October 25, 2020

Riffs: 03:15:09: How the Left Perceives Evangelicals: Change? Really?

debcarI rarely write about politics, but this “Riff” is a bit of an intersection between evangelicalism and the left-leaning media.

Pam Chamberlain’s piece on young Evangelicals shifting leftward first appeared in the proudly left journal, The Public Eye. It’s reproduced here on AlterNet.

The first thing I want to say is that, until recently, I’ve purposely not listened to the left-leaning internet commenting community because it seems to be dominated by extreme voices. The comments to this piece will verify that. The levels of ignorance, vitriol and vengeance fantasies are amazing.

But at the same time, I’ve also avoided the extreme political right. I find both to be unproductive, ignorant and unrelated to my own political views.

Pam Chamberlain has discovered that some evangelicals don’t fit the caricature she’s always believed. She calls it change, and some of what she sees is change, and I predict it will continue and intensify. But guess what lefty folk? The diversity of evangelical political beliefs has always been there.

As a conservative, I believe in the rule of law, the constitution, the legitimacy of elections and a judiciary that doesn’t attempt to run the country. As a libertarian-leaning conservative, I believe in limited government, freedom and individual rights. As a Christian, I’m convinced of the moral values rooted in the character and law of God. I do not expect government to echo these, but I also believe God will judge the world by his standards, not ours, no matter how passionately we feel about them.

I cannot compromise the essentials of my worldview and still have a Christ-centered faith. Issues like gay marriage go back to essential components of the Biblical narrative. These are not matters where Christians can simply “decide to be tolerant.” Toleration is a value that is expressed in secular government, but not in the Kingdom of God. These aren’t issues where we can say “Well the Bible accepted slavery, so I can accept gay marriage.” The way those two issues are viewed in scripture is radically different. We can’t use the Bible as a wax nose, and many of us are aware of the dangers and costs of doing exactly that.

God’s truth is not in flux from culture to culture. What may appear to be changing standards by Christians- for instance, on slavery- is nothing more than an arrival at an honest hearing of what the Bible and God have always said. What we’re after are first principles, not possible constructions, deconstructions and extrapolations.

The comments here at IM this week were populated with liberals saying that I and other evangelicals need to adopt the views of “Bishop” John Shelby Spong and Bart Ehrman. Do you have any idea what you are saying? These are men who are the sworn enemies of what we believe. It is like telling a gay person that they must adopt the views of Fred Phelps and the “God Hates Fags” crowd. If we are going to talk to each other, we can’t assume that the other person has as an option the complete rejection of his/her faith.

There are any number of issues where I, as a conservative-libertarian Christian, am at variance with the common view of how evangelicals view issues. For example, I favor civil unions, but marriage is a concept defined for me by scripture, not culture. I am for decriminalization of marijuana and I am a major supporter of public schools. While I am pro-life, I’m sure I’m at variance with any number of other pro-life Christians regarding what specific laws should reflect that position. I am much closer to the left than the right on many issues involving science, in both research and education.

I vehemently reject ideas like “America is a Christian country” or “God approves of all American military action.” I in no way want a Christian dominance or place of privilege in ANY aspect of the public square. At the same time, I absolutely oppose government interference in the practice of religion and I believe that religion should be recognized in the public square, so “Merry Christmas” to all of you working for the government.

I prefer that government “help” be the removal of government interference, the lightening of tax burdens, deregulation and the providing of rewards and incentives for personal and community initiatives. I’m skeptical of most- not all- faith based programs. I’m against tax assistance for private schools (and I work for one.) I support limited welfare in most cases and felt Clinton’s “Welfare to Work” approach was the right way to go.

I recognize, among a minority of my Christian conservative friends, more than a little bigotry and racism toward the President. I deplore it and want to in no way be associated with it. I did not vote for Mr. Obama, and I find him, so far, to be inept a la Jimmy Carter, but I would have gladly voted for Mr. Romney, a non-Christian in my view, or Mr. Paul, a man unwelcome to even speak in the GOP convention after energizing millions of conservative voters. I am not a one-issue voter, and Sarah Palin will likely never get my vote.

