The evangelical world expands to a far-off horizon and the topographical valleys and peaks cover landscapes that are both long and wide. Many in the media seem to have little knowledge of how large of a space the evangelical map covers. So, with this said, I welcomed Ross Douthat's thoughts in Monday's New York Times. His column, "American Theocracy Revisited," places good markers on the fears that Rick Perry and Michelle Bachmann's presidential runs are nothing more than an attempt at theocracy.
In much of the coverage of these two campaigns, the evangelical world gets flatten, stereotyped, and portrayed as only coming from one narrow point. Whether or not you agree with this view, the fact remains that any group that includes Miroslav Wolf, Jim Wallis, RC Sproul, Rick Warren, Joyce Meyers, Philip Yancy, Chuck Missler, Rob Bell, Albert Mohler Jr, TD Jakes, Amy Grant, Tony Campolo, Lucy Swindoll, Debrah Joy Winans, and so many more hues and colors of evangelicalism should not be placed in one bag and shaken into one lumpy mess, while saying that any one of their diverse views politically are the one true color. I know many will view this list and say who should or should not belong, and then justify their choices. A coherent political agenda could not be drawn from such a list of people. But following Jesus and making Jesus known in the world is at the core of each of these people's identity. Many on the list may disagree as to the best way to provide for the widows and orphans, but all would agree that we must care for them.
Douthat gives us four points to consider in evaluating the runs of Perry and Bachmann. His first point is to understand how large the evangelical community is. Secondly, don't judge the whole by the most extremist example. Most evangelicals I know are outraged that Fred Phelps claims to be an evangelical. Thirdly, I am an evangelical, and I do not know hidden code words that make jump. Yes, there are words that are important to Christians, which attract little attention outside of Christendom, such as justification, renewal, and sanctification. The evangelical is not some pavlovian dog salivating at the sound of these words. Finally, and this is the most important, many of the policies that Bachmann and Perry promote, as well as the different policies other evangelicals may promote, are not always coming strictly from their faith, but their political philosophies and allegiances.
Evangelicals are a diverse and feisty bunch, and in the coming months as many seek to make us all into one, let us celebrate the various body parts that make up evangelicals. We all share a love of Jesus and a desire to follow Him.
Ernesto Tinajero is a freelance writer in Spokane, Washington, who earned his master's degree in theology from Fuller Seminary. Visit his blog at beingandfaith.blogspot.com.