bush was asked which political philosopher had most influenced him in a debate before the 2000 Iowa caucus, he responded “Jesus.”

A diluted role?

In this election cycle, all the Republican presidential candidates have spoken deeply about their personal Christian faith while in Iowa, except for Romney and Jon Huntsman, both Mormons.

After spending considerable time in Iowa in 2008, much of it courting evangelicals, Romney placed second, far behind Huckabee. This time around, Romney has spent much less time here, skipping some major evangelical cattle calls and unleashing the ire of some powerful Christian activists.

Huntsman, for his part, has ignored Iowa to focus his efforts on New Hampshire, which votes a week after Iowa.

A CNN/TIME/ORC poll last week found that Romney had the support of 16% of likely evangelical caucus-goers in Iowa, compared to 22% for Santorum, 18% for Ron Paul and 14% for Gingrich, who had much higher evangelical support in earlier Iowa polls.

“Romney’s campaign has a very deliberate plan to snub social conservatives,” says Steve Scheffler, president of the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition, a key conservative group in the state.

“If Romney becomes the nominee,” Scheffler says, “95% of his volunteers will need to come from the conservative base. If he’s dissed them through the caucus process, it’s going to be challenging for him to get these people to campaign for him to become president.”

Scheffler is a testament to evangelical influence in the caucuses; his group has hosted caucus trainings in churches across the state in the run-up to January 3.

Most evangelical leaders insist their skepticism of Romney is born of his past social liberalism. But some in-the-pews evangelicals, interviewed at a pair of Iowa evangelical churches on a recent Sunday, admitted to an anti-Mormon bias.

Many believe that Mormons – who, unlike traditional Christians, believe in holy books beyond the Bible and practice customs like posthumous proxy baptism – belong to a cult.

“A growing number of people are afraid to vote for him because they are not sure how his Mormonism will affect his presidency,” says Jonathan Meyer, a pastor at Grace Church in Des Moines. “And because he doesn’t talk about that.”

Other Iowan evangelicals say Romney’s Mormonism isn’t a deal-breaker. “We talked about it in my Bible study,” says Patrick Finnegan, 27, who attended a recent Romney rally wearing a blue “Romney supporter” T-Shirt. “And we said as long as he believes in Jesus Christ, and as long as he’s not an atheist, we support him. I just want someone who shares my belief in a higher power.”

Other Iowa evangelicals echoed that view, calling Romney a Christian.

One complicating factor in the evangelical equation is that the main alternative to Romney as a viable national candidate appears to be Gingrich. The former House speaker has strenuously courted evangelical leaders and aided last year’s successful campaign to unseat three pro-gay marriage Iowa judges but has admitted to personal moral failings, including an affair with his current wife while married to his second wife.

Many Iowa evangelicals say Gingrich has redeemed himself. “I appreciate Newt acknowledging that he needs forgiveness,” says Meyer, who speaks with a Bible tucked under his arm in the Christmas-tree bedecked lobby of Grace Church. “He didn’t have to address that.”

Others are less enthusiastic.

“There’s not enough attention being paid to Newt’s fall from grace,” says Beverly McLinden, 55, an Iowa evangelical who works in association management and attended the Des Moines Romney rally. “Romney’s family exemplifies family values, and you can’t discount that just because he’s a Mormon.”

Evangelical angst over Gingrich and Romney has helped fuel Santorum’s surge, with the former Pennsylvania senator receiving 16% support in the most recent CNN poll, putting him in third place, behind Romney and Paul.

No candidate had even 25% of evangelical support in the most recent poll, raising the possibility that Iowa’s evangelical vote will be pretty diluted this week.

“This vote is terribly critical,” says Ralph Reed, who leads the national Faith and Freedom Coalition. “But the irony is that with this many candidates all appealing to this constituency at the same time, the vote is likely to get spread out.”

‘Democrats are trying to strip God out’

If Iowa’s evangelicals disagree on whom to support, interviews with dozens of them reveal a striking consistency in the role their faith plays in shaping that decision.

Even as the economy and jobs consistently rank as top issues in the presidential race, many evangelical Iowans say they’re weighing the personal faith of the candidates and that they still care about social issues and honoring the country’s Judeo-Christian heritage.

“Most of the folks I’ve dealt with in the evangelical community always care about the economy and spending and taxes,” says Santorum, who has spent most of his time as a presidential candidate campaigning in Iowa. “But the priority issues that have always been up front are the moral, cultural issues.”