So why do I say all of this? Because I have known for a long, long time that evangelicals are a diverse bunch. That diversity is shifting generationally, but it has always been there. We all weren’t Ted Haggard or Jerry Falwell or Billy Graham, and we always knew that was the case, if YOU knew where to look.

The media, both mainstream and internet, has misportrayed evangelicals for decades. They have decided to make Dobson and Robertson our spokespersons, when millions of evangelicals want nothing to do with either of them. Yes, millions of evangelicals are part of the far-right culture war and the extreme rhetoric that goes along with it, but millions of evangelicals are moderate and diverse in all kinds of ways.

The problems of both the extreme left and extreme right are their tactics of exaggeration and hyperbole in order to stir up support and gain attention. Everyone must be demonized. Everyone must follow the script that turns the other side into Nazis. It’s like a combination of American politics and WWE wrestling.

At the height of the civil rights movement, Martin Luther King, Jr. particularly and clearly rejected these tactics. He taught that opponents must be the objects of a quest for their transformation, and that by love, not hate or violence of any kind. Opponents must be respected. If possible, actively served and loved. Always prayed for. If their response is cruelty and hatred, we must be willing to suffer at their hands. This is a hard, but Jesus-shaped prescription, for dealing with our opponents.

I am prepared to appreciate those aspects of a person that I deeply disagree with, if their views are an expression of integrity. The most important aspect of any competition is the handshake before the game, and the civil acceptance of the results of each play.

We have, instead, adopted the methods and manners of professional wrestlers and fringe crackpots in discussing our diverse views. If we can’t find the civility, intelligence and integrity to move past the rhetoric of hate to a true respect for and consideration of other human beings and citizens, does our republic even deserve to continue?


  1. Interestingly enough, MLK was, as a Christian, on the anti-capitalist left, especially towards the end of his life. My guess is that if he were alive today he would be quite unpopular, but he has become one of those figures like Dietrich Bonhoeffer who leaves a legacy that all can somehow relate to (and perhaps neuter for whatever purpose they have in mind).

  2. Of all the things that divide Evangelicals and the left, issues such as prayer in school, posting the ten commandments in public, and teaching evolution in school are minor sideshows. As IM correctly points out, Evangelicals are a diverse group. I’m an Evangelical with conservative libertarian views and I don’t support prayer in public schools, posting the ten commandments in public buildings such as courthouses or banning the teaching of evolution in schools. But in the grand scheme of things, these are minor issues and some have already faded in importance.

    The real source of bitter, emotional disagreement between Evangelicals and the left are those that come out of the sexual revolution such as abortion, gay rights, sex in the media, and the acceptance of things such as pre-marital sex, pre-marital cohabitation, and single motherhood as valid lifestyle choices. What really bothers me about the left in all this is the failure of so many on the left to realize just how radically they have changed their views in such a short time. For example, your average liberal in 1965 would most likely not favored the left’s current position on abortion. They would have almost certainly viewed homosexual behavior as abnormal and immoral and wouldn’t have dreamed of supporting gay marriage. Your average liberal in 1990 would have changed some of their views, but most likely wouldn’t favor gay marriage.

    Yet if one opposes abortion and gay marriage today, many on the left won’t hesitate to call you a “theocrat” who is attempting “to force your religion” on the rest of society. By this logic, the average liberal, including non-religious ones, in 1965 and 1990 (years that Baby Boomers and GenXers lived through) were “theocrats.” We also lived in a theocracy in 1965 and 1990. Clearly this charge is absurd and lacks historical perspective. It also shows that Evangelicals aren’t the only ones that live in a bubble. Many liberals do as well.

