January 28th, 2012
02:00 AM ET
Florida Evangelicals a different breed of voter than brethren in Iowa, South Carolina
By John Sepulvado, CNN
(CNN) - Conservative Christian activist Ralph Reed has called the Bible Belt home for decades, but he grew up in Miami in the 1970s, when the city was emerging as a diverse megalopolis.
Among his middle school friends were Jews, Catholics and Methodists.
Then, at age 15, Reed's family relocated to the sleepy mountain town of Toccoa, Georgia, so his dad, a doctor, could take a better-paying job.
“It was very conservative,” says Reed, who now lives outside Atlanta. “At first – as would be true of any 15-year-old – I didn’t like it. I think it was a culture shock.”
Ultimately, the mostly evangelical residents of Toccoa shaped Reed’s faith, helping lead him to Jesus in his 20s. But in terms of his faith-based organizing, the well-known activist drew more on his experiences in hyper-diverse Miami.
"Later on in life, when I became a leader in the Christian Coalition, I had a greater appreciation [for] ethnic and religious diversification,” Reed says.
That could be good news for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. The former Massachusetts governor is looking to regain momentum from chief rival Newt Gingrich, after the former speaker’s upset in South Carolina, in Florida’s Tuesday primary.
There are signs that Florida’s evangelical voters may be more forgiving of Romney’s past social liberalism than their Iowa and South Carolina brethren – and more willing to support a Mormon candidate.
“I think Romney could do well in Florida,” Reed says.
A more centrist evangelicalism
As a percentage of GOP voters, there are fewer evangelicals in Florida compared to South Carolina and Iowa, where Rick Santorum won the presidential caucuses, according to CNN exit polls from 2008.
In that year, evangelicals accounted for 40% of Republican primary voters in Florida, compared to 60% in the Iowa caucuses and South Carolina primaries.
And compared to those other early primary states, Florida is much more religiously diverse. In the 2008 primary there, Catholics were nearly a third of the Republican vote, with other kinds of Christians, Jews and those with no religious affiliation each claiming a chunk of the vote.
Still, evangelical Christians claim a bigger share of the Florida Republican vote than any other religious tradition. There also are signs they may be more tolerant of a Mormon candidate than born-again Christians in the Bible Belt and Midwest.
In the South Carolina primary, Romney claimed 22% of the evangelical vote, compared to 44% for Gingrich, according to CNN exit polls.
Florida’s evangelicals are “more open” to the idea of a Mormon in the White House, according to Orlando area pastor Joel C. Hunter.
“Our nature, of being a fairly mobile state, with a lot of tourism and a lot of transcultural and transnational interaction really makes us boundary spanning, rather than sticking to our own affinity groups,” Hunter says.
He leads a congregation of 15,000 at Northland, a Church Distributed, a nondenominational megachurch of the kind that are more popular in Florida than in Iowa or South Carolina.
“For any independent church, you’re going to be open – necessarily open – to non-ready made boundaries, open to other religious groups,” Hunter says. “You’ll be more likely to partner with groups that aren’t necessarily like your own.”
The pastor cites his church’s partnerships with local synagogues and mosques to help local homeless children. For Hunter, teaming up with different religious traditions follows the example of Jesus.
“Jesus talked to the people, the religious leaders others wouldn’t talk to,” he says.
“As an evangelical, I should be ready to talk to a lot of people that aren’t like myself, because that’s what I see in the life of Christ, and I’m looking to build relationships.”
Mark I. Pinsky, the Florida-based author of "A Jew Among Evangelicals," says there are other key differences between evangelicals in Florida and those in Iowa and South Carolina.
“In Iowa,” Pinsky says, “they tend to be rural and older. In South Carolina, they tend to be more fundamentalist, and more likely to be affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention,” a denomination that isn’t shy about pointing out theological differences with Mormonism.
Pinsky says Florida evangelicals, especially in the central part of the state, are more likely to have Mormons as neighbors, compared to their brethren in South Carolina and Iowa.
“Nondenominational evangelicals are less likely to demonize someone who is a real person,” Pinsky says.
Less Preaching, More Teaching
Even in smaller Baptist churches in Florida’s Panhandle, there are “notable differences” with Christians in more historically evangelical parts of the country, according to pastor Curtis Clark.
“There’s still a lot of yelling from the pulpit in South Carolina,” says Clark, who leads a congregation of 2,500 at Thomasville Road Baptist Church in Tallahassee. Clark says his congregation is split between Republicans and Democrats, that almost all the adults have college degrees and that the parishioners want to be led, not yelled at.
“I try and teach, try and encourage,” Clark says. “Florida evangelicals are a little bit more educated, and have a broader experience.”
