What does Pinsky see?

 

  • The evangelical movement taking place within Sunbelt suburbs is a shift from when the rural fundamentalist population drove the bus.

 

“If you accept the premise that evangelical Christianity is the successor to the fundamentalist movement of the 1920s and ‘30s – it was largely rural and small-town and a working-class movement – then today the center of gravity has shifted and is now largely suburban. It’s a modern suburban movement,” he said. “My people came to the suburbs from the cities, whereas evangelicals, their roots are on the farm and in smaller towns.”

 

The horizon has been altered because two generations of rural Christians have grown up attending universities in larger cities, Pinsky said.

 

  • Not all evangelicals adhere to the teachings of James Dobson or blindly follow the lead of Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell and other high profile fundamentalist pastors.

 

This may not be news to evangelicals, but Pinsky believes most liberals would be shocked by it. Just as shocking, Pinsky found that not all evangelicals support President Bush, especially as the war in Iraq drags on. He said that several evangelicals living in his neighborhood think the President is in over his head, so he reasons that similar attitudes are taking shape in suburbs across the south.

 

While most evangelicals give Bush the benefit of the doubt because he is born again, they are beginning to question his competency, Pinsky said.

 

“I think they’d rather have a non-evangelical who is competent than an incompetent evangelical,” he said. “What has happened over the last six years... There is rising concern over the competency of this administration. These (suburban) evangelicals are not unsophisticated people.

 

“I think it reaches a point where a (redeemed) heart only takes you so far (with your supporters). There comes a point where even if you like someone, if they’re not doing the job then you make a change. You make it with a heavy heart, but the deal has to be done. As much as people have affection for this guy, the question becomes whether he’s running the car into the ditch.”

 

Considering those observed opinions, Pinsky thinks that the Bush presidency might be the high-water mark of ultra-conservative evangelical influence in the U.S. As evidence, he cites the debate among the Christians he knows involving global warming, gay rights and creationism vs. evolution.

 

More educated suburban evangelicals, for example, tend to put less stock in the idea of a young earth (ie. about 6,000 years old), Pinsky said.

 

“How can all these people believe the earth is 6,000 years old?’’ he said, suggesting that creationists place less of a premium on higher education. “Most of the evangelicals in my neighborhood want their kids to get into the University of Florida, and Duke or Princeton. From my faith, the Jews for hundreds of years have subscribed to intelligent design, that it’s based entirely in science but also that God started all this.”