    Liberals would do well to abandon their stereotypes of Evangelicals and recognize that first and foremost it is they who have changed their views of sexual ethics. Evangelicals aren’t attempting to force their views on others so much as fighting a rear guard action and reacting negatively to what they perceive as the left constantly advocating change from the worse. If liberals truly believe the changes in their views of sexual ethics are for the better, they should endeavor to explain why instead of calling Evangelicals absurd names. And they should have more patience. They have changed their minds in a relatively short time after all.

    Evangelicals on the other hand need to realize that our society no longer shares a general view of sexual ethics. In the past we didn’t fight with the left on these issues (and many Evangelicals weren’t even involved in politics) because fundamentally we didn’t disagree with them. Our society, both the religious and non-religious, both the left and the right, shared a lot of common ground when it came to sexual ethics. Times, however, have changed greatly. We need to realize that since our society has no common sexual ethics there is a limit to what we can achieve through the political process and legislation. And of course, we have a lot of mess from the sexual revolution (ex: rampant divorce and remarriage) that we need to clean up in our own camp.


  3. Matt Jamison says

    I think the main problem is that when many Americans (especially younger Americans) look at the church, all they see is partisan politics, Democrats in mainline protestantism and Republicans in almost all forms of evangelicalism.

    As the church, we need to step back from partisan politics lest it become a stumbling block to those whom Christ is seeking through us. Of course we should vote, run for office, and express our opinion as all citizens should, but we should refrain from using the language of God and the church to sanctify our own political tribe and its opinions.

    I plead guilty and confess to having brought my political conservatism into the church, where it does not belong.

    I think the tone of the Monk on these issues is right on.

  4. Fr Ernesto: “I am tired of the all or nothing approach of both extremes.”

    I’ve been instructed by my therapist to memorize a list of cognitive distortions, one of which is “all or nothing” thinking. Since then, I’ve been this crop up everywhere, in Christian thought as well as in secular thought.

    I like moderation, the middle way, being centered. Is Christianity for or against such thinking? I honestly am not sure.

  5. Well, the guys on your side that we can judge you by are the ones who you choose to represent you. If you were electing people who were tolerant, kind and loving then you might have a point, but those sorts of evangelicals do not get the votes (either in elections or in terms of the votes of the TV viewing audiences). This is very much like one of those false apologies, where rather than apologising what someone says or does, they are sorry that the other person took it wrongly.

    As for education, private schools do better for a very simple reason. They are able to select their pupils. Every single school would do brilliantly if they could just get rid of pupils that are too much effort. Of course, the best thing to do would be to look at school systems that work and maybe copy them. So, which country has a succesful education system and no public education?

  6. “on 16 Mar 2009 at 4:45 am Colin
    Interestingly enough, MLK was, as a Christian, on the anti-capitalist left, especially towards the end of his life.”

    Which speaks exactly to the original intent, as I understand it, of this post that Christianity is a big tent.

    I am in many ways extreme right.

    I am in many ways extreme libertarian or even left.

    Both sets of friends think I am an idiot.

    Point is even I as one individual Christian cannot be put into a box.

    How can millions be labeled one way or another?

    Bono and Sean Hannity both give every indication of being Christians.

  7. *No, that is the mainstream media presentation that dominates, and crowds out all others…sure the internet revolution is going to shake this all upside down when all is said and done, but for the past 30 years, the national stage and most public recognizable face of Christianity media display has been the “religious right”…*

    Ugh. If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard “the mainstream media” used as the crux of someone’s argument–and it is completely equal-opportunity: left and right both seem exactly as enamored of this trope–then I would have, well, many, many nickels.

    Criticism of “the media” is what people do when they want to call one or another group of other people idiots but need a “cutout” in order to avoid the appearance of doing so. It’s “dog whistle” politics by another name: I.e. the ultra-right can thus communicate among itself that everyone who voted for Obama was a credulous fool without having to say so, per se, by claiming it was “the media” that “duped” America.

    Couple of things:

    1.) Everyone is probably smarter than everyone else seems to think (or, if you believe in original sin and the fallen nature of man, you can believe that everyone is *dumber* than *they themselves* think; either way it amounts to the same thing). So rumors of the media broadly and successfully “fooling” anyone have been greatly exaggerated.

