Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The New Evangelicals

According to a recent NY Times article a new breed of evangelical is rapidly approaching the American political landscape. Like their predecessors these evangelicals are socially conservative and tend to vote Republican. Unlike their recent forbears however these evangelicals pay attention to issues like climate change, poverty, AIDS and genocides like Darfur. The article featured a 2004 survey by John C. Green a senior fellow at the Pew Forum on Religious and Public Life. Based on his research evangelicals can be divided into three main groups: traditionalist, centrist and modernist. Traditionalist are usually labeled the Religious Right and are more apt to seek change through direct political action and intervention. Centrists which may represent the new breed of evangelical remains socially and theologically conservative but seek to avoid politics as the sole or main vehicle for cultural change. Experts (whomever they may be) agree that this segment of evangelicals are growing the fastest. One of the early signs of their potential looming significance is an interest in Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama. The Times stated that according to Andy Crouch and editor at Christianity Today the new breed of evangelical is drawn to Senator Obama because he’s seen as spiritually serious even though they’re aware that he may be a liberal Christian.

The article highlights some pertinent issues among evangelicals today. For example, how should we go about our mandate to be salt and light in our culture? That metaphor used by our Lord no doubt means that we must be in vital contact with culture in order to effect it. What part does politics play in preserving or transforming culture and how much energy, time and effort should believers put into political causes? Can evangelicals have honest differences on issues like climate change and addressing poverty or are there some issues that speak clearly to our mission while others just do not?

Perhaps more importantly is how much more should evangelicals be known for our politics than our apprehension and promotion of the evangel? What implications does belief in the gospel have on our outlook and activity within our communities and culture? Should we be concerned that the culture increasingly identifies us according to our political leanings and not our theological convictions? Have we ceded the prime definition of an evangelical as one who holds to certain political convictions instead of theological ones? Would we be willing to break fellowship with someone who voted for Senator Obama while maintaining fellowship with one who votes Republican yet holds to open theism?

Lastly and by no means least is this the time for a strong and robust articulation, belief and promotion of the evangel that saves souls and glorifies God through Jesus Christ? Has the time arrived to lay a heavy stress on the gospel that points people to the age to come even as we witness in the age at hand? Can evangelicals give wide latitude in the realm of political convictions yet make it crystal clear to each other and the culture that what’s primarily at stake isn’t the overall supremacy of a particular country, but the eternal glory of God Most High who saves the souls of people who live in all countries though our Lord Jesus Christ?

To Him Who Loves Us...
Pastor Lance

1 comment:

pduggie said...

"Would we be willing to break fellowship with someone who voted for Senator Obama while maintaining fellowship with one who votes Republican yet holds to open theism?"

Why not break fellowship with both! :-)

Anyway, I'm wondering if too much is being made of "new evangelicals" "new" interest in climate change and the genocide in darfur, when those things weren't on almost anyones political radar in the 70s and 80s (the genocide in Darfur postdating that, for instance).

It seems to me the story is that contemporary evangelicals are drawn to contemporary political issues. I hope abortion remains one of them