evangelicals and american politics

Here’s an interesting take from Walter Russell Mead in the March issue of The Atlantic.

His basic thesis is that religious groups engaging and becoming players in the political process has a moderating affect as they face the need to make partnerships with those outside their own particular branch of the faith in order to pursue their political desires successfully. He sees evangelicalism as here to stay in American politics, but not in the Bush/Rove and Religious Right/Christian Coalition incarnation. The shift going on in this presidential election cycle may be paradigmatic and a glimpse of the future. Evangelicals (among Christians more broadly) find themselves supporting multiple candidates and multiple parties according to the way they perceive the Church’s relationship to the state and according to the way they discern how to balance competing values when no one candidate matches their theological ethical convictions regarding the issues.

Here’s an interesting bit of commentary, representing at least one version of how evangelicals are perceived:

American evangelicalism today is flexible, user-friendly, and market-driven. It has its core convictions: that a personal encounter with the risen Christ is necessary for salvation, and that the Greek and Hebrew scriptures offer a wholly trustworthy guide to God’s will for humankind. But given those core convictions, this religious tradition seeks above all to be relevant, to be engaged, to reach sinners regardless of their culture, their ethnic background, or their politics.

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3 thoughts on “evangelicals and american politics

  1. I am glad that our culture is making this shift although I don’t always feel it around me in the bible belt. Many times christianity is based within a single candidate and those voting elsewhere somehow have their priorities wrong or aren’t really loving how Jesus would. I have seen this from both political parties. I hope that the evangelical movement can form a mutual respect.

  2. I disagree somewhat with this analysis. While I think it is important for the Church to reach out to sinners everywhere, as the end of the quotation suggests, there still has to be some limits to being “relevant” or becoming moderate.

    If we learn and live by the Bible (the “Greek and Hebrew scriptures”), there are limits on what we can accept. Being moderate in all positions is not an honest option.

    As far as engaging politics, the Church must engage all politicians, regardless of political affiliation or stance on a single topic. In our style of democracy, progess can only occur through open dialogue. If the Church doesn’t participate it will be left out.

    However, adherence to our beliefs and to God’s teachings must come before any efforts to be a political friend or to gain mass appeal.

  3. Mindy:

    Yep, I think this election year, in the primary season at least, we’ve seen the emergence of an anti-one-issue voting bloc that followed the direction of a small handful of talk show hosts.

    Jay:
    “Being moderate in all positions is not an honest option.”

    I want to say it was Aquinas, but I could be wrong, who pointed out that “everything in moderation” was incorrect. The things to be extreme about? Faith, Hope, and Love. Three great Christian virtures, which when practiced are worthy of eschewing moderation for.

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