    2.) On a related note, “Madison Avenue” probably isn’t the world-conquering genius force everyone thinks it is. Time was, measurements of advertising’s success involved many fuzzy measures; focus (foci?) groups, surveys with consumers, surveys with store managers.

    But with internet banner ads, all of that is changed. Now we can measure hard-and-fast the effect of advertising: The effect? None. Ads don’t work. On anyone. No one clicks anything. No one buys anything they do click on.

    3.) The most important thing to remember about “mainstream media” is they are going out of business hand over fist. Newspapers, cable news, broadcast news, radio news, the wire services, weekly newsmagazines, all of it: Can’t turn a profit to save their grandmas. Some of this has to do with the impossible economics of corporate ownership (see Slacktivist for this discussion). But much of it is just that: Old news is worthless and, increasingly, so is current news.

  8. *Welfare and poverty programs have been aimed at the African American population for decades…*

    Okay, let’s forget for a moment that “welfare” is gone, and has been gone since June of 1996 with the passage of the Individual Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act, which turned welfare from an entitlement into a block grant to states to administer as they saw fit and which imposed A.) a requirement that recipients be looking for work (much as with unemployment compensation) and B.) imposed lifetime eligibility limits and C.) removed many of the infamous welfare rules that had penalized women with children from living with and receiving income from their husbands/boyfriends.

    Instead let’s just aim at the “aimed at African American” canard. The original social welfare programs of the Depression era–way before Aid to Families With Dependent Children (AFDC) of Johnson’s Great Society–were a fairly minor part of the New Deal which were rather cynically co-opted by the southern segregationist wing of the Democratic party (yes, my party).

    These FDR-via-Jim-Crow programs were not particularly aimed at urban blacks but rather at both black and white rural sharecropper populations. These programs were tiny allowances administered mostly to keep these populations from starving do death during every season other than harvest time.

    Sorry if this is boring or dry: Facts usually are when compared to ideology, propaganda or paranoia.

    *I think I will see a great lose of freedom and prosperity in America in my life time.*

    I don’t. If we can at last break the link between employment and health care, then we will be MORE prosperous and MORE free. It costs a business something like $8,000 a year to provide good-quality family coverage to one employee these days. It costs an individual family buying an off-the-shelf individual health plan significantly more than that. If “the free market” can provide affordable, good quality health care then why, after 70-some years of health insurance in America, has it not yet done so?

    We don’t have to individually pay when the police protect us from criminals or the fire dept from fires or the military from enemies or FEMA from disasters. We’ve accepted that “safety” and “security” in these cases are public goods to which we should all contribute. For the government to be involved with them is a legitimate writ under it’s founding principle: To protect the people. So, why do we have to individually pay for doctors and hospitals to protect us from sickness, arguably much more common than crime, fire, disaster and war?

  9. Sue. Great post. It’s amazing how quickly we can berate others and begin to feel superior. I often find myself doing the same. But, since accepting Christ twenty years ago, that has been tempered by the tendency of His Word to force one to look for the beam first. Cosequently, I have a strong tendency to condem myself, before condeming others. Funny how putting the light of God’s Word on yourself can make you despise what you see.
    Monk. This is my first time seeing your blog. Great job.
    Drew. I agree with you about public schools in general. My former Son-in_Law graduated from high school in Florida and can’t read as well as I could in third grade. He now resents the fact that they allowed him to graduate. Tragically, I also agree with your statements about the Black family. As a black man, I am almost always persona non grata with other blacks, since my views are very, very conservative. But, I live a very blessed, middle class life style from simply working hard and getting more education, when necessary, throughout my life. I don’t subscribe to the entitlement mentality at all, since I have always found that dedication and hard work pays off in America. Of course, I’m a real old-timer, born before the baby boomer generation, so my views are probably qutie outmoded to most.