Census figures from 2010 show Florida has a slightly greater share of college graduates than South Carolina.
Both the Romney and Gingrich campaigns are reaching out to evangelicals to quell concerns about their candidacies. Both campaigns held conference calls with influential conservative religious leaders last week, discussing religion, personal and policy decisions.
Many evangelicals have expressed concern about Romney’s past support for abortion rights and gay rights and over Gingrich’s failed marriages.
But Romney doesn’t need to win big among evangelicals to take Florida, Reed says. Because evangelicals make up a smaller portion of Republican voters, Reed says Romney only needs to win a sizeable share of their support.
“If Romney gets a third of evangelical voters” Reed says, “he wins the primary.”
While Romney skipped meeting with some evangelical leaders in South Carolina, including officials at Bob Jones University, his campaign has started more aggressively courting pastors and religious community networks in Florida. The campaign has participated in multiple conference calls with religious leaders and activists.
“In part, I think [the Romney campaign is] more open to outreach by virtue of the Florida demographic,” Reed says.
That suggests the Romney camp suspects Florida’s evangelicals will be more open to his candidacy than other evangelicals in the primary states so far.
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.
As a Catholic, I have to say that there is too much in the media about evangelicals and fundamentalists in politics. I am so sick of hearing about religion in politics. That's why church and state are separate. Not once in this article did it say anything about what is important to them in this nation about education, heath care, or the economy. And just in case you are wondering, that is what the rest of us are most concerned about, not what politicians and the Chrisitan Coalition think you do in the bedroom. You are judged by God against your conscious, not what other people think. And if you are a a true Christian, you keep the faith through your actions and not on your SLEEVES!!! I can't really say that for either of the GOP candidates who are neck in neck with slandering each other. Thou shall not judge, recognize that saying? When are you people going to learn? God doesn't want you to flaunt religion, he wants you to make good choices through your faith. I have yet to see a political candidate do that....
You misunderstand the fundamental point of the gospel. You cannot put God in a box.
I commend the fact that you're more interested in the important issues than you are with religious affiliation, but I truly wish all of you would learn your own Bible. I'm a Jew turned Deist and I still know your Bible better than you do.
It is Matthew 7:1 that says , Judge not, lest ye be judged. There is absolutely nothing in the Bible, and certainly nothing in the commandments that says "thou shalt not judge". You might also read the rest of the passage of Matthew 7 to get the rest of it. It is condemning hypocrisy and judgement against another which, by following your post, you just did.
The word is also conscience, as in moral integrity. Not conscious, as in awake.
Judging Is Believing.
Yes, and why, even of yourselves, do you not judge what is right? (Luke 12:57)
What is right?
The statutes of the Lord are right (Psalm 19:8).
False Christians (and others) often tell us it is not right to judge. Some fools hypocritically condemn us for judging (Luke 6:37), and they all hypocritically judge that we judge.1 When we identify false beliefs which lead both themselves and those who follow them to hell, when we declare others as on their way to hell, and especially when we warn them they are lost, we often hear these words (or the equivalent), "Judge not" (Matthew 7:1). Yet, these words are exactly why we judge.
Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. (Matthew 7:1-2)
Jesus also said,
Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. (Luke 6:37)
Christians take these words very seriously. (Psalm 119:120; Isaiah 66:2). We do not want to be judged by our "measure" as Christ warns in Matthew 7:1-2, because we know we fall short (Romans 3:23); and our measure is guaranteed to be faulty (Psalm 16:2).
You need to study Jesus' truth throughout your life Nyte.
For my vote, I'd like to see what Mitt or Newt has done serving others first hand.... it's not enough to "write a check to charity".,.. have either one served the less fortunate face to face? Have they helped out at a Soup Kitchen or painted a room at a shelter? Have they mentored or provided a "life skills class" to a homeless person? Have they witnessed first hand the plight of the less fortunate by visiting a single mom w/ 5 children desperate to survive in Detroit... her 6 children sleeping in the same bed, with no heat, no food, and no hope..... did they visit her and understand her pain and how she got there?! If and whichever one has will get my vote!
Mitt certainly has. As a Mormon bishop, stake president, and in many other ecclesiastical responsibilities, he likely did all of those things and hundreds more, without pay and while still working in the private sector full time.
With a Christian, you must be able to accomplish a calm, submissive state, which will allow you to create rules, boundaries and limitations. The mind backs away from the foolishness of religion. So in their world, they are always ready to balance. It's the Atheist who fights it. Remember your Christian wants to follow. Your Christian wants a strong pack leader.
