Religious Conservatives Brace for Future Under Obama

After Tuesday's Democratic sweep, Christian conservatives across the country are worried about the fate of their movement.

One of them is Albert Mohler, head of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, who posted an anguished essay on his Web site today, saying, "the fight for the dignity and sanctity of unborn human beings has been set back by a great loss."

Evangelicals have been a political and social force with tremendous clout, having found an ally in the Bush administration. On Tuesday night, they watched as red states turned blue, Democrats ousted Republicans and their agenda crumbled.

"We're going to have some setbacks here," Mohler said. "We're going to have some real days of disappointment. I think we need to be prepared for that. We're going to find ourselves in a situation where our voice is not going to have the kind of resonance that it once had in Washington."

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Evangelicals' hold has disintegrated from four years ago, when groups lauded President Bush's re-election as a "moral mandate." Christian conservatives will now have to transition from having one of their own in the White House to a new president-elect, who, while openly religious, supports abortion rights and opposes a constitutional ban on gay marriage.

"We must pray that God would change his mind and heart on issues of our crucial concern," Mohler wrote on his Web site, urging supporters to hold fast to their beliefs on moral issues.

"I think there's a real threat here that the Republican Party could decide to say to conservative Christians, 'there's the door, we're going to move in a different direction,'" Mohler said. "It just ought to remind many Christians we have placed too much confidence in the political process in the first place."

But other evangelicals point to the passing of gay marriage bans in three states Tuesday as signs that their movement is not dead. Conservatives poured energy and emotion into passing Proposition 8, overturning the state's gay-marriage law, which spurred major protests overnight in California.

Recreating the Religious Right

Others believe that Barack Obama's presidency could have the reverse effect, further galvanizing their constituency.

"I think many people will be in for quite a shock when he governs and that could end up helping our movement," said Wendy Wright, president of Concerned Voters for America. "If he implements the policies that he says that he believes, many people in America will -- may be shocked enough that we'll see the pendulum swing the other way."

Some in the evangelical community, who believe that political power corrupts, say that losing power could be good for the soul.

"I think the religious right has an enormous opportunity to be reconstituted in a way that may be even more reflective of an agenda that Jesus might pursue," said David Kuo, CEO of Culture11.com, a social networking site for the culturally conservative.

Kuo said that in the movement's search to regain clout, it is undergoing a generational shift, and will likely lean toward a more progressive agenda.

"The new leaders will be young, they'll be more progressive," Kuo said. "They'll still be socially conservative, but this is going to be a generation that knows how to work an iPod, knows Facebook, knows MySpace and knows how to use all of those things to advance the religious right's political agenda."

For now, evangelicals say they're praying for Obama's protection and also praying for him to change his mind on the issues that they believe matter most.

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