The New Evangelicals?

Here’s an interesting article from yesterday’s New York Times.  It describes what it calls “New Evangelicals”… basically Evangelical Christians who value social justice.  Quoting Scot McKnight, it describes this group as follows:

“A sizable portion of evangelicals have left the right, so to speak, in what the theologian Scot McKnight called “the biggest change in the evangelical movement,” nothing less than the emergence of “a new kind of Christian social conscience.” These new evangelicals focus on economic justice, environmental protection and immigration reform — not exactly Republican strong points. The religious right remains a potent political force, but where once there was the appearance of an evangelical movement that sang out in one voice, there is now a robust polyphony.”

The article claims that 19% of the population fits into this category, but I think this number is way too high.  (They put into all evangelicals who don’t self-identify as the religious right).

Still, it’s interesting to see variation among Evangelicals and how this will play out in politics.

Thank you Ed Cyzewski

  • Jay Egenes

    Is there a consistent definition of “Evangelical” that fits both sociologically and theologically? Or are there different sociological and theological nuances to the term, so someone could be “evangelical” for one purpose but not the other?

    I’ve often commented, only half-joking and paraphrasing Governor Dean, that I’m from the “Evangelical wing of the Evangelical Lutheran Church.” As true as it is, I’m not sure that puts me within either a theologically or sociologically accepted definition of the term.

    And, quite honestly, as part of the people who came up with the term evangelical, if I’m not within someone else’s definition, I want my word back.

    • http://www.brewright.com Bradley Wright

      That’s a really good question, Jay. The term is ambiguous. Definitions of it include affiliation, i.e., which church do you attend, theology, i.e., do you believe several key points, and self-identification, i.e., do you define yourself as an evangelical. Sometimes it also seems to be a political term, i.e., the religious right.

      So, there really isn’t a consistent definition.

  • Thomas R

    I’m skeptical as I think the New York Times is one that has been looking for a big “Evangelical Left” surge for many years now. They thought there would be one in 2008, but it didn’t really materialize. (Yes Obama won North Carolina and Virginia, but a big part of this was changing demographics and increased turnout among key groups)

    Although it seems like I heard some evidence of it among Evangelicals under 30.

  • anar

    Could it be that occasionally the media sees how those who they would ordinarily classify as the “Religious Right” actually are really for justice, stewardship, and hospitality? I don’t think the people that make up the Religious Right fit the standard media stereotype. In this NYT article Pally admits in the first paragraph that there are assumptions involved. The stereotype of these “values voter” is that they are getting what they want? And between the lines Pally seems to communicate that all the “normal” people (we NYT readers) need to resist THESE people who get whatever they want by trampling us.

    Also, maybe Pally can’t comprehend that “old-style” Evangelicals (the Religious Right) actually were the same group that played an important role in business ethics or abolition of slavery. Man having the Imago Dei is relevant to how we treat others. This is an old idea.

    Her view (stereotype) may be that the Religious Right would be in favor of reinstating slavery, after all they think homosexuality is a sin. The media narrative is to try and equate civil rights with gay rights.

    And why the “Ouch”? My understanding of the book “UnChristian” is that it is about how the outside views Christianity. It is not necessarily a correct assessment of Christianity.

    Does the Christian Right want a Theocracy? Pally seems to think they do.

    I think by nature of the Bible being the same as it was. People who read and follow the Bible are much more closely tied together than many other movements. There are some different applications of Biblical teachings, but there isn’t the divide that Pally is trying to find.

    This article is interesting, not in how it clearly spells out the variation in Evangelicalism, but it is interesting in seeing how the writer goes about trying to create her own narrative or add to the stereotype. She is giving those who may accidentally see something good come out of the Religious Right a way out: they can just claim that it came from the “new evangelicals” who are like us. They won’t have to question their own stereotype of the right or more importantly faults in their own ideology. Pally seems to be an apologist.


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