Pastoral Musings from Rain City

it's about 'what is church?' it's about whether 'emergent' is the latest Christian trend or something more substantial. it's musing on what it means to live the city, in America, in community, intergenerationally, at this time in history...

Thursday, February 07, 2008

The evangelical fissure is good news

There was an interesting article in yesterday's Seattle Times about the political fragmentation of evangelicals. Gone are the days when the word evangelical was synonymous with Republican. In part, this is because the Republican party used evangelicals to gain votes and then consistently failed to deliver on the social issues they heralded.

A second reason has to do with the entrenchment of the old school evangelicals like Dobson, who can't get over the conspiracy theorist notions that environmentalists are intent on the destruction of our democracy, and that the only issues worth caring about are low taxes, abortion, and the definition of marriage. People in this school are incensed that McCain is doing so well, and some of them, including Dobson, have vowed to not vote at all if McCain wins.

But perhaps the biggest reason of all, and certainly the most heartening, is the theological shifts among evangelicals, illustrated by the likes of Rick Warren and Bill Hybels. These two pastors of American mega-churches have embraced critical social issues, especially in the realms of addressing global poverty and the AIDS crisis. They're mobilizing their congregations to make an enormous difference in Africa and other places across the globe and are even beginning to talk about environmental responsibility. It's as if all of the sudden the messages of the Old Testaments prophets, and James in the New Testament have risen to a place of prominence unknown throughout the modern evangelical movement.

This rise, I believe, has to do with new notions of salvation. Appropriately, this month's Leadership magazine, a journal for those in ministry, is themed around the question: "Is the Gospel too Small?" For many years the answer was yes, but it appears that things are changing.

So this year people who love Christ, claim the Bible to be the words of the God and the true source of authority, and believe in heaven and hell, will be voting across the board, because no single party embodies the ethic of Christ. This is a good thing, because these past two decades of sleeping with one party has not only created arrogance and complacency, but worse: it's created a theological blindness that has morphed the gospel into something other than what Jesus claimed it to be.



At 8/2/08 14:13, Anonymous Lisa said...

The smallness of the gospel and the relationship between the church and republican party has broken my heart for years. I really want to be engaged in changing the understanding of what it means to follow Christ, what that will mean for the way we live our lives, how we treat one another, and even the way we vote. I want to be engaged so badly that I'm practically paralyzed to do anything at all. Even to go to church. I think I'm still overwhelmed with fear that nothing will ever change, that all message of renewal will fall on deaf ears, all outpouring of passion will be invalidated, and that my hopes will rise only to be dashed again.

At 8/2/08 16:45, Blogger peteyd said...

"This rise, I believe, has to do with new notions of salvation."

Can you give examples of these new notions? You sort of left that comment hang on it's own and i'm wondering if you can elaborate.

The blindness has not morphed the Gospel. The Gospel remains the same, it's just that people forget to actually go to the source, the Bible, and instead build their perceptions of the Gospel from easy instant media. This is Laziness, not blindness.

At 14/2/08 11:07, Blogger rivergreg said...

I think one of the reasons that "low taxes", "abortion", and the "definition of marriage" have become so prominent is because taking a stand on these issues comes at very little personal cost to one's own self. Caring about the underprivileged and the environment just might come at some cost :)

Sure, I'm pretty conservative regarding my beliefs on issues like abortion and marriage, but there's so much more to consider when voting for a leader of our nation. I don't particularly like McCain, but that dislike doesn't arise from his stands on the aforementioned issues :)

I do want to say this though - though I don't necessarily agree with Dobson on every point he makes, I do think that there are a number of areas where he & Focus on the Family have had a lot of good influence - such as the areas of developing marriages and teaching parenting skills.

Many blessings to you all.


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