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Signs of a truce in America's divisive culture war?

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Crumbling stereotypes

As group members have worked together, stereotypes have crumbled. Evangelicals have found that progressives are not all hostile to religion, and progressives have found Evangelicals to be diverse and nuanced in their views. Several Pew polls have found similar results.

The report defines this as a "one-fifth, one-third, one-half pattern." "We found that one-fifth of Evangelicals are progressives, one-third are moderates and share some progressive values, and one-half are conservatives, who may even be partners on particular issues," says Robert P. Jones, a coauthor of the report.

John Green, Pew's expert on religion and politics, calls their interpretation of several studies "excellent." The data suggest that an alliance is plausible, he adds, but the question is whether it will reach beyond leaders to the public, if leaders in the religious right oppose it.

Many Evangelicals have already raised the ire of the far right by broadening their concerns to include issues of poverty, HIV/AIDS, the environment, and torture.

"The Christian Right moral agenda has been too narrow and too partisan," says David Gushee, who teaches ethics at Mercer University in Atlanta. "A large group of us believes the Bible and Christian faith require a broad and holistic moral engagement with culture and also a strong commitment to political independence."

Pressures from young people both within and without the church are also spurring a change in approach. In a startling new book, "unChristian," research by David Kinnaman of the Barna Group finds that Christianity has a severe image problem among young US adults, even churchgoers. They charge Christians as being "antihomosexual, hypocritical, too political, and judgmental."

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