Four and a half years as a legal assistant at least taught me to read the fine print before I sign anything. But if “An Evangelical Manifesto” mentioned here asserts what I think it does, it will echo many of my same frustrations with evangelical perpetrators and victims of right-wing politics—the same frustrations, I have noticed, that are shared by many of my own thirty-something generation of evangelical theologians, pastors, and lay-people.
Here’s how I’ve generally sized up the situation as it has developed over the last couple of decades: Many American evangelicals have been duped by a simple equivocation of the word “conservative.” They have assumed that being a conservative Christian was the same as being a Christian conservative. That is, so many evangelicals act as though being conservative theologically and morally obligated them to being conservative socially, politically, and fiscally. They had to engage in conservative foreign policy, conservative environmental policy, conservative economic policy, conservative immigration policy, conservative everything. But this is simply uncritical rubbish . . . an excuse for not having to actually think through issues. They have been far too willing to be told what to believe about political issues by people like Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity.
I think biblically faithful Christians have made major mistakes here. They have blindly engaged in narrow-issue politics, finding themselves unquestioningly supporting a party that would affirm their pro-life, anti-gay agendas with heartless vigor. But what about the poor? What about the suffering? What about the outcasts? What about the sick? What about sharing the truth in love? When our political combat becomes an excuse for neglecting Christ-like love of the helpless and hopeless, we’ve gone way too far. I’ve actually been told by a fellow evangelical scholar that he applies Christ’s admonition to care for the poor by voting Republican! The argument goes like this: Republicans lower taxes . . . lower taxes stimulate economic growth . . . economic growth promotes job growth . . . job growth leads to higher pay . . . higher pay rescues the poor from poverty. Wow.
Over the last twenty years or so evangelicals have spent millions of dollars either defending or promoting Christian convictions in the political arena—Congress, the Courts, the White House. But I hate to think how many individuals have been alienated by the political wing of the evangelical subculture . . . and how many souls have been lost in the process. Have evangelicals unwisely diverted too much time, money, and personnel from advancing the words and works of the Gospel? I think it’s worth considering.