The two-decade alliance between conservative Roman Catholics and evangelicals on moral and social issues is having political repercussions, with several leading Republican politicians drawing on both traditions for inspiration. In a Religion News Service report (June 16), Sarah Pulliam Bailey notes that the surprising victory of Dave Brat in the Virginia primary is one example of this Catholic-evangelical-hybrid politician—he is a Catholic but also a graduate of Calvin College and Princeton Theological Seminary.
Brat is described both as a Calvinist and a Catholic and is also part of the movement seeking to link libertarian economics with Catholic social teaching. Other similar politicians include Ted Cruz, a Southern Baptist, and Marco Rubio, a Catholic who also attends an evangelical church. Heading into the 2014 midterm elections, observers find fewer strictly evangelical Republican Party emerging leaders than in previous years and more who are Catholic but with evangelical backgrounds and tendencies.
This new wave of “evangelical Catholic” politicians is widely considered to be a political asset rather than the liability it might have been in the past. Wheaton College political scientist Amy E. Black notes that while evangelicals are a solid voting bloc in the Republican Party, Catholics have more recently become swing voters, making it a necessity for politicians to appeal to both groups. The new breed of politicians has been better able to speak the language of evangelicals and Catholics, while a candidate such as Paul Ryan struggled with this style in 2012. Bailey notes that the evangelical Catholic cross-pollination has its roots in such efforts as Evangelicals and Catholics Together initiative, started by the conservative ecumenical magazine First Things, in the 1990s.
Princeton University’s Robert P. George concludes that what once may have been based on a “marriage of convenience” between evangelicals and Catholics on such common issues as pro-life activism has developed into a “spiritual fellowship that I think was not anticipated at the beginning by anybody.”