Christianity Today Press Items
Whether Keillor can avoid the skewering that Robertson and Falwell endured is another story. He describes himself as "a rural, pro-life independent, a longtime board member for a Christian school, and no Jim Wallis," and he tries to steer a middle path between the political Left and Right.
Yet a good deal of evidence is assembled here to show that political conservatism is not intrinsic to evangelicalism. Jim Wallis holds aloft the flag of Christian radicalism. Younger evangelicals, more pragmatic and less doctrinaire than their predecessors, are coming to the fore. As early as September 2004, half the Wheaton students disagreed with the invasion of Iraq. The range of policies associated with evangelicals is broadening, with Richard Cizik of the National Association of Evangelicals urging a stand against global warming (though it is instructive that he adopted that position after a conference in Oxford). Right-to-life issues are for many the sticking point. Insofar as Democrats take up such causes, there may be a shift in evangelical political allegiance. As El-Faizy observes, the real indication of the power of the evangelicals will be when they begin to shape the program of the Democratic Party.
Churches, in fact, can breed far more jingoism than the place you might most expect it: Christian political organizations lobbying Washington. Despite the nearly universal stars-and-stripes motif on these groups' websites, a Republican-led amendment to ban flag "desecration" (that is, violating or removing the flag's holy character) got at best tepid support from Religious Right groups. While you'll find a fair number of references to "American values" on both the Right and the Left (it's actually the name of Gary Bauer's organization), most Christian organizations see these values as lost relics to be reclaimed. Jim Wallis sounds like Jim Dobson: "American morality has been destroyed. … " Tony Campolo sounds like Tony Perkins: "I don't know about America any longer. I see us going down the tubes." Evangelical Left and Right organizations are in perennial jeremiad mode, railing against American leaders, policies, and excesses.
In Washington, evangelical leaders have kept Darfur as a high priority. In a costly media campaign, a new group called Evangelicals for Darfur lobbied George W. Bush with full-page newspaper ads, telling him, "Without you, Mr. President, Darfur doesn't have a prayer." At a press teleconference, Southern Baptist Richard Land called for a multinational force with "military teeth" that can "defy the genocidal government in Khartoum if necessary." Sojourners' Jim Wallis warned, "If security collapses, the aid groups will have to leave."
"The Religious Right's dominance over politics and evangelicals has come to an end," Democratic adviser and Sojourners/Call to Renewal leader Jim Wallis told Christianity Today the day after the election. But a closer look at the results suggested something else: White evangelical Protestants, who have recently bolstered the GOP base, did not desert the party. Republicans actually captured 70 percent of their vote, while Democrats received 28 percent. Compared to the 2004 House races, when evangelicals cast 74 percent of their ballots for Republicans and 25 percent for Democrats, the small shift suggested the party's base had stayed home—with the GOP.
Other evangelical leaders echoed Taylor's praise for Anderson. Sojourners founder Jim Wallis said Anderson "has the moral authority to take the [NAE] through this crisis and beyond." Yet Haggard's misconduct has raised questions about what the NAE's "beyond" should look like. For some years, the NAE has struggled to maintain steady leadership and vision. Taylor said the NAE will reevaluate whether the Haggard model of a bivocational spokesman remains appropriate. The NAE could return to its earlier model and hire a manager who may not feel as comfortable in front of the camera as Haggard did.
"The Religious Right's dominance over politics and evangelicals has come to an end," said Jim Wallis, leader of the Sojourners/Call to Renewal movement and an adviser to Democrats. "I would say the Religious Right has lost, and the Secular Left has lost." His organization distributed more than 300,000 "Voting God's Politics Issues Guides" in an effort to thwart religious conservatives and prompt voters to think more broadly about what he believes a biblical political agenda entails.
Bernard also sees a new evangelical center arising. "Extreme political reactions can become catalysts, but long-range change is based on a politics of the center." Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners magazine, has championed this idea for years: "We are speaking to a lot more people. Our conference had Sam Brownback and Rick Santorum speak to us on AIDS, Darfur, and poverty. … Something is happening now that I haven't felt in decades."
In his widely noted God's Politics, Jim Wallis writes, "The place to begin to understand the politics of God is with the Prophets." Wallis does not bother to justify this unusual contention. The Bible itself does not begin with the Prophets, but with Genesis, as does most Christian reflection on politics throughout history. Nor does Wallis relate the Prophets to the Torah. They challenged rulers on the basis of God's law, not on their own feelings of injustice.
Michael Gerson, recently resigned Bush speechwriter and adviser, on how evangelicals should comport themselves in the public square.