  10. ProdigalSarah says

    I have read this blog for awhile because the discussion about denominations interests me a great deal. Christ is the center of my life. I am very clear on that point. But I am not sure what to do about church or really what my expectations should be. I realize this isn’t really related to your post, but perhaps it is worth thinking about when discussing denominations and the issue of evangelism, which I will get to in a moment.

    I was raised Southern Baptist. My mother taught Sunday school for 50+ years and so we were at the church whenever the doors were open. Unfortunately, this meant that I witnessed quite a bit of hypocrisy and bigotry as a child. Although we sang ‘Jesus Loves The Little Children’ in Sunday School, our deacons were quite vocal in their resistance to integration. Yes, we were told that Jesus loved us, but the sermons seemed to be much more about fear.

    By around age twelve I began to have serious doubts about church teachings. By the time I graduated high school I was not at all shy about my agnosticism.

    My husband grew up Catholic, went to Catholic schools and by the time we met he was an unapologetic atheist. We married, raised a family and religion was simply not a part of our lives. Oddly enough my Southern Baptist mother and his Catholic mother adore each another. They did have something in common. They never stopped praying for us.

    Nearly three years ago God intervened in my life. That is the only way I know to explain it. I began to feel a longing for God that grew so strong that I became positively miserable until I was on my knees in tears.

    Of course my mother wanted me to return to the Baptist church. My mother-in-law wanted me to explore Catholicism. She told me that as a Catholic mother it was her duty to see her son back in the church before she died. I don’t believe this is likely. My husband has no interest in attending any church, but I truly believe that God knows his heart and understands the situation better than either his mother or me. He has been respectful of my return to Christ. Although he still says he is an atheist, his words and actions are often more ‘Christian’ than what I see in some who call themselves Christian.

    Anyway, when God intervened in my life, I knew I should join a church and worship with others. But which church? I prayed a lot. I asked people I knew. I read books and visited numerous websites.

    I live in a fairly small community so my options were limited. I didn’t feel comfortable returning to the Baptist church – the only kind of Baptist church in my community is Southern Baptist. On the advice of a friend I began attending a United Methodist church. I like many things about the church, but find it rather cool toward newcomers. This is most definitely not an evangelical church. Indeed, if you haven’t been a member for 30 years they scarcely acknowledge you exist. They don’t want visitors to feel uncomfortable so draw as little attention to them as possible. At least that is how it seems to me.

    As much as I learned to dislike the Southern Baptist church, I cannot help but make comparisons. Not once has anyone from my new church visited me at my home. This seems very peculiar to one raised in a Southern Baptist Church.

    On the other hand, I am comfortable enough with the teachings of this church. If only I still didn’t feel like a visitor two years after joining.

    Yes, I have attempted to participate and have volunteered quite a bit. But church activities leave me feeling all the more like I don’t belong.

    We do not select our biological families. And I suspect that if we separated from out family for 30+ years and then shown descriptions of all the families we might choose to join, we might not select our own, while at the same time we might feel a visitor in any other. I think this is where I’m at. I pray about this a lot, and increasingly find myself seeking excuses not to attend this church. But I don’t know what else to do.

    My husband does not attend church with me, so I go alone. I deliberately seek out an elderly person sitting alone and join her. This is shockingly easy to do. I sense that a lot of people feel like visitors at this church, but would probably not be as willing to speak up as me.

    I do not doubt the many problems in evangelical churches, but I think it is possible to go too far in the other direction. I think you could walk into any church of any denomination on any given Sunday and find plenty of people who have made the effort to show up, who are starving for a hug or a warm word or any kind of relationship with other Christians.

    One thing I really like about my pastor is that he never mentions politics. If I were interested in a discussion of politics I would stay home and watch the Sunday morning talk shows. The reason I go to church is that Christ in central in my life and I think it is good to worship together. I know this sounds simplistic but I am at the point where I am deliberately trying to reduces these feelings down to their simplest form in the hope that I can figure out what to do. But while this is my reason for attending church and denomination does not seem that important right now, I would wish for one where I could feel more a part of a family.

