The Common Good

6 Evangelicals You Don't Know... But Might Want To

Date: July 3, 2013

Lisa Sharon Harper
When Lisa Sharon Harper accepted Jesus in her teen years, she did so under the wing of white evangelicals. And they instructed her that accepting Jesus also meant a political conversion--to the Republican Party. Never mind Harper's budding progressivism and the fact she was black and growing up in a staunch Democratic home. For the most part, there has been a clear understanding in evangelical America that to be born-again is to be a Republican-- to the point where those two words, "evangelical" and "Republican," have become virtually synonymous.

Experience would quickly dispel Harper of that notion, though not of Jesus. As a young adult activist, she rubbed elbows with evangelicals who were Democrats, and found herself in churches with evangelical worshipers who were both liberal and conservative. Harper realized it's OK to be Christian and Democrat. But to the deeper point, Harper, now director of mobilizing for the progressive evangelical group Sojourners and co-author of the book Left, Right & Christ, realized that "indiscriminate allegiance to any political party is idolatry."

Harper's story evokes the post-partisan politics of an emerging generation of new evangelicals--one likely to frustrate died-in-the-blue Democrats and as much as the GOP strategists accustomed to counting on evangelicals as a reliable voting bloc. In the words of young evangelical writer Jonathan Merritt, "We aren't forced to choose a human-formed party with a systemized divide-and-conquer agenda. We can stand in the gap and claim loyalty only to Jesus."