Now Maxwell will be with me in heaven, you know. He's a full lab, but he converted to Christianity last year.
"He's a full lab, but he converted to Christianity last year."
Yeah, those labs are easy. They'll do anything for a dip in the water.
It's my cat that I'm having trouble with.
Baptism by immersion is not for everyone. Try sprinkling your cat.
Jesus does work in mysterious ways having everyone baptized at birth ... being born of water (mom's water breaking before delivering).
I am impressed. Religion part of politics? Before going further, I would like to ask this gentleman what is for him faith, soul, heaven, the Bible, Jesus, resurrection, Virgin Mary, apostles, Abraham (oh, I like this one), everything related to evangelism, and my list could go longer. But, what is the point? Logically speaking, non-believers are closer to something reasonable (thinking) than believers. What about Moises and his tables, what about the miracles, what about those original places known as paradises, what about the last judgement, etc., etc., etc. Evangelists, Jews, Catholics, Mormons, and all these religious groups, including Muslims, and all those dozens of religions created by 'an intelligent but opportunist common and ordinary guys,' teach men how to live a miserable life. Sin? Fabulous, tool to denigrate the human being. WHAT ABOUT PRIESTS, MINISTERS AND ANYBODY CLOSE TO WHAT THIS GENTLEMAN IS, WHAT ABOUT THE POPE? I have a modest advise, which I could certainly assure that is a good one: whatever religion you profess, what ever thing you believe in, whatever your behavior is in front of the rest, whether you desire or just put your hands in other man's woman, whatever the number of credit cards you have, etc. YOU ARE GOING TO DIE AND AFTER A SHORT TIME, IF IT HAPPENS THAT YOU ARE BURIED IN THE MIDDLE OF A FIELD, IN THE COUNTRYSIDE, YOUR SACRED BODY IS GOING TO BE THE BEST FOOD A COW CAN TASTE: this is, pasture mixed with your dust. So, what is the point of what you do or believe in? Oh. I see. You mean thatby doing this, you get tickets to go to the skies and live an eternal life. No my man. You (dust) will live an eternal life as long as there was no cows where you were buried.
Well, Joe, I have to tell you I really had to struggle to read through that garbage. But here's my translation of your wall-o-text diatribe:
"I'm damn bitter that God hasn't swooped down and taken care of all of my problems and answered every question. I'm so mad and bitter that I'm just not going to believe in God at all! Let's see how he likes that!! I'm never speaking to you again, God. DO YOU HEAR ME?!?!"
Now that we've established that: you can believe as you wish and go about your business. Those who practice a religious preference are not going to listen to you much anyway. Only those who have a burning need for validation from others make a huge scene about their "superior" belief system. Come back when You're really sooper sure that you actually believe it. When you do, you won't feel the need to preach it.
Wht aren't christians trying to start the end-days ASAP. Is there a down side to it?
Some think they are self-starting, others that they are already under way.
Probably because every time they set a deadline, someone drops the ball.
blight, non-believers caused end of days ... your generation starting with famine.
I am just amazed at the intolerance showed by most people who say they are Christians - they are hateful people when it comes to anyone not like themselves in belief and in some cases race or origin. While not an Atheist I am not willing to be part of a religion that tears others down - which virtually all religions do on one level or another - was Jesus not about love? Where has this fundamental principal about Jesus gone for most Christians - it is disgusting and shameful - if I were God I would say to hell with all of us and just let us kill our environment and ourselves off and start over - we are an embarrassment to the genetic pool of Earth.
Religion is the biggest scam in the history of humanity
Your mistake is in judging Christianity by those who call themselves Christians instead of the one for whom Christianity is named. Most Christians understand the difference, even if you do not.
These idiots would rather vote for a guy who left both wives due to cancer and MS then for a Mormon...I can't stand religion or religious people. Religion is the scariest made up crap out there, worse then terrorists
That's why you are not God. Actually, He did wipe almost all of evil mankind out during Noah's day and when the time is right He will destroy the earth again but not by water. Pray you are a be,I ever before that happens.
rchbirder, if Jesus' truth offends you it means you have work to do in those areas.
I would never want to be a member of a group whose symbol was a guy nailed to two pieces of wood. Drink his blood and eats his body
I second that friend. Religion is about controlling your subjects. I will gladly control my own life.
Do you not believe in absolute truth?
Religion is man made to control people. Jesus came to teach us to be kind to each other. A fact lost to conservatives and evangelicals. But the most repulsive thing is they they have tied themselves politically to the GOP.
To me a bunch of born again hypocrite freaks. Most of them holler and throw their hands in the air , babbling and try to convince every one around them how blessed they are." LOOK AT ME I"M BLESSED" !!!!!!!