“They want to make sure that it’s someone who is comfortable in their skin to fight those battles,” says Santorum, a devout Catholic who has nonetheless landed on TIME’s list of America’s 25 most influential evangelicals.

Gail Johnson, a dentist’s assistant who was heading into Grace Church – a megachurch whose sanctuary is hung with giant Christmas wreaths and a back-lit cross – agrees.

“I have no clue who I’m voting for, other than that it will be a Republican,” she says. “Smaller government and no abortion are the two big issues for me.”

Grace Church is the kind of congregation where worshippers take notes during the sermon, which on this Sunday focused on the importance of believing in Jesus’ virgin birth.

Sue Cornelius-Leibrand, an accountant who also attends Grace, says she would prefer “a president who believes in the same things that I do.”
“I know they won’t agree with everything,” says Cornelius-Leibrand, who wears diamond earrings and carries a stylish black bag and a leather-bound bible with a pink strap. “But the main things, like life beginning at conception and marriage between a man and a wife.”

Many evangelicals cite what they see as religion’s shrinking role in the public square as another concern. “This nation was founded on Christian ethics and that’s what made the country great,” says Sue Raibikis, a pharmaceutical sales rep and an evangelical Christian who attended the Romney rally. “Democrats are trying to strip God out of the country.”

Republican candidates are addressing those concerns in different ways. Gingrich talks about stopping a secular war on religion. Perry gives Christian testimony, telling worshippers at Des Moines’ Point of Grace Church on a recent Sunday: “There’s a hole in one’s heart that can only be filled by one thing.”

Santorum and Bachmann are emphasizing their voting records on hot buttons like abortion, saying other candidates just talk about these issues.

The jockeying introduced a major shot of religion to the presidential race from the very start, a contribution that some political experts argue threatens to curtail Iowa’s influence in the nominating process.

“The strength of evangelicals in the Iowa Republican Party could turn into a weakness if they are seen as so strong that Republicans around the nation begin to discount the results of the caucuses,” says Drake University’s Goldford.

“You’re beginning to see some of that – McCain chose not to campaign here last time,” he says. “And Romney hasn’t been here much this time.”

The state’s track record for picking Republican winners is mixed. Huckabee, for instance, won big in Iowa but lost his party’s nomination. But George W. Bush and Bob Dole won Iowa and went on to the GOP nomination.

The Republican primary calendar, if nothing else, will strengthen the influence of Iowa and its evangelicals, argues Green, of the University of Akron.

New Hampshire, with fewer evangelicals, follows Iowa in primary voting. But the next in line is South Carolina, where 60% of voters in the last Republican presidential primary identified as evangelicals.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Christianity • Iowa • Michele Bachmann • Mike Huckabee • Mitt Romney • Newt Gingrich • Politics • Rick Santorum

soundoff (837 Responses)
  1. agathokles

    The existence of so many evangelicals in Iowa must be a mixed blessing to Bachmann. I heard an interview with a woman on NPR the other day. She said she really likes Bachmann's positions on social issues, but she just couldn't bring herself to vote for a woman for President. "A woman should not be President," she said. "It's not what God wants for us."

    Sometimes women are a woman's worst enemy, holding back the progress of gender equality.

    January 1, 2012 at 9:05 am |
  2. GullibleChristians

    Now I know why they all pretend to be very "religious good people", thanks to these stupid voters.

    January 1, 2012 at 9:01 am |
  3. American Pie

    What a bunch of scary people. If you notice they all say the same thing...THey want someone who believes in what THEY believe in...talk about egotistical....And by the way...GAIL JOHNSON, you said you want things to go by the Bible, WELL, Glutony is a SIN...Why are you ignoring that one??? Can we say HYPROCRIT??? But then again Republicans have always picked and choosed what they want to inforce in the Bible...ANd why we are on the subject why have you Bible thumpers never brought up making divorce illegal?? It is frowned upon by God and is considered a sin...is it becasue it is too convenient for you all???AGAIN PICK AND CHOOSE HYPROCRITS...When you all are REAL christians with REAL faith without HYPROCRISY, then open your mouth, otherwise try to keep it shut and not make under-educated fools of yourselves...

    January 1, 2012 at 8:59 am |
    • SCAtheist

      They don't pay attention to what is actually in the Bible.

