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Right With God

Mark Souder is also a Republican congressman from Indiana, nine years older than Pence. His Baptist grandfather never voted, and his parents did it holding their noses. "The way my family looked at Washington, if it wasn't Hell it was a direct suburb."

In 1971 Souder attended a convention of Young Americans for Freedom, the Barry Goldwater groupies. There he recalls the handful of evangelicals sussing each other out through code words and glances, "much like gay people do today." Once they were sure they'd found one of their own, they'd lean over and whisper "I'm praying for you," then slide away. Souder's political friends were all Catholics and Jews.


Lyric Hassler, a political consultant, with husband Jeff, a Senate staffer, are evangelicals new to Washington. (Juana Arias -- The Washington Post)


Friday's Question:
It was not until the early 20th century that the Senate enacted rules allowing members to end filibusters and unlimited debate. How many votes were required to invoke cloture when the Senate first adopted the rule in 1917?
51
60
64
67


That was before Roe v. Wade, before the Christian Coalition, before evangelicals made money and moved to the suburbs and "began to lose a sense of pessimism and alienation," says John Green, a professor of political science at the University of Akron. Now at a conservative convention young people line up to pray at the microphone. Now, says Souder, "the collective memory of all that tension is gone."

Souder's generation never outgrew the habit of tuning their résumés, approaching a non-church audience with caution.

Even Thune, a member of the new generation, used to omit from his official bio that he graduated from Biola, the Biblical Institute of Los Angeles. In his time the school was known for its fundamentalism, and didn't allow students to watch movies or dance.

John Ashcroft, son of a Pentecostal preacher, still avoids questions about whether he speaks in tongues. Whenever talking about his upbringing -- he never drank or danced, and remained a virgin until he was married -- Ashcroft is either prickly or boastful, but always self-conscious. "It's against my religion to impose my religion," he'll often say. "But I've always hoped that if I were ever accused of being a Christian I'd be found guilty."

Lyric Hassler, the Hill aide in starched white blouses, was not long for the Christian ghetto. After college she took advantage of the two elite fellowships designed to cultivate this new generation of Christian leaders -- the Trinity Forum Academy and the Witherspoon Fellowship. She came in dreaming that she would one day stand before the Supreme Court and overturn Roe v. Wade; she came out a realist, a political professional.

On the Bush campaign Hassler thought she'd find people who all shared her perspective. What she found instead were conservatives, not her kind of Christians. The differences showed up after work. At happy hours the Christians stood out as the ones who had only one beer, not five. And they didn't date, the way anyone else understood the term. Lyric "dated" Jeff Hassler for five months, but they never kissed until they got engaged. "What planet are you from?" her boss said when she found that out.

Still, when her boss needed some advice about planning the religious ceremony at her own wedding, she asked Lyric. "We stood out a little," she says, "but not too much. Ten years ago she might have thought I was a total freak. But now she just thought I was a little weird."

Now Lyric and Jeff are married and live in Fairfax. Jeff works in Sen. James Inhofe's office, Lyric is a political consultant. They've stayed away from the usual evangelical megachurch -- "the music is awful" -- and instead joined Truro Episcopal in Fairfax.

"I used to think High Church was dead and empty," she says. But somehow watching the procession, seeing the choir and the vestments, singing those traditional hymns -- "I thought this is how church should be," she says. They still consider themselves evangelical, but not in style -- no "awful music," no Jesus-is-my-best-friend, no "Left Behind" books.

They think a lot about how much to shelter their family from a corrupt culture; home-schooling is a definite option. Sometimes they think about going to someplace more remote, where temptation is easier to keep at bay.

"But after life in Washington," Lyric says, "we couldn't very well just disappear."


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