Why Bush will win: “Bush isn’t a fire-and-brimstone preacher, talking about sinners in the hands of an angry God. He’s a hippie priest…” Slate‘s Chris Suellentrop reports from a W. revival. Suellentrop, a Catholic, is tone-deaf to the many meanings of “love” in evangelicalese, but he gets the good-time God vibe that thrills Bush backers.

The NY Times‘ “Beliefs” column often fits all too comfortably into its Saturday ghetto of stodginess and irrelevance. But Peter Steinfels performs a valuable service this week in calling attention to a new book about the forgotten link in American religion, Christopher H. Evans’ The Kingdom is Always But Coming: A Life of Walter Rauschenbusch. Understanding Rauschenbusch is the key to understanding the “social gospel”; and understanding the social gospel, Steinfels reminds us, is crucial if one is to understand today’s blend of religion and politics, on both the left and the right. Considered by Harvey Cox to be the ancestor ofliberation theology, the social gospel also informs the Christian right’s crusade “to regenerate society in accord with God’s will,” as Steinfels characterizes Rauschenbusch’s liberal mission.Read the articleBuy the book.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has called upon Secretary of State Colin Powell to immediately issue a list of countries of particular concern (CPCs) with regards to their violations of religious freedom, reports the Indo-Asian News Service. The State Department’s 2003 CPC designations were Myanmar, North Korea, Iran, Iraq, the People’s Republic of China and Sudan. USCIRF wants Eritrea, India, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Turkmenistan and Vietnam to be added to that list. CPC designations have not been made since March 2003, though they are required by statute to be issued in September of each year. “‘This disregard of IRFA requirements represents a serious failure in the conduct of U.S. foreign policy according to law,'” said commission chair Preeta D. Bansal. “‘The CPC designations and subsequent actions are vital to advance U.S. protection against severe violations of religious freedom.'”

“‘I believe Americans must heed this call and turn away from our wicked ways,'” preached Tony Campolo. The congregation said “amen,” lifted their hands or made the sign of the cross. “Then Campolo froze for a moment, as an hourglass icon hovered in the Romanesque arches of theChurch of Fools, the world’s first 3D, interactive, virtual church.” GetReligion editor Terry Mattingly attends the Church of Fools for the Scripps Howard News Service, focusing on its computer-generated “‘avatar'” and the real-life inspiration.

Rich Copley of The Lexington Herald-Ledger reports on the latest attempt to hip-ify the Bible. Welsh evangelical performance artist Rob Lacey’s The Word on the Street, as Copley describes it, is based on a fairly tired premise: taking “familiar texts and stories and putting them in the vernacular of urban youths and young adults.” Definitely a worn idea, but we’re kind of fond of Genesis: “God says the word, and WHAP! Stuff everywhere!”

John Kerry supports the Missouri ban on gay marriage (a state constitution amendment that passed with 70% of the vote on Tuesday), reports Mark Z. Barabak of The LA Times. “We’ve always argued the states will be capable of taking care of this by themselves. Massachusetts and Missouri are proving they are capable of taking care of it by themselves.” The gay rights lobby group, Human Rights Fund, was unsurprised by Kerry’s position, saying that it was “consistent with what he’s been saying all along.”