@MAC... Isn't it almost comical the way religion controls people and makes them act that way?
Amazing thing about Christianity, isn't it? It even makes unbelievers take time out of their day to hammer out their unbelief on a keyboard. Repeatedly.
All have sinned and come short of the glory of god. Christianity is not about what you do, it is accepting what Christ did.
@collegeat39>>> I feel embarrassment for them and their children, with pity thrown in. They all think they will move to the head of the line.
Prayer changes things
Knowing God is the beginning of wisdom
Guide us Father in our hour of need
Prayer changes things
Show me one thing that prayer has ever changed.
The slave trade. Reference John Newton and William Wilberforce
Religion is the biggest scam in the history of the earth
An atheist will never fly into a building.
"The slave trade. Reference John Newton and William Wilberforce"
Nope. That was my doing. A special someone wished upon me for many nights, and I just couldn't resist.
prayer=politically correct schizophrenia
"Knowing God is the beginning of wisdom"
More like the End of thinking
demons gather to oppose prayer clinging to dead souls and oozing out through bogus opinions trying to hide their terror of what is coming
demons gather to oppose prayer clinging to dead souls and oozing out through bogus opinions trying to hide their terror of what is coming.
This guy pastes this exact comment in every blog in every page or so. Ignore it. Everyone has prayed numerous times that he would stop but he persists which proves that prayer does not work.
Me...from a selfish gay druggie street kid to a person who raised 25 foster children, and is now a psych intern helping the mentally ill, I will graduate with a doctorate in clinical Psych next year. Thank you Father!!
Robert an atheist may never fly into a building (a questionable assumption, at best) but they will slaughter 20-60 million of their own people...just ask the people who survived Mao and Stalin.
Your success is my doing also. Perhaps you don't remember wishing upon me when you were little, but I do, and I saved the granting 'til later, but made it even better than you wished. Also, I had some leftovers from kids who wished for bicycles and puppies whose parents were going to get them for them anyway, so I used them on you.
You said, "Robert an atheist may never fly into a building (a questionable assumption, at best) but they will slaughter 20-60 million of their own people...just ask the people who survived Mao and Stalin."
Anyone who equates atheism with communism probably doesn't understand either. Communism is a sociopolitical system. Atheism is a disbelief in gods. Neither requires the other. There are communists that are also christian.
Atrocities committed by communist despots have been predominantly power plays. Religious and other groups have been targeted because the control their organizations exert over their followers. The same is true for religiously inspired mass murder.
CNN's idea of a "moderate Evangelical" is an agnostic who has exchanged their faith in Jesus Christ for blind faith in Barak Obama and the lunacy peddled by the left.
What an odd troll you are.
there is no herbie
"God is Not Great – How Religion Poisons Everything" Christopher Hitches .... enough said.
Nothing said. A dead guy who choked on his own foulness? Nice source. What else you got a drowning man teaching swimming
Nothing said. A dead guy who choked on his own foulness? Nice source. What else you got a drowning man teaching swimming.
@Justsayin – Like most religious fools, as apparent that you are, you missed the point completely. Now go and pick up the Bible, Koran, or whatever-man-made-faith-based-manual you adhere to and read some verses and sing some hymns to calm yourself down. Or pray for enlightenment from your deity or wherever the F it is you get your thoughts.....
@Justsayin – Like most religious fools, as apparent that you are, you missed the point completely. Now go and pick up the Bible, Koran, or whatever-man-made-faith-based-manual you adhere to and read some verses and sing some hymns to calm yourself down. Or pray for enlightenment from your deity or wherever it is you get your thoughts.....
Centrist or not any, adult who believes in an imaginary fantasy land in the great beyond and a sky daddy has to be suffering from some form of mental ilness. It is imposible to accept or believe in such nonsense after a certain age, unless you are just too scared to face reality or are just insane.
You are wrong but I wouldn't call you insane because that is just rude. I would just say you have't come to an understanding of what the truth is, but miracles are happening every day 🙂
and you are never wrong about anything...we know
"miracles are happening every day"
Thanks to me and the wishes that I grant.
You don't have to train an Atheist as much as you have to train a Christian. You see Christians that are super trained ... but they have issues. They attack Atheists or they have psychological issues. They're trained but not balanced.
Up boy! That's a good boy! Walter is part border-collie and an atheist, you know.
Religion is the biggest scam in the history of our planet
Its not a scam, it keeps the sheep of society in line to an extent, can you imagine what them dimwits would be doing if they didnt have thier "answer" would be a mad max world
Just remember, keep your Christian calm and submissive. Be a strong pack leader and these strange evangical behaviors with start to subside. Oh, and alway remember to walk you Christian, they need the exercise and the interaction.