      January 1, 2012 at 9:12 am |
  4. GullibleChristians

    We need more scientists and smart people than these freaking gullible christians in this country.

    January 1, 2012 at 8:57 am |
  5. Nancy

    I doubt the Iowa Farmes will vote for any of these Repubs.

    January 1, 2012 at 8:56 am |
  6. gary

    Evangelicals .....whackos. Like we need more non sense in our gov't. Remember when intelligence and education were valued? USA is dumbed down by god-nuts and bible thumpers. Go to Israel if you wanna fear a ghost in the sky.

    January 1, 2012 at 8:53 am |
  7. winter123011

    It's always interesting to hear why people vote the way they do, but what I don't like about articles like this is that they give the impression that many people think this way. I live in Iowa and don't know or come into contact with evangelicals. In trying to bring a fair and balanced view to stories (though this article is specifically about evangelicals, it is one of several articles about the Iowa caucus) bringing in another point of view just so a story or coverage of an issue appears balanced can lead to an impression that many people hold that 'other' point of view.

    January 1, 2012 at 8:52 am |
    • Chuck

      Thank you for letting the rest of the nation know that there are still some sensible people living in the state of Iowa.

      January 1, 2012 at 10:02 am |
  8. ItSOnLyME

    When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross. Your religion has NO place in politics – yours or mine (especially mine).

    January 1, 2012 at 8:52 am |
    • slippery

      It's here in many places already. Just look at the House or Representatives and their so-call leadership.

      January 1, 2012 at 8:57 am |
    • rgill

      Mormonism has become a surprise wedge issue in the republican base. Republicans will likely have to choose between a mormon (Romney) and a liberal christian (Obama) for president. I predict they will fail to come out to vote because they don't like the choices. The only chance for Romney is to cast doubt on Obama's religious beliefs.

      January 1, 2012 at 9:02 am |
  9. slippery

    No religious law in my house or bedroom. I have my own set of beliefs that's no ones business but mine and my relationship with my creator. Your creator means nothing to me. Keep pope Romney and the other potentates out of my life.

    January 1, 2012 at 8:50 am |
  10. dtw888

    Whoever think he/she can separates his/her faith life and his/her social/politcal life is not sincere faith. Both are impossible to be separated. The social and political environment itself is a spiritual battleground. It is stage to demo all individual' inner lives. Christians have to stand firm.

    January 1, 2012 at 8:46 am |
    • Larry

      I absolutely agree with this statement! Furthermore, we'd prefer to be called who we are, Christians, not "evangelicals". Say the name - Christ-ians!

      January 1, 2012 at 8:52 am |
    • gary

      If you can't separate gov't from ghost myths, then don't get involved in my gov't. If you believe in ancient myths, you can't handle the facts of 21st century issues.

      January 1, 2012 at 8:56 am |
  11. albert

    Interesting that Jesus was not political nor did he ask or expect his followers to be. In fact he taught his followers to pray for only one Kingdom. His fathers kingdom. The Bible at Daniel 2:44 makes clear of what God thinks of politics and other kingdoms such as the United States. These Evangelicals as they like to call themselves are far removed from anything the Bible actually teaches. They are hypocrites and imposters; NOT Christians. They are making a mockery of God.

    January 1, 2012 at 8:43 am |
    • dtw888

      albert, how do you explain one of 12 Jesus disciple was JEWS independance fighter? GOD himself is not political, human is, he considered this element in the plan.

      January 1, 2012 at 8:50 am |
    • Maude

      Do you mean hypocrits like those who voted for Obama because they expected free rent and medical at the expense of others?

      Imagine, voting for someone who has standards and represents ALL of us.

      January 1, 2012 at 8:51 am |
    • ItSOnLyME

      @Maude – can you please cite one concrete example of anything you state in your post? Can you cite even one example of where anybody on the left ever said anybody should expect free rent or free medical care? I didn't think so. Speaking of hypocrites...

      January 1, 2012 at 8:54 am |
    • albert

      Key word being "Was". The disciples were many things before following Jesus. Paul for example killed faithful ones. Using your logic, murdering Christians is ok? Very week argument you have there.

      January 1, 2012 at 8:54 am |
    • Peppermint Patty

      How boring. "They are 'true' Christians' ONLY if they agree with ME, or practice MY brand of the nonsense". For thousands of years pract'itioners of thousands of religions have stomped their little feet, and pounded their impotent fists, insisting their brand of delusion is THE TRUTH. Every single one of them, without exception is stone cold dead, and NEVER once came back. Have you ever really read the Bible ? There is SO much crap in the 1st 5 books alone, NO rational person could buy the rest of it. You pick and chose a verse here or there to support your opinions, and think it makes your delusionary system "true".