    I certainly feel I’m the Prodigal Daughter who lavishly wasted 30 years as an agnostic. I can never get back the opportunity to raise my children to know Christ, as I have come to know Christ. This is the most painful part of my experience.

    God welcomed me back as joyously as the father in the parable. But I am finding the church to be more like the brother.

  11. This is a beautiful piece of writing. If it’s ok with you, I’m going to direct my friends (mostly liberal) to read this. It contains a lot that we, as a common republic, need to hear.

  12. Mr. Tibbets,
    It may indeed be ” closemindedness”.
    However, I think that ” closemindedness” has become a synonym for being sure of one’s convictions.
    In that case all of us, even you, are guilty of ” closemindedness”.
    I have a closed mind on the subject of is the earth flat. It is not. I am positive.
    Some of these other issues maybe not so much.
    I personally couldn’t care less if civil unions are formed between consenting adults.
    However,be positive about something is not the same thing as having a closed mind.
    I concede that I could be wrong about the shape of the earth. Heck, they lied about the tooth fairy.
    But like my faith and my convictions I am certain beyond a reasonable doubt.

  13. I think this post has demonstrated:

    1. We all have much in common in terms of what we want for one another and our fellow citizens.

    2. We should not let anyone define us as individuals or groups except ourselves this includes all media.

    3. It is possible to have civil discourse with those we disagree with.

    4. I am right and everyone else is a degree of wrong. Did I say that out loud?

  14. To the guy I just deleted: Calling Republicans fascists isn’t going to work on here.

  15. There are so many political issues out there where I can see both sides. I might agree with one or the other but I “get” where they are coming from and generally see how and why they got there as a Christian.

    Like Christians voting for big government poverty programs, I “get” how they make that vote. I disagree, but I see a path for a Christian to get there.

    Most political issues are like that, I can see both sides and see how a Christian might go either way.

    Abortion for me is one of the very few non starters. I do not “get” and never have, how a Christian comes to the place where they can vote for a Pro-Choice candidate.

    So, you Pro-Choice Christians out there. Throw me a bone, some scripture, the thought process, something.

    I am not being snide or mean, I genuinely want to see how one arrives at the “I’m a Pro-choice Christian” doorstep.

    It is an honest question.

  16. I totally agree… what is interesting is that most Christians who are conservative believe in a limited government that cannot tell them how to spend their money; however, when it comes to moral issues that conservatives would rather push on, they would absolutely love for a big government to decide what is right vs. wrong so long as it agrees with their own views.

    Conservative Evangelicals are really quite fundamentalist when you get down to the roots of their belief systems. A true conservative evangelical, such as yourself, would more clearly define the separation of church and state, and furthermore, religion and law.

    Overall, great article!

  17. Drew G. go to my website and I will help you get in touch with a wonderful Orthodox priest who voted for President Obama in spite of disagreeing about abortion.
    I would give you my e-mail but unfortunately that is is an open invitation to insanity on the net these days.
    There is a path.
    I don’t agree with it but there is a thoughtful reasoned path.

  18. I don’t know if you’d call this pro-choice, but here is an excerpt from the United Methodist Social Principles

    Home > Our Faith > Church and Society > Social Principles> Abortion


    The beginning of life and the ending of life are the God-given boundaries of human existence. While individuals have always had some degree of control over when they would die, they now have the awesome power to determine when and even whether new individuals will be born.

    Our belief in the sanctity of unborn human life makes us reluctant to approve abortion. But we are equally bound to respect the sacredness of the life and well-being of the mother, for whom devastating damage may result from an unacceptable pregnancy. In continuity with past Christian teaching, we recognize tragic conflicts of life with life that may justify abortion, and in such cases we support the legal option of abortion under proper medical procedures. We cannot affirm abortion as an acceptable means of birth control, and we unconditionally reject it as a means of gender selection.

