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Palin: Movement Evangelical

3:42 PM, Sep 5, 2008 • By TERRY EASTLAND
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Over at Spiritual Politics, Mark Silk makes the interesting observation that Sarah Palin is "the first movement evangelical ever to occupy a place on a GOP national ticket since the emergence of the religious right."

Silk doesn't say what a "movement evangelical" is, but a fair definition would have to include being active in an evangelical church or parachurch or both. Since she was a teenager Palin has regularly attended evangelical churches including, since 2002, the nondenominational Wasilla Bible Church. At Wasilla High School she led its chapter of The Fellowship of Christian Athletes (a parachurch organization).

If you wonder why Palin isn't the second movement evangelical to be on a GOP national ticket, behind George W. Bush, the answer is that Bush always went to mainline churches, the last before he was elected in 2000 being Highland Park Methodist in Dallas. Also, he wasn't a big parachurch guy, though he knew a lot of people involved in those organizations (and pastors in evangelical churches). Silk says Bush was a "johnny-come-lately" to evangelicalism. Palin, as this story from today's New York Times makes clear, grew up in it.

Palin's presence on the ticket helps account for the increase in white evangelical support for McCain, up from 57 % to 66% in the CBS poll released yesterday. That's bad news for the Obama campaign, which has been working every which way to attract evangelical voters. For more on why the evangelical numbers are headed in the wrong direction for Obama, check out Steven Waldman's compelling analysis at Beliefnet.