      January 1, 2012 at 9:01 am |
  12. jshelley

    In most of Iowa there is literally nothing to do but wait for paint to dry, watch the corn grow, then detassle it. If Iowans do in fact have the best school system in the US, why not use it to castrate not just corn but also their Christian nutjobs.

    January 1, 2012 at 8:38 am |
  13. +

    Atheism has devolved into a religion of intolerance, ignorance and bigotry.

    January 1, 2012 at 8:31 am |
    • Mirosal

      I think "+" needs a refresher course on how to use a dictionary. Look up the words Atheism and religion .. you don't see a teeny weeny tad bit of difference there?

      January 1, 2012 at 8:35 am |
    • endthehate

      Sounds just like Christianity.

      January 1, 2012 at 8:37 am |
    • satan

      I agree. Their up there with every other extremist group; their version is indisputable gospel.

      That's why I'm agnostic.

      January 1, 2012 at 8:38 am |
    • SCAtheist

      Atheism is the lack of belief. Maybe you think everyone who doesn't agree with you is a bigot. Atheists tend to be a lot more tollerant thand religious folks.

      January 1, 2012 at 8:38 am |
    • jshelley

      Speaking of castration, start with this guy.

      January 1, 2012 at 8:39 am |
    • David

      We're not a religion of intolerance – we'll eat yours or anyones baby.

      January 1, 2012 at 8:41 am |
    • +

      You've all just proved my point. Stupidity, ignorance and bigotry are the hallmarks of modern day atheism.

      Please fee free to add more dumb comments in support of my post.

      January 1, 2012 at 8:52 am |
    • ItSOnLyME

      If you want to talk about ignorance, intolerance, and bigotry, try looking at just about any evangelical so-called "Christian" church in the country. You'll find them in spades.

      January 1, 2012 at 8:55 am |
    • -

      Christianity has become a religion of intolerance, hatred and bigotry.

      January 1, 2012 at 9:04 am |
    • gzert

      Perhaps individual atheists are tolerant, but "organized atheism" (irony intended) seems very intolerant of religious faith. Is declaring one's decision to not believe not a leap of faith itself?

      January 1, 2012 at 9:51 am |
  14. chris

    can someone explain me what evangelicalists stand for in the US compared to other christians, e.g. catholics?
    I am a lutheran in central-western europe, and we call ourselves evangelical, where women can become pastors, churches are plain and simple intentionally without any pomp, contraception is accepted, fathers are allowed to marry and are generally really nice so people come to church on sunday. but i am sure the meaning is quite different in the US.
    genuinely interested, no hate replies please.

    January 1, 2012 at 8:28 am |
    • SCAtheist

      Somewhere in the last 30 years the term "evangelical" was co-opted to mean the same thing as "fundamentalist" in much of the U.S. Many churches still think of the word in your terms.

      January 1, 2012 at 8:36 am |
    • rgill

      The difference is in where the authority is placed. Catholics (also Eastern Orthodox I think) place their authority in the pope and the unbroken papal tradition which they believe goes back to Jesus. Protestants, but especially evangelicals, place their authority in the Bible itself. Representative of God versus Word of God. Mormonism changed this by introducing new "restored" authority in leadership in the form of claimed divine revelation.

      January 1, 2012 at 8:45 am |
    • ItSOnLyME

      It would take far too much bandwidth. So-called evangelical "Christians" (excepting Lutherans) in the US have co-opted the term to mean active recruitment of more and more gullible, unthinking people who are simply looking for a box full of pre-made answers to all their problems. That's what "Christianity" has devolved into in America. Most people are incapable of thinking much beyond the end of their nose, so they go somewhere that has all the answers for them, all neatly packaged. They're told what to believe and what to think about all kinds of things (religion, gays, immigrants, etc), all for just one hour a week of their time and 10% of their income. It's a great system.

