New Generation, New Evangelicalism

The single biggest mistake of the neo-evangelical coalition, and here I’m thinking of the late 70s through the 80s and into the 90s, was its decision to glue itself to the Republican Party. Led by the architects — Francis Schaeffer, James Kennedy, Jerry Falwell, and James Dobson — neo-evangelicalism lost its single-minded evangelical focus. Instead, it was intoxicated with the potential power in winning the culture war, and nothing represented its hope more than overturning Roe v. Wade. (That never happened, as you know.)

In 1981 I showed up at the University of Nottingham, and in one of my first sessions with my professor, Jimmy Dunn, he observed to me that what was going on in the culture wars in the USA was a huge mistake for the evangelical movement. He further observed that politics has its swings — now GOP soon Dem and back and forth — and that when it swung the other way, it would be the church — not the Republicans — that would lose.

The evangelical movement lost its Faustian bargain. It is everywhere evident. It has been scolded, shamed, and it has tried to recover. Will it learn that it cannot sustain the confidence of the public if it aligns itself politically? Will it learn that the way to change culture is through faithful witness and not through the grasping at power? Will it learn that the church — I mean a gospel shaped church, and by gospel I mean the Jesus and apostolic gospel — is a politic? A different politic? Not one marked by power, but by the cross and resurrection and where we follow the enthroned Lord of all?

Some young evangelicals have walked away entirely, some into other traditions, in order to escape the orneriness, combativeness and stridency of partisan politics ruining the opportunity to speak either the gospel or a prophetic word into our culture. Others though are forming a new way …

… none speaking for them more importantly than Jonathan Merritt, in his new book A Faith of Our Own. Look hard at that subtitle: Following Jesus Beyond the Culture Wars. My generation blew it; I look forward to what the next generation can do with constructing a kind of evangelicalism that is beyond the culture wars. He’s got endorsements across the board, perhaps a sign of a new kind of coalition — a non-partisan evangelical engagement with culture: Cal Thomas, Gabe Lyons, Ed Stetzer, Steve Monsma, Ron Sider, Sam Rodriguez, Barry Hankins, Jon Acuff, Phleena Huertz, Joel Hunter and Soong-Chan Rah.

When Jesus was offered the kingdoms of the world, Jesus said “No thanks.” So observes Jonathan. He had a better way, a different way, and the challenge today is which of those two options we will choose.

Hear, hear:

Many on the Christian left speak as if the kingdom of God entails implementing a ‘social justice’ agenda in Washington, getting our troops off the battlefield, and obliterating the reign of the Christian right.

For those on the right, the kingdom amounts to voting Christians into office, making abortion and gay marriage illegal, reinstating prayer in public schools, and posting the Ten Commandments in courthouses.

When either of these agendas becomes the ultimate measure of faithfulness, the kingdom of God is supplanted by our political strategies (17-18, italics mine).

Jon doesn’t hold back: Yes, evangelicals are sitting in the lap of the GOP; but the Protestant liberal movement is even more in the lap of the Democrats. Take your political stance, that’s fine… just don’t make it the Christian way of being.

The church has too easily become nothing more than a voting bloc, like a teacher’s union or senior citizens. Christians have been used and are defacing God in the process.

The last election has issued a warning to the evangelical world. Things are changing.

Join us for more posts from Jon’s new book.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • http://Whatyouthinkmatters.org/blog Andrew Wilson

    I love it. But then, I’m British with Anabaptist sympathies, so I suppose I would.

  • http://www.novuslumen.net Jeremy Bouma

    This is encouraging, indeed. When I worked for James Kennedy 8 years ago in my ministry on Capitol Hill, I saw firsthand how the Bride of Jesus Christ is used by the State to further its own powerful ends—by both partied of the State—and how the Church whores herself to the State in the interest of “having a seat at the table.” Lord Acton was right: Power corrupts.

