In the first chapter of their book, Personal Faith Public Policy, Jackson and Perkins attempt to answer the question “Who is the Religious Right?” Jackson and Perkins answer the question with five main ideas. These ideas are as follows “values voters”, Origins of the religious Right, recent diversification of the religious Right, youth movement within the religious Right, and Breaking the party lines. Those five ideas are used in such a way as to answer their original question of “Who is the Religious Right?”, by answering the question they dispel the myths created by the religious Right’s critics that the religious Right is dying.
Jackson and Perkins first establish that “values voters” exist and are a force to be considered in a national election; countering the idea that the religious Right is dying. Citing the exit polls from the 2004 election which listed the largest deciding factor for voters were moral values at 27%. These values are issues like same sex marriage, abortion, and many others. “Far more Americans share a common or similar set of values that just those dismissively labeled “the religious Right.” By establishing that the religious Right is far more than just the religious community, Jackson and Perkins also react to the accusations made by critics that the religious Right is an aggressive force.
The book also gives a brief history of the religious Right, objecting to the idea the religious Right was created as an aggressive political force. Judicial decisions based on the separation of church and state spurred on the religious Right movement in the late 1970s to the early 1980s. There are thirteen court decisions in which religious freedoms have been lost in the public arena such as prayer and bible reading in school, which are cited in the book. According to Jackson and Perkins the straw that broke the camel’s back was the prayer in the public schools being banned. At that point these religious Right organizations began forming. “The truth is we are simply responding to the attacks that have been waged by a small but significant minority aided by the courts.” By doing this the courts have awakened the sleeping giant of the religious Right in order to defend many religious freedoms, but it has diversified since then and grown into moral issues.
Just as the religious Right has diversified in the issues it wants to defend, the religious Right has also diversified in its base of supporters. Originally the religious Right was comprised of white, old, evangelical men, is now diversified into many different religions, age groups, and races. This has helped its power of voting bloc but also has caused the issues it confronts to broaden. A new face of the religious Right is the youth of this country. One great example of this new face is seeing you at the poll which was started by students meeting around the flag poll of their school and praying. This event happens every September 12th and it was estimated that nearly two million students participated in order to pray for their countries leaders and their school. Age is not the only diversification happening within the religious Right; the religious Right is including many different races as well. In 2004, Ohio had a marriage amendment against same sex marriage on the ballet and “based upon exit polling, six in ten African Americans voted in support of the marriage amendment.” These few examples from the book show the amount of diversification happening within the religious right, both racial and age.
The last idea covered in the chapter is the idea of breaking party lines in order to vote for the candidate with values the voter supports; causing party diversification within the religious Right. The origins of the religious Right are within the Republican Party but recently “values voters” have been crossing their party’s line and voting for the candidate who holds their values. By expanding the issues the religious Right has gained supporters from both sides of the isle. “As a result of broadening of the evangelical movement, both political parties will increasingly have to compete for the support of the evangelicals to succeed.” “Values voters” are forcing all candidates to confront the religious and moral issues in order to have a chance at winning an election.
“A Pew poll on religion and politics, conducted in September 2007, revealed that 72 percent of Americans want a president with “strong religious beliefs.” Regardless of political party, a candidate for president of the United States cannot win without passing a minimal hurdle of declaring faith in God.”
This chapter answered the question of who is the religious Right. Answering this question is becoming more complex as the religious Right diversifies. Causing politicians to be educated in the religious and moral issues.
Jackson and Perkins did an excellent job of answering their original question. Those five main ideas they used to answer the question defined the religious Right to one that is no longer confined to one party, race, and age group. This movement is lead by voters who uses their conscience and religion when they vote. The definition of the religious Right is now becoming less right and less religious, yet we continue to use this term for a lack of a better word. Evidence within this chapter validates the idea of civil religion, which is addressed in the book Twilight of the Saints.
The second chapter of the book begins by addressing the fact that the Bush administration has let down the “values voters”; because the only moral issue they have been successful at attacking has been stem cell research. When President Bush was running his platform was same sex marriage, stem cell research, abortion and several other moral issues. Though disappointing the nature of not having control of the congress, and a low approval rating has hindered the President’s efforts.
Even though the countries leadership has failed in the previous four years, the church needs to still vote and provide witness to this shattered culture. Jackson and Perkins use the model that the biblical prophets gave the church, using the five rights. If the church lives by these rights they will give a biblical example to the culture. The five rights are to live right, do right, move right, pray right, and speak right. Living right means the church needs to set an example of what a Godly person is, we need to talk the talk and most importantly walk the walk, the church needs to practice what they preach. Part of living right is to do right; this is achieved by serving the community around you by participating in outreach ministries. Moving right is ensuring the church is not becoming what the media projects us as. The church needs to become more active in prayer, the elders of the church need to take a lesson from the youth and be praying like the youth do when they meet for see you at the poll; Christians need to pray for the country more often. When witnessing to the nation the church needs to be loving not forcing their religion on people. These five rights will enable the church to effectively penetrate the culture actively instead of passively. Though these five rights the “values voters” can display what they want to happen effectively to the culture, by setting a “prophetic” example.