      January 1, 2012 at 8:58 am |
    • Consequence

      rgill does a pretty good job of explaining this...although evangelicals place their authority in the bible...in fact, it is the thousands of pastors and evangelical leaders interpreting the bible who provide the authority. in this sense, they are not much different than the other Protestant groups. On top of this, most Protestant congregations have much more power and influence within their church than in either the Catholic or Mormon congregations. differing views and strong congregations make for a very schismatic church which is why one sees hundreds of Protestant denominations. Catholic authority descends from its belief in an uninterrupted Christian authority since the time of the first apostles. Mormon authority, as i understand, descends from the view that the Christian Church was corrupted early on and lost its authority. This prompted the need for a restoration of the Christian Church. In this sense, a restoration seems to build on the work of the Protestants who, seeing the corruption of the Roman Church, sought a reformation of the Christian Church. looking at it, a restoration seems more thorough than a reformation...which may explain why many Protestants still keep loose ties to the roman church and why Mormons are seen by other christians as not part of the club.

      January 1, 2012 at 9:53 am |
  15. SCAtheist

    Apparently there is an exception to the anti-abortion position (not life of the mother):

    Hosea 9:11-16 Hosea prays for God’s intervention. “Ephraim shall bring forth his children to the murderer. Give them, 0 Lord: what wilt thou give? Give them a miscarrying womb and dry breasts. . .Ephraim is smitten, their root is dried up, they shall bear no fruit: yea though they bring forth, yet will I slay even the beloved fruit of their womb.” Clearly Hosea desires that the people of Ephraim can no longer have children. God of course obeys by making all their unborn children miscarry. Is not terminating a pregnancy unnaturally “abortion”?

    January 1, 2012 at 8:28 am |
    • MissusPowell

      A woman who miscarries is also said to have aborted. I believe the word abortion began as a medical term and also
      meant "lost the child", if you will. It now has evolved to include, an mostly known as, an intentional end to a pregnancy.
      I don't personally take everything literally in the Bible. Words, for one thing, evolve and there are many translations, ie: definitions, for words in the Bible and what they meant then vs. what they came to mean over all these years. Not only is it due to the languages, but due to the evolution of meaning. We can easliy mis-assign a meaning to a word in the Bible when we assume it's meaning is the same as the meaning we think of now.

      January 1, 2012 at 8:43 am |
    • jshelley

      Atheism is a misnomer. You actually belief in something: nothing. You are the same as Catholics who mumbles to their statues, because neither you nor they were there at the moment of creation, so how do you know? Strong faith in the absence of a god. Explore agnosticism. It's where the smart people go on Sunday.

      January 1, 2012 at 8:46 am |
  16. rgill

    "Modern American evangelicalism emerged in the late 19th century, built around biblical literalism and an emphasis on human sin and redemption. The movement was largely a reaction to Darwin’s theory of evolution and questions that modern science raised about biblical authority." – this is nonsense. Fundamentalism in the U.S. is a reaction to urbanism and industrialization. The connection to evolution didn't happen until after WWI when William Jennings Bryan latched onto it as a scapegoat for all that was wrong with the modern world.

    January 1, 2012 at 8:23 am |
  17. Gzert

    Why aren't the evangelical voters and candidates in Iowa calling into question the atheistic, materialistic Randianism at the core of Ron Paul's "libertarian" views? I'm guessing he named his son after Ayn Rand because he admires her philosphy, which goes well beyond economics.

    January 1, 2012 at 8:22 am |
    • Mirosal

      Or maybe he named his son after James Randi (aka The Amazing Randi) .. Magician, illusionist, Atheist, debunker

      January 1, 2012 at 8:30 am |
    • rgill

      Good question. The republicans have managed to harness the power of evangelical voters by emphasizing "family values" (a code word for anti-gay), but carefully avoid the fact that the teachings of Jesus were distinctly socialist/anti-wealth (Matt 19:23).

      January 1, 2012 at 8:30 am |
    • gzert

      You sort of got me, mirosal. I have no idea why Paul named his son Randy, and I know Paul also says he disagrees with some of Rand"s thinking, but I also wish evangelicals who support Paul or any candidate who endorses any Randian thought would question whether any tenents of Randianism, which basically reduces every human interaction to a financial transaction, has any place in an evangelical cosmology.

      January 1, 2012 at 9:42 am |
  18. Thor4

    Religion should NOT be included into politics. The GOP relies on the fanatical groups to get them noticed and to elevate them into the political American arena. As far as I am concerned religion is a personal opinion and no one can tell anyone what is the true answer to any religious question. An election should NOT be held on religious beliefs only on a politicians merit.