    I remember in 2005 or 2006 reading a pole of Members of Congress in a Hill trade magazine that asked one very interesting question, among others: If you could ignore one political interest group and not worry about the political ramifications, which one? For Dems it was the #2) AFL-CIO and #1) NAARL/Pro-Choice and for GOP it was the #2) NRA and #1) Religious Right. The Church has become simply one more interest group on the Hill, one more voting block as you said Scot. So sad.

  • Jason Lee

    “The evangelical movement lost its Faustian bargain. It is everywhere evident.” How is it evident, specifically?

  • http://abnormalanabaptist.wordpress.com/ Robert Martin

    Haer, hear, again! The Christian response to the powers, as shown in the example of Christ, is not to use questionable means towards ends, but to live against the powers, not as a means itself, but simply as an expression of obedience to the vision of the Kingdom under Christ.

    If this sounds like John Howard Yoder to you, you wouldn’t be wrong. I couldn’t help but hear echoes of “Christ and the Powers” and “The War of the Lamb” from Yoder’s “Politics of Jesus” in the above post.

  • Harold

    Another good perspective on this is Ed Dobson and Cal Thomas’ “Blinded by Might” (Zondervan, 1999). Dobson had been Jerry Falwell’s personal assistant. This book didn’t even create a blip on the evangelical radar when it came out. But it was one of the first on the American scene to raise the alert that in the marriage between the church and “culture-war politics,” the church was not only actually losing the culture war, the church was losing its identity and focus on Christ’s peaceable Kingdom.

  • http://chosenrebel.wordpress.com Marty Schoenleber, Jr.

    I applaud the book and the perspective, but let’s not kid ourselves or make ourselves more significant than any other generation. The church is always struggling with this issue of wanting temporal power to secure its identity. We make the mistake of thinking that we can “come to Jesus” and simply add him to our present worldview. Oh there might be a tweek here or there, but basically we assume the our present perspective is basically right and then add Jesus to clean some of the corners.

    Jesus can’t be added to anything. He wants to radically overturn and revolutionize everything I ever thought about anything and everything. True discipleship is an intoxication with the teaching of Christ and the the apostles with such intensity that day to day shows the grace upon grace of His Spirit. We become more than, or should, “mere men”. We become men and women whose lives evidence that “we have been with him” with new capacities to love the unlovely no matter where they are found (in either political party) and to live sacrificially and passionately for and like Jesus.

    We spend far too much time trying to court favor with the spirit of the age and comparing ourselves (favorably, usually) with previous generations.

  • Gary

    As a Christian independent voter, and one who hasn’t voted for a candidate from either of the lesser of two evils parties in over 20 years, I would agree that Jesus is not served when we Christians get caught up in the Democrat vs Republican debate and take sides. Neither side can honestly proclaim the approval of God. Both are far too corrupt for that…

    However, as citizens of America, I believe it is our God given right, and duty to at the very least vote for the candidate who best represents our Christian beliefs and convictions. I am also quite confident that there is usually a better candidate in almost every district than a Democrat or Republican. I also believe that any candidate that supports gay marriage, abortion, unjust wars, or deficit spending would fit into the category of candidates that shouldn’t be supported…

    May America bless God once again so that God can bless America!

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    I pastor friend says that Satan has taken over the evangelical church and is using it for his purposes. Yea, the great deceiver.

  • carl

    Funny how the very thing that Evangelicals are doing is the very thing that Jesus opposed. The Domination system. Ever since Christianity was co-opted by Constantine to consolidate his power the church has been a pawn in political warfare. The bishops sold out and we’re still paying for it.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Sorry, should have been formatted like this…

    Marty Schoenleber, Jr.#6 says:

    but let’s not kid ourselves or make ourselves more significant than any other generation.

    I am not an historian, but as I age I am seeing the value more and more in each generation considering itself to being pivotal and relearning the wisdom of previous generations, often on their own. I want each generation to believe that they are the most significant generation yet and to take that charge seriously.

  • http://literary-equine.livejournal.com/ C. Alan Loewen

    I’m 57 years old and I’ve only become aware in the last 5 years how badly my generation of fellow Christians blew it badly.

