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the evangelical crackup? October 27, 2007

Posted by KG in 2008 Elections, politics, race, religion.
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obama-and-warren.jpg

obama with rick warren

from nytimes:

In the past, Hybels has scrupulously avoided criticizing conservative Christian political figures like Falwell or Dobson. But in my talk with him, he argued that the leaders of the conservative Christian political movement had lost touch with their base. “The Indians are saying to the chiefs, ‘We are interested in more than your two or three issues,’ ” Hybels said. “We are interested in the poor, in racial reconciliation, in global poverty and AIDS, in the plight of women in the developing world.”

He brought up the Rev. Jim Wallis, the lonely voice of the tiny evangelical left. Wallis has long argued that secular progressives could make common cause with theologically conservative Christians. “What Jim has been talking about is coming to fruition,” Hybels said.

Conservative Christian leaders in Washington acknowledge a “leftward drift” among evangelicals, said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council and the movement’s chief advocate in Washington. He told me he believed that Hybels and many of his admirers had, in effect, fallen away from orthodox evangelical theology. Perkins compared the phenomenon to the century-old division in American Protestantism between the liberal mainline and the orthodox evangelical churches. “It is almost like another split coming within the evangelicals,” he said.

After decades when evangelical megachurches have exploded at the expense of dwindling mainline congregations, Gardner is poaching the other way. Each Sunday night he convenes an informal emergent church worship group of his own, known as Next Wichita. Several dozen people, mostly 20 to 30 years old, show up to break bread, talk Scripture and plan volunteer projects. “People in that age group are much more attracted to participatory theology, very resistant to being told what to do or what to think,” he said.

Huckabee told me that he welcomed a broadening of the evangelical political agenda. “You can’t just say ‘respect life’ exclusively in the gestation period,” he said, repeating a campaign theme.

But the leaders of the Christian conservative movement have not rallied to him.

In the Wichita churches this summer, Obama was the Democrat who drew the most interest. Several mentioned that he had spoken at Warren’s Saddleback church and said they were intrigued. But just as many people ruled out Obama because they suspected that he was not Christian at all but in fact a crypto-Muslim — a rumor that spread around the Internet earlier this year. “There is just that ill feeling, and part of it is his faith,” Welsh said. “Is his faith anti-Christian? Is he a Muslim? And what about the school where he was raised?”

“Obama sounds too much like Osama,” said Kayla Nickel of Westlink. “When he says his name, I am like, ‘I am not voting for a Muslim!’ ”

while this piece isn’t shrill, i think it does give the wrong impression of an overstated leftward shift of evangelicals. while both sides of the new split are disappointed with bush, some are disappointed with iraq, corrpution etc. and others are are disappointed because he didn’t follow through with the evangelical agenda. so just because there is an understandable general move away from the republican party right now (and naturally, a % of those shifting are going to be part of the evangelical voting bloc), it doesn’t mean this is necessarily a radical transformation. the warrens and hybels are still in the minority, and the rest of the evangelical flock is moving away from bush because he wasn’t socially conservative enough. so you have one bloc (“liberal” evangelicals), which is quite small, adding a lot of members and then you have another bloc (“right-wing” evangelicals) which is still huge in comparison after the losses, looking for a president even more to the right on social issues.

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