    By the way – looking at the GOP lineup for the election it looks like a comedy skit from Saturday Night Live !!!!!

    January 1, 2012 at 8:20 am |
    • hardymum48

      Agreed. I practice my Christian faith the best I can (and I belong to the "Evangelical" Lutheran church, although it is by no means "fundamentalist", is in fact quite liberal as churches go) but it plays almost no part in my voting decisions. If you are looking to politicians to set moral examples or promote values, you're going to be disappointed no matter who you vote for. Promotion of morality and values comes from, and is the responsibility of, the FAMILY, not the government. It always strikes me as odd that the Republicans who are always whinging on about wanting smaller government, seem to want the government to play such a big role in the area where government should be the least involved. I look to the Bible and my faith to tell me how to live my life, not so I can tell and/or dictate to others how they should live theirs.

      January 1, 2012 at 8:54 am |
    • Jb

      no matter how much you peeps whine and moan about religion in politics, its never going to recede. like the old saying goes, "you cant have one without the other." taking religion out of politics is to take everyone out of politics who have a religion. that pretty much takes out most of political cabinet. so by law we would have to choose candidates without a religion. God forbid that ever happens. It would be like Hitler and the Jews all over again, i guarantee it.

      January 1, 2012 at 8:55 am |
    • colonelingus

      Couldn't agree more.

      January 1, 2012 at 8:59 am |
  19. CrazyOwlLady

    Let's tax the churches. If they want to play politics, they can pay to play.

    January 1, 2012 at 8:17 am |
    • ItSOnLyME

      ABSOLUTELY!

      January 1, 2012 at 9:00 am |
  20. ed

    for some unknown reason the liberal media thinks that if you seek GOD'S direction you are crossing the stupid seperation of church and state divide. GOD and who i choose to vote for are connected i cant and wont choose without HIS direction. if more people would have sought HIS direction we wouldn't have the anti american obama as president right now. and the idea that evangelicals have to much political power does not hold water if they had enough we would be a conservative country lead by conservative people seeking to honor GOD and not bowing to the wishes of islam a false religion

    January 1, 2012 at 8:16 am |
    • Bernard Webb

      In other words, you want America to scrap its democracy and establish a religious theocracy, like the ones in Saudi Arabia and Iran. I hope I have misinterpreted your comments, because of course the desire to overthrow our system of government would be treasonous, and I'm sure you consider yourself a True American.

      January 1, 2012 at 8:18 am |
    • hal9thou

      Heil Jesus!

      January 1, 2012 at 8:29 am |
    • Mirosal

      @ Ed .. ok, just to be clear.. you won't for somebody unless the voices in your head tell you to. ok, got it, thanks .. now go back to your little room in your mommy's basement and let the grown-ups talk.

      January 1, 2012 at 8:32 am |
    • Mirosal

      won't VOTE for somebody

      January 1, 2012 at 8:33 am |
    • satan

      You did an excellent job capitalizing your references to deity but you failed to capitalize the first letter of each word beginning a sentence.

      January 1, 2012 at 8:45 am |
    • MissusPowell

      WHOA ED!! God and Anti-American Obama? I think you have mistakingly mixed ideas here. You believe religion is personal and should not be involved in politics. However, you infer that one must be a believer in God to be American or pro-America. It doesn't work that way in America...can't have it both ways.

      January 1, 2012 at 8:55 am |
    • ItSOnLyME

      So what you're saying is, your religion allows you to totally abdicate all personal responsibility, because "he" is telling you whom to vote for. Great idea. Didn't "he" give you free will? Didn't "he" tell us to be kind to everyone, have compassion for the less fortunate, etc, etc, etc? Do you practice those things? What about compassion for everyone, including people who don't believe as you do, or who don't sleep with who you think they should sleep, or who are from other, less prosperous countries? What about them? Jesus wasn't a Republican.

      January 1, 2012 at 9:02 am |
    • Peppermint Patty

      "He", (which is another problem...since god would be an "it"), doesn't "tell" them anything. Nothing happens in their heads without the agency of their brain cells, and brain chemistry, the functioning of which is TOTALLY dependent on the levels of chemicals, especially oxygen and sugar. It's a "figure of speech" that "god talks to them". It's their own brains doing self-talk. But expecting Americans to know about neuro-physiology, when 50 % of them can't answer the question "Around what celectial object does the Earth rotate?" is FAR to much to expect.

      January 1, 2012 at 9:41 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.