    Do better than we did. God’s grace.

  • Jim

    I like the balance of this as right-wing evangelicals and left-wing evangelicals are really just mirror images of each other–different issues, same idolatry. However, there is a real need for prophetic witness to the culture and we should reject the “two kingdoms” approach which is ultimately dualistic–a sharp sacred/secular divide. “The earth is the Lords. “MLK hit the streets, William Wilberforce engaged faithfully so lets not throw the baby out with the bath water. The goal shouldn’t be favor with the world–won’t happen if we are faithful. Blood is crying from the ground because of our wholesale slaughter of children through abortion. We still kill the prophets! They make us uncomfortable. “Remember Lot’s Wife!” Remember John the Baptist was called the greatest of the OT prophets by Jesus and he had his head cut off for protesting a sexual aberration. This new movement I can see easily making prophetic ministry the great evil. In many ways it’s an overreaction to their hyper-dispensational fundementalists’ backgrounds. It’s so weird that many of the New Right preached cultural engagement and an any moment rapture at the same time!! Evidence of profound dualism.

    There’s something really wrong when a culture as wicked as ours thinks we are the greatest thing since sliced bread. I do think the prophetic is not all that welcome within these new circles. Jesus wasn’t all that concerned with his reputation and the labels came fast and furious! Is our goal in life not to be thought of as a homophobe? Or brag to our self-righteous right-wing evangelical friends that we hang out with homosexuals? Make friends with all sorts of people but as people–not as a political subset.

    Per usual we must look at our idolatry! Are we trusting God as we plow? Do our favorite candidates/parties mean too much to us? Do we think changing things on the federal level will usher in righteousness while we neglect our families, the church, our neighborhoods–our communities at the smallest level. “He who is faithful in a little.”

  • Ric Hudgens

    I agree Scot. But clearly the mistake here was more than just a matter of political strategy or tactics. There are theological problems at the root of this wrong turn. I’m betting they are christological and that the “evangelical Jesus” is not the biblical Jesus. In the name of Jesus they have built their house on sinking sands.

  • Patrick

    Ha! If all believers would learn this lesson we’d all allow the earthly political warfare play itself out while we prayed for our leaders whomever they are and we’d be about serving Christ and man instead of trying hard to coerce others to do it for or with us through the coercive power of the state.

    It’s not only US righties who think this way. Every political activist desires the state coerce those who disagree into compliance. That’s what a state does, brings us into compliance either by threats or coercive action.

    I’ve yet to see any Biblical theology that lends itself to using coercive power of a state to achieve a Biblical goal other than mitigating criminal conduct.

    Let’s identify the need to re-examine our utility of the state on all sides to achieve what we view as God’s goals and then the Church in our country will be closer to seeing Christ work through us to reach the unbeliever.

  • Robin

    Patrick,

    How would you evaluate someone like Wilberforce who used the coercive power of the state to outlaw slavery…and did so explicitly because of his religious conversion….

    It is fine to say that the right is co-opted and the left is co-opted…but I have yet to see anyone put forward a positive model of Christian engagement with the state. Maybe we are just called to be prophetic like MLK, but MLK still arranged a boycott, a national movement, and voter registration drives to influence elections.

    I’m not comfortable with Dobson, Kennedy, or the Sojourners, but there are things that this government is doing that God abhors and I don’t think disengagement or hiding on my farm speaking German like the anabaptists is the faithful response either.

  • http://shortstorykitchen.com Lou Barba

    Hi Scott,

    I have to disagree, Scott. For Christians at any level, whether as an individual or a hierarchical group, there is only one right side and wrong side to any issue. Their lives should reflect this by what they say, do, and advise others to do. If one particular party is more of a proponent of what is right, then Christians and Christian groups should say so, as long as that party holds to those principles. That’s why Republicans have been more supported recently…because they support ideals that are more wholesome and more palatable to God’s ways.

