It was my friend, Tony Jones, who alerted me recently to the Beliefnet roundtable on evangelicals in power that I discussed in yesterday's post. He basically ruined my schedule that day because I couldn't help but read the whole thread.
A major voice in the roundtable was Jeff Sharlet, a confessed non-evangelical whom top evangelical organizations might be wise to hire - and quick - as a consultant. As an outsider, he sees what a lot that us insiders need to see: that it's time to augment our deeply-held concern for private morality with a new vision for addressing systemic injustice. I'm both hopeful and increasingly confident that for the next generation of evangelicals, this augmentation is already happening. For example, for the next generation of evangelicals, care for the planet is already a key moral issue with both personal and social dimensions, because they see in our "creation mandate" a call to steward the earth for a) our creator (not an insignificant concern!), b) our grandchildren's grandchildren (and undervalued family value to be sure), c) our poor and vulnerable neighbors from Bangladesh to Darfur, and d) our fellow creatures with whom we share the land, sea, and air.
Michael Lindsay offered an appropriate last word that implies a critical question:
If evangelicals end up merely using politics for sectarian aims, we will all be worse off. Their gospel will be less attractive to non-Christians. Other religious groups will feel increasingly marginalized. Faith will be seen as another tool for manipulating the public. So history will have to be the judge of whether this [recent resurgence of evangelical political power] has been merely the triumph of another interest group or if the evangelical ascendancy has contributed to a more enlightened democracy, where engaged citizens use their faith to serve the common good.
"The common good"