According to exit polls taken on Nov. 2, the white evangelical cohort was the strongest voter base for the Bush camp. Many political observers attributed this strength to the numerous voter-registration drives launched by large church groups throughout the vigorous campaign to get the 4-million evangelicals who did not vote in 2000 out to the polls this year.
One such initiative was the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission (ELRC)'s “iVoteValues” campaign. The campaign, launched in the summer of 2004, reached out to over 1 million evangelicals to vote “values” during this year’s crucial election.
The following is a Nov. 5 interview with Dr. Barrett Duke, vice president of public policy and research at the ELRC:
How are the Southern Baptists generally reacting to the election results?
I would say the majority of southern Baptists are delighted with the election results.
How great a role do you believe the iVoteValues initiative played in getting Southern Baptists and other evangelicals out to the polls?
Our ivotevalues initiative was a tremendous success. Between our mobile voter registration and values awareness truck, our printed materials, and our web site, we feel confident that we influenced hundreds of thousands of voters. We distributed nearly 200,000 party platform comparisons, had nearly 200,000 visits to our ivotevalues web site, and traveled to dozens of churches, malls, religious meetings, and other venues from July to November 2 registering people to vote and encouraging them to vote their values. More than 30,000 people went through our truck in aproximately 20 states. We distributed nearly 10,000 Voter Impact ToolKits that could be used to help churches or other groups understand the importance of voting their values.
In his victory speech, President Bush thanked his supporters for their prayers throughout the vigorous campaign. On behalf of the Southern Baptists, are there any comments you would like to make to the grateful president?
We believe that President Bush is a genuine man of faith; we appreciate his statements regarding his own faith and its impact on his life and his acknowledgment of the importance of prayer. Southern Baptists are a praying people and we pray for all men and women in positions of leadership.
We certainly consider it our spiritual honor and duty to pray that God will continue to grant President Bush the wisdom he needs to lead our country and the world. We’re grateful for the president’s stand in support of the many issues that are so important to Southern Baptists.
Many Christians are concerned about the wide social and political divide in the nation. What can be done to reconcile this division?
The election pointed out once again that our nation is severely divided on a number of cultural issues. This cultural divide also affects Christians. It is our hope and prayer that God will work among the Christian community in such a way that He will lead all of His people to value and support the morality that honors Him. We will engage all of our culture with this God-honoring morality and do all that we can to convince all Americans that the morality that honors God is also the morality that honors the people of our country.
Are you hopeful for the future of America in terms of its cultural and moral direction?
I am hopeful for the future of our country because we live in such an open society that viewpoints can be expressed and debated and their merits challenged. And I believe that as people compare the lifestyle born out of biblical moral values and the lifestyle born out of secular moral values, they will come to understand for themselves what is the best way to live to produce strong people, strong families, strong communities, and a strong nation.
Some have commented that this year’s election was not only a political brawl, but also spiritual battle. Do you agree with this observation?
I think there is a spiritual component to the cultural struggle we are engaged in today. And I think it is imperative that we recognize our need for God and his guidance for our country. And Christians need to bring that call and that message into the public square and call all men and women to a right relationship with God.
Dr. Barrett Duke is the vice president for public policy and research with the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission. Duke joined the ERLC staff in 1997 as director of denominational relations, conferences and seminars before becoming vice president for research two years later. Prior to joining the ERLC, Duke served 12 years as founding pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Littleton, Colo. He received his bachelor's degree from Criswell College, his master's degree from Denver Seminary and his Ph.D. in religious and theological studies through the Ph.D. joint program of the University of Denver and Iliff School of Theology in Denver.