    Lou

  • ppeter

    I agree with the thoughts in the book’s quote above. However, this constant historical vacillation between the Kingdom (viewed as purely transcendent and irrelevant to the here and now) and worldly goals (for the sake of which the Gospel is reduced to a tool) has deeper roots in Evangelicalism. I sense a radical ambivalence toward the Incarnation itself. This suspicion of the Incarnation, which seems to taint the unworldly purity of the Word, pushes Evangelicalism into anti-society thinking and extreme pragmatism alternately.
    There is a third way, especially for the Christian layman, that the catholic tradition calls ‘sanctification of the temporal order.’ Just because Christian involvement in civil society has not ‘worked’ (whatever that means… theocracy?) does not mean it is unevangelical to try.

  • http://chosenrebel.wordpress.com Marty Schoenleber, Jr.

    To DRT.

    I think we need to be careful. I don’t want any generation to believe that it is better or more significant than the last or any previous generation. On the other hand, I want every generation of the church to strive to be better and more significant than the previous generation. There is a delicate balance here. But hubris and arrogance can partner with any ambition and comparing ourselves to others is almost always path to sin.

    Let’s encourage our sons and daughters to walk with Christ with such intimacy. radical dependence and sacrificial love that they far exceed us. Let’s pray that they do. But let’s not pander to a pride that discounts the efforts of others who have gone before. “Dwell in the land and be faithful” is still great counsel. Leave results and evaluations of significance to God.

  • Rick in IL

    I’ve been in pastoral ministry for 26 years, nearly all of it in smaller churches. Except for one misstep in the first year, I’ve never dipped a toe into political issues. It’s not my calling. I have preferences, of course, and as honestly as I can say, they are driven by values that I believe to be biblically grounded – but I hold them cautiously, fully aware that there are brothers and sisters who see things from the other side and feel equally grounded in scripture. I tend to think more than feel (but only slightly more) so reason plays into my preferences as well. I have never to my recall preached or written about my leanings. I hope I have not been guilty of the generational error described in this article.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Lou Barba#16, I hope you take the time to hang out on Scot’s site and allow me and others to share our perspectives with you. There is great wisdom in seeing good in all bad and bad in all good, with the exception of god, of course.

    The very idea that there is a right and wrong way on every issue neglects the fact that there are many other things that can go wrong. The question may not be framed correctly leading to a bad answer. The solutions could be wrong. The choice of pursuit may be wrong. All of this leads me to what I consider to be the most important consideration as it relates to this post.

    The problem that is being pointed out is one of opportunity cost. Most people are not familiar with opportunity cost, but it is the value of the next best alternative to the course you chose. For example, in the context of this post, say the entire generation was rallied around roe v wade. They spent incredible amounts of time and money and energy doing that. Yes, it is a good thing. But, by spending all of that time and money on roe v wade, they eliminate the possibility that all of that capital could have been applied to helping the poor, or building better housing, or getting the gospel of Jesus right etc etc.

    By making a choice you often eliminate alternatives and it is the value that those alternatives bring that is the opportunity cost.

    BTW, I think the Dems support ideals that are more wholesome and more palatable to god’s ways and don’t even see how it is a close contest. The repubs are a lesson in futility, imo. But, I have to admit, it is very complicated hence my other thoughts.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Marty Schoenleber, Jr. #18, I hear you, but think that there is a lot to be said in supporting other people. The fact is that the current generation is the most important generation by far. Human existence has been around only x number of years, yet it will be around, hopefully, much longer than that in the future. Therefore they have the opportunity to have an enormous impact on incredible numbers of people. Previous generations no longer have that opportunity.

    To tell the younger generation to not get a big head is wrong headed. The idea is to help direct their appropriately big head to good pursuits.

  • Ty

    I heard Jonathan speak at Catalyst Dallas last Wednesday in a lab session. I had no expectations upon entering as I’d not heard of him before, but was intrigued with the idea of “Following Jesus Beyond the Culture Wars.”

    I was very surprised and very impressed by the talk he gave.