    We oppose the use of late-term abortion known as dilation and extraction (partial-birth abortion) and call for the end of this practice except when the physical life of the mother is in danger and no other medical procedure is available, or in the case of severe fetal anomalies incompatible with life. We call all Christians to a searching and prayerful inquiry into the sorts of conditions that may warrant abortion. We commit our Church to continue to provide nurturing ministries to those who terminate a pregnancy, to those in the midst of a crisis pregnancy, and to those who give birth. We particularly encourage the Church, the government, and social service agencies to support and facilitate the option of adoption. (See ¶ 161.K.)

    Governmental laws and regulations do not provide all the guidance required by the informed Christian conscience. Therefore, a decision concerning abortion should be made only after thoughtful and prayerful consideration by the parties involved, with medical, pastoral, and other appropriate counsel.

    From The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church – 2004. Copyright 2004 by The United Methodist Publishing House. Used by permission.

  19. on 16 Mar 2009 at 8:15 pm Joseph
    “I don’t know if you’d call this pro-choice, ….

    Governmental laws and regulations do not provide all the guidance required by the informed Christian conscience. Therefore, a decision concerning abortion should be made only after thoughtful and prayerful consideration by the parties involved, with medical, pastoral, and other appropriate counsel.”

    It’s either a human or it’s not a human.
    Anything else is strainig for gnats.

    Methodists, take a stand.

  20. BTW
    This is an example of closed-mindedness.
    If the fetus is not human then kill the annoying insect.
    If it is human protect it with the full force of you life and the law.
    I only see a middle ground if the birth is going to cause physical death to the mother in which case it is justifiable homicide.
    Don’t bring up the death penalty. They are only marginally related in that both result in death.
    Here’s a deal.
    I will wholeheartedly support abolition of the death penalty if the pro-choice people will give the same benefit of the doubt to fetuses.
    After all, the argument are:
    1.Don’t make mistakes in who dies.
    2. They might become humans or humans again in the case of murderers.

  21. I apologize Drew G. the contact info is not on that site.
    Try t e x g u y @ t e x g u y . net
    Spread out to discourage spammers. (THE DEVIL’s SPAWN).

  22. Hi Michael,

    You write an interesting article, and I appreciate your perspective, but I have to say, I do think there *is* a change going on among younger Christians traditionally defined as evangelicals, and as a group they are becoming more socially liberal.

    You are correct — both voices have been there all along, for those who know where to look. But following the victories of the Religious Left in the 1960s, the Religious Right rose to ascendancy in the 1970s by politics about “values” (usually morality) rather than about social justice, which in a religious context often was dismissed in evangelical circles as a “social gospel,” and somehow less sacred or True than the spiritual gospel being pushed instead. The Religious Left didn’t disappear, but it did fade, and as is often the case, the crowd of moderates gradually shifted toward the voices on the Right that were dominating.

    It’s not entirely fair to say that “the media” anointed the leaders and speakers for evangelicals. Most were chosen by evangelicals who listened to their programs, distributed their material, and made the phone calls that they were asked to. It’s not reasonable to fault the media for noting who the political power-brokers were in Christian circles; the fault lies with us for ever elevating them to that level.

    I am curious to see how the leftward shift plays itself out in terms of evangelicalism. It’s been made clear to me by a good number of evangelicals that the tent isn’t big enough for me because of my political viewpoints — even though my religious views fall squarely within orthodoxy. That sort of political bellicosity, combined with an eagerness to define evangelicalism along narrower and narrower doctrinal lines, led me several years ago to ditch the evangelical label. I’m happy to be known as “post-evangelical” or, more simply, “not evangelical.”

    From what I’ve read, my experience is hardly unique. Some people, like Gary Olson, are trying to reclaim the evangelical label for the inclusivity it once represented, but from what I can tell, that hasn’t been happening. If the strident voices on the Right politically continue to push away those who don’t toe the party line, how long will this new generation of politically liberal Christians be willing to identify themselves with a movement that’s become known for not wanting them?

  23. Stumbled into this article after reading the one in Slate. I’m a liberal who disagrees with a good handful of your assertions here but wanted to express, like others on this wall, my appreciation of your refreshing, open-minded rheotoric.