Is it true that Mitt thinks he has powers of gods, and will eventually become a god? If so, we definitley don't need a religious fanatic with this kind of irrational thinking as POTUS.
Well, he believes that man is perfectible and so he believes he can at least work on becoming a god. I'm not...sure that's a bad thing.
It's scary that there is a chance (even when it's a little one) that the US can have a freaky religious fanatic as Romney for president. Or Santorum. He should be in jail after all the things he said.
You are dam* right about that. Religious whacks cannot think, choose or rationalize for themselves. They are weak and narrow-minded adolescents, uneducated and immature.
So his belief in that is somehow more outrageous than other Biblical stories?
Tate- Mormons believe that God loves His children (all human beings) to the point that He wants them to become more like Him, similar to how any father would The claim that Mitt believes he will be the "god of his own planet" is a gross misunderstanding of the Mormon doctrine. More comprehensive explanations can be found on http://www.Mormon.org or mormonvoices.org or fairlds.org.
Jeric – When mormons say 'become more like him' do they think that it means more than just following his example? Do they think that god was also once a human? I think most christians believe there is only one god; regardless it's pretty obvious you either are a god or you're not a god. And I think most christians believe they are not gods and will never become gods.
Jesus never participated in politics neither his disciples.... The only participating in politics in Jesus time were the pharisees! Jesus thought us to pray and wait for Gods kingdom, the only one able to make the changes we need...! By participating in politics these people violate Gods word, and indicate by there actions that they dont even believe in Gods promesses! I guess money moves masses including these so called "Christians"!!
Well said Brampt, that is something most Christians in America seem to have forgotten among other things.
Religion is the biggest scam in history
Have you really read the scriptures? Jesus did not tell his disciples not to participate in politics; in fact He even paid taxes. He just didn't want them to expect their Savior to be a politician; liberals need to understand that, also.
Jesus was a revolutionary. He asked others to take up their cross and follow him. Have you?
Lol, Jesus paying taxes should be a pretty big tip-off that he was just a man.........
Actually – He never said directly not to take part in politics but history shows us that Christians from Jesus time and from the first century never participated in politics...Jesus said " Im not part of this world as you are not part of this world"... And by the why he even identified the "ruler of this world", yes the same that offer him in one of the temptation "all the kingdoms of the world". But meanwhile Gods Kingdom doesnt get established by him we as Christians need to be an example more even then non believers in obeying the law, and of course paying taxes. " Give Cesar what is from Cesar, but give to God what is from God."
Adults believing in fairy tales.
We run your world.
II thought our current president was of the Christian faith. What are you saying about him?
We are the only species that follows unstable pack leaders.
With Christians, the most important thing that we have to provide every day is that we are the pack leader, that we set the rules, the boundaries and the limitations, and then we tolerate them.
Most of the people, they go to get a Christian because they need somebody to help old people. So they are going after what they need, not what the Christian needs.
And that, to me, creates instability immediately, and the Christian sees the Atheist as a soft energy. So they don't follow the lovable leader or a spiritual leader; they follow a dominant one.
One of the many upsides of not believing in the existence of a god, is not believing in the existence of a hell, too.
While the religious among us seem convinced that, if they stay true to their doctrine, they will inevitably reach what they perceive to be a nirvana of sorts, they also tremble at what they perceive to be the dire consequences of not following what they have been taught – voluntarily or otherwise.
I find that this thinking is unfortunate since it is based on a proposition that assumes all humans are inherently selfish. Would the people who occasionally show up at my front door trying to spread the "goodness" of their beliefs do so if they knew there would be no ethereal reward at the end of their neighborhood crusade? I highly doubt it.
I am quite comfortable in believing there are no utopian pastures waiting for me at the end of my lifetime. But I also live without the fear of being toasted for all eternity for accepting that reality.
Well, it's good that you are comfortable. But reality exists whether you believe in it or not. You better reconsider your position before it's too late.
Whether you believe or not does not change what is. I don't believe in speed limits but there are those that do and i can be educated very quickly. Your lack of belief will not stand up to Gods judgement.
Why, George? What will happen to me if I don't reconsider? Do you know?
Never cud understand how crowded both Heaven and Hell must be what with all the people who have died in the world. And that idea that there are "many mansions in my kingdom" means that there is a physical place called Heaven. Cant we all just disappear?. Yor done! Finished! There aint no more unless of course we are ALL reincarnations of past beings and hellish people return as evil and heavenly people return as good. I like that idea even though I'm the author of it!