    He is firmly in touch with the voice of the Millenials. He also has a firm understanding of where the generation before is coming from (his dad was president of the Southern Baptist Convention and Jerry Falwell himself convinced Jonathan to go to Liberty University over breakfast one morning).

    It was the follow up Q&A that impressed me most. carl, he addressed a question from the crowd on Constantine by pointing out that Constantine wasn’t actually the problem; the lust for power was/is. (Speaking of which, if you all haven’t streamed the movie Agora on Netflix, you’re really missing out!)

    He also addressed a question from another gentleman asking the loaded question of abortion being single issue vote by pointing out the more holistic value of life from the womb on which includes caring for the poor, etc.

    I have to admit that I wasn’t mentally prepared to the fact that I was going to have to pay close attention to him so several of his comments floated by me unchallenged, but it intrigued me enough that I’m going to dig in further to his book and other works.

  • Gary

    @DRT… A party that supports the murder of babies, gay marriage, and a hand out instead of a hand up is not anywhere close to what Jesus was all about…

  • CGC

    Hi Everyone,
    Well, it astonishing to me that people would even be comparing how Christian one party is over and against the other like that is what Jesus did or what he was really about . . .

  • phil_style

    @ Lou Barber “If one particular party is more of a proponent of what is right, then Christians and Christian groups should say so, as long as that party holds to those principles.”

    In principle we understand where this thinking comes from. But, we must be careful not to “align” ourselves with a party, which is really just a voice making noises that it thinks we want to hear. Let’s face it, there are no government-political parties on this earth that “hold to christian principles”. No matter who we vote for, we still end up with unjust wars, greedy land grabs, resource depletion, environmental decline etc.. etc.. the list is endless.

    What we should be clear about, is that we are voting for the lesser of evils. This, I think, is the stance that younger Christians take, because they are disillusioned/ bemused by the vociferous nature with which it appears their elders held allegiance to these failed organisations.

    For those living in the Sates, one party might represent “closer” alignment with christian values… but from my perspective (outside of the USA) I sure cannot tell which one it is.

  • phil_style

    @Gary,

    I assume your comment is referring to democrats (baby killing, gay marriage etc). But let’s be clear, the GOP are responsible for their own fair share of baby deaths (Iraq, Afghanistan etc…) and their own bastardisations of the Christian idea of marriage.

    So lets’ not going down the path of counting up which policies are more or less christian, we will end up with nothing to report on either side.

  • Michael Edwards

    @ Lou Barba:

    Oh? There is only *one* right side on every issue?
    What about war, whether to be a pacifist or to engage in killing one’s enemy?
    Strange that committed Christians have (gasp!) different opinions on that issue, yet you are so confident that every issue is black and white.
    In short, I think you are way too certain that Christians *always* have one answer, particularly since we “see as in a glass, darkly”. Do you claim to have the perfect mirror, better than the apostle Paul had?
    I’ll remind you that the Southern Baptist Convention was formed *because* they were soooo convinced that God supported slavery — and they backed themselves up with plenty of verses.

  • Edward Vos

    “The Myth of a Christian Nation” by Gregory Boyd speaks to this issue of power as well. In a christian world view all power is evil, and service to mankind is how we worship God. Isn’t that what Christ did. He showed us the way and was a servant even to us so that we might learn be servants of the most High!

    Having the polictical power to legislate and judge does not lead to a path of servanthood but a path of coruption.

    Does foot washing ring a bell! If the church started washing the feet of all sinners then maybe just maybe the world would see Christ as Christs wants to be seen!

  • CGC

    Hi Everyone,
    Isn’t voting for the lesser of two evils still a vote for evil? Scot likes the Anabaptist tradition, well there is a wonderful little Mennonite book called, “Electing Not to Vote” edited by Ted Lewis. We always hear so many reasons why we should vote. Here is a little book that gives some reasons why not to vote!

