Jimmy Carter is, as ever, diplomatic in his denunciation of the White House’s current religion. In The American Prospect, he tells Ayelish McGarvey that this administration is “maybe strongly influenced by ill-advised theologians….”

Y’think?

But this is no anti-evangelical rant. Carter, the first evangelical president, sees evangelicals as the swing vote — and suspects they may swing Bush out of office, for failing to hew to the Christian principle of helping the poor.

Peace prize or no, Carter’s still playing politics; but McGarvey’s report on the growing strength of “freestyle evangelicals” is right on the money, both in its exploration of the political diversity within the evangelical movement and in its indictment of most of the mainstream press for ignoring that sophistication.

Some people get it, though.

“In early January,” writes McGarvey, “an editorial headlined ‘How Would Jesus Vote?’ in West Virginia’s flagship newspaper, the Charleston Gazette, sharply contrasted the actions of the Bush administration with the beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount. The writer summed it up, noting, ‘[A] glaring contradiction exists: Everything that Jesus stood for seems opposed by Republicans now in control of Washington … . Why on earth do so many churchgoers vote for the opposite of Jesus?'”

McGarvey points to similar editorials in evangelical strongholds across the country that suggest that Republicans “could be taking a little too much for granted.”

Read more McGarvey…

More freestylers:

Beliefnet: “The Surprise Swing Vote”
Slate: “How Prayers Poll”
E-Church: “I Might Be a ‘Freestyle Evangelical'”
The Washington Monthly: “Do Democrats Have a Prayer?”
MSNBC: “Democrats Wrestle With Religion”
Reno News & Review: “The Democratic Party May be Missing its Chance to Exploit Religious Liberals”
Sojourners, the original freestyle evangical magazine.

And watch for more smart stuff from McGarvey, who’ll soon be publishing an online column on religion and politics.