February 24, 2005


Gay Marriage Stirs New York Evangelicals (Ben Smith, 2/24/05, NY Observer)

On Feb. 4, the Reverend Joe Mattera got a call from WMCA, the popular New York Christian radio station. The host was looking for his comment on a State Supreme Court ruling in favor of same-sex marriage.

Mr. Mattera, a trim 46-year-old with a thick Brooklyn accent, didn’t like what he heard, so he dashed off an e-mail to his network of 500 evangelical Christian ministers.

The ruling marked "the greatest threat ever launched against traditional marriage," the e-mail said, calling for a Valentine’s Day rally on the steps of City Hall. "No anti-gay banners permitted," it added.

When Mayor Bloomberg decided to split the baby on gay marriage earlier this month, appealing the court’s decision while coming out for expanding the definition of marriage, Mr. Mattera and the Christian Right were hardly at the top of his list of worries. There were angry gay-rights groups and outraged Democratic candidates. The people Mr. Mattera represents—who are among the roughly 50 percent of New Yorkers who oppose same-sex marriage—have had little voice in a public debate between the left and the center-left.

That may be about to change. Mr. Mattera and his allies have begun to harness the city’s booming evangelical Christian population—numbering as many as 1.8 million, according to one recent survey—into the kind of political force that has already changed the face of American politics.

"One of these days, we’re going to wake up and you’ll have a female, Hispanic, Pentecostal Mayor saying that the public schools will have abstinence education," said Tony Carnes, a Columbia University researcher and writer for Christianity Today. His survey of evangelical churches (financed by Brooklyn’s Christian Cultural Center) counted between 1.5 million and 1.8 million believers last year. That number, however rough, includes booming Hispanic and Chinese churches in storefronts and basements, as well as older African-American congregations with traditions of more liberal politics.

New York has just begun to take note of the evangelicals’ existence, with a New York Times story last year turning up unlikely supporters of President Bush. But the political infrastructure is only beginning to keep up with the evangelical movement’s numbers in New York.

Same-sex marriage, however, could be the force that turns New York’s evangelicals into a political movement, much like Roe v. Wade energized conservative Christians across America.

Nice one about the Mayor splitting the baby, huh?

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 24, 2005 5:11 PM

The sad part is that these people are very insecure and often weak in English-language skills. So when the MSM deigns to put one of them on the air, they will pair him/her against one of the army of glib metrosexuals who infest the City like so many boll weevils. The resulting rhetorical squashing of the well-meaning evangelical will further cow this population, keeping the servant class in their place.

After all, who cares what the busboy or the maid thinks?

Posted by: Bart at February 24, 2005 5:45 PM

Yes, the nativists hate them. But it's nothing compared to what's in store when they reach critical mass politically in NYC. It will be a teachable moment.

Posted by: Luciferous at February 24, 2005 6:32 PM

If the immigrants are evangelicals, you'll be truly amazed at how quickly the bien-pensant NYC Left become vocal racist nativists. Racism is endemic in their dinner table talk now.

Posted by: Bart at February 24, 2005 8:05 PM