  • phil_style

    @Edward Vos “If the church started washing the feet of all sinners …”

    Whoa! Steady on Edward! Associating with sinners is bad enough.. but taking care of them?? Submitting to serving them?? what are you on, lad?
    ;)

  • Rick

    Phil Style #26-

    “So lets’ not going down the path of counting up which policies are more or less christian, we will end up with nothing to report on either side.”

    I think that was Gary’s point.

  • Gary

    @Phil… If you will read my first post (#7) you will see that I don’t support either of the lesser of two evil parties…

    I also don’t believe that Jesus would either from His teachings. So please be careful of who you align yourself with…

  • Patrick

    Robin,

    Sorry for the delay and excellent question.

    I would agree with it as slavery as practiced in the UK and the United States is as criminal an act as it would be if I kidnapped you, paid a relative for it and that’s that. That’s what governments are for I think we would all agree.

    If you are starving, I must feed you and try and see after you, it is what Christ wants me to do. It is not my place to beat someone else over the head to feed you.

    I would add this. IF the believers in the UK or the United States gave a nickel for our responsibilities or cared a whit about virtue love and representing Christ’s virtues, we’d never have had slavery nor would we have needed Wilberforce’s activism or a massive civil war to put a stop to it, right?

    The Church needs to emphasize the spiritual aspect, I think improved society follows.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Gary, I was independent for a very long time too, but was purely making the point that needed to be made that as a Christian we do not have to vote republican and don’t have to believe that repubs are more ethical than dems, and you helped make my point by showing that it is a very complex decision.

    But I have come to the point in my life where I think it is a cop out for me to waste my time on things that are irrelevant so I believe we pretty much need to vote repub or dem for president. I also believe the whole abortion battle is irrelevant and not going to change anything. I wish the energy would go into caring for people in that situation rather than making arm chair calls against someone else’s problems.

    Do something that can make a difference, that was the whole point of my opportunity cost message.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Getting back to the post, I have tried to visualize what a Jesus shaped society would look like in our day and age and I think that we have a really big problem.

    As this conversation has shown, it is absurd to think that either party shaped like a Jesus society yet there are many who feel that their political pursuit is consistent with discipleship.

    Let’s take an example. Last Thursday, about 1/2 mile from my house a tractor trailer truck carrying logs hit head on into a car going the other way and then flipped over on the road ….. it was absolutely horrific. The car that hit head on ignored a double yellow line and tried to pass one in front of him, and apparently did not see that rather large truck.

    I have thought about this accident for several days now trying to imagine what went on, what the stories are, the only eye witness account I have heard so far was from the logging truck driver and he is beside himself.

    I realize it is extreme, but I think Jesus is extreme. If we lived in a Jesus shaped world, I contend that the accident would not have happened. There are many many possible sources of the sin that caused this accident, from our consumerism culture that requires such large amount of resources (the trees), to the 55 mph speed limit on the two lane road, to the lack of collision avoidance equipment that should be standard in the car. And what about the likely distraction of the other driver? How about the cheap fuel that we have because we invade other people’s lands and cause death and disease in the Congo so we can have cheap gas?

    What we, as a society have decided, is that it is worth all of this….sin…. and we choose to not follow.

  • Gary

    @DRT… I too am extreme, and I believe Jesus is also. But I believe that Jesus would only be served by voting for righteousness and not the lesser of two evils…

  • P.

    The Christian Right badly damaged Christianity’s credibility when it starting mixing in politics, and we’re still suffering because of it.

  • Dan Arnold

    Patrick (#33)

    “slavery as practiced in the UK and the United States is as criminal an act”

    From this statement, can I assume that there are forms of slavery that are not a criminal act? Forms that are therefore permissible? Perhaps the kind of slavery advanced in the Hebrew Scriptures or accepted in the New Testament?

    See, I like Robin’s question because it gets at the issue that there are structures that go beyond the individual and therefore require structural change. These structures are not necessarily criminal in that, at the very least, it is the state that defines what is criminal. The argument about slavery (inadvertently?) proves that point.

    When I hear from these younger Evangelicals (whom I have much in common with) about what I perceive as a disengagement from politics, part of