Religious values will play role in presidential election

By Diane Winston

For the Los Angeles Times

Published: Sunday, Sept. 23 2012 12:00 a.m. MDT

But this year, with no viable alternative, evangelicals seem to have plumbed the man's heart and made peace with what they found. As one Orange County, Calif., pastor said to a reporter: "I'm for Romney. It's certainly not because of his religion. It's more in spite of his religion."

Many other evangelical voters will overlook Romney's religious label and focus on the practical applications of his faith.

Like them, Romney opposes abortion, supports family values and embraces small government and low taxes. Similar to Jews, evangelicals vote against their class interests. Many well-to-do Jews, steeped in tikkun olam — the notion of repairing the world through justice and mercy — vote Democratic.

They believe Democrats should promote social welfare even if it means higher taxes, curbs on business and stringent environmental policies. Middle-class evangelicals, by contrast, many of whose incomes have suffered under the ascendancy of free-market policy, support Republicans. They like the party that backs the American trinity: free men, free markets and the freedom for every citizen to have a personal relationship with Jesus.

So when polls and pundits pronounce that religion isn't a factor in the 2012 election, don't believe it. Religious labels may be passe, but the religious values that inform who's taxed, what's regulated, how jobs are created and when or where we help those in need are more important than ever.

Diane Winston teaches media and religion at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School. She is the author of "Red Hot and Righteous: The Urban Religion of the Salvation Army."

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