  24. Joe Fahler says

    If you really want to raise the level of discourse between Christians on the left and the right, you might want to refrain from cheap shots such as “Obama is the next Jimmy Carter.” I guess glib proclamations is the name of the game here, we’ve got “inept”, “non-Christian” from some poster who apparently has the ability to see directly into the souls of others…anyone else want to toss in a few more? Or shall we get back to meat of the issue and leave the BS at the curbside?

  25. I guess I’m a conservative libertarian, if I’m anything; I’ve gotten pretty apolitical, except for specific local issues and candidates.

    Sorry, I guess I differ from most of you. I don’t think the Bible is situational. It is what it is, and if you decide to ignore pieces you don’t like or don’t think apply, then I guess you will. I’m not going to.

    And I don’t eat shrimp either, FWIW.

  26. Joe,

    I rarely talk politics, being a yellow dog Republican Catholic. 😉 .

    One way to consider, without it being a cheap shot, is that President Obama is a good man, but not effective as being President. That’s the way I think about former President Carter.

  27. Dan Allison says

    Michael, you are always measured and thoughtful, yet I think abortion is the oneplace where we would disagree. The problem, of course, is how to stand for righteousness and against abortion without appearing to buy the rest of the far-right agenda. Because I oppose abortion — and consider it murder in almost every circumstance — does not mean I am a young-earth creationist, a racist, a warmonger, or a Glenn Beck-style “crush the poor” capitalist. I too believe marijuana should be decriminalized, not because there’s anything good about pot, but simply because the police have better things to do, and pot users often are not “criminals” in any other sense.
    But I do believe that “nuanced” views on abortion are simply compromises, and that the political right’s willingness to compromise undermines the credibility — and the internal logic — of the pro-life position. I have always opposed “parental consent” — that you can muder someone provided you have a note from mommy — and “informed consent” — that you can kill someone provided you’ve seen an ultrasound picture. I think that’s nonsense. Equally insane is the Obama position, that we fight abortion by eliminating “root causes” — it’s like saying we don’t criminalize wife-beating, we merely work to “eliminate the root causes” of wife-beating.
    Frankly, if anyone knew how to handle this abortion thing, it would have been dealt with long ago. I’ve withdrawn from being an activist on the issue, but we simply cannot compromise the dignity and worth of those created in God’s image, even in their embryonic stages. Of course we must work to create a culture that nourishes life and values children…and pray…

  28. At this point in American history, christian leaders like Pat Robertson, James Dobson and all pastors need to get out of politics and go back to preaching the gospel of Christ. Unfortunately the damage these men have caused to the cause of Christ is so great it will take a new generation of leaders to erase. Indeed, Christ avoided politics, instead we see him addressing the real need of man which is transformation of the soul and spirit. We forget that Christ lived at a time when the Jews and indeed the known world was under Roman oppression. People were being crucified daily, new borns were dashed to their deaths and yes there were homosexuals all over the place. He chose not to speak out against these things but rather to deal with eternal issues. If he had chosen to go after the Romans, we would not have the gospel today. It would have been obscured by the more bellicose message of politics. When questioned by Pontius Pilate, he told him his kingdom was not of this world! I wish our pastors and leaders could remember that a little more often. Maybe we followers of Christ can learn from this humble son of a carpenter who remains a star over 2000 years later.
    Churches like the Seventh day Adventist church are to be commended for their wisdom. They are every bit as evangelical as the others but have wisely chosen to keep the political views of their leaders out of the public arena.
    I hope that the election of Barack Obama a black man of direct African descent finally shocks christian leaders in this country into realising that just as God chose Cyrus, a man who did not even know him, to rebiuld his temple and Jerusalem, he can allow whoever he wants to rule this nation.
    We meanwhile need to be about the master’s business no matter who is in the white house.Our duty is to convince others by reason and persuasion with all respect about the goodness of Christ and not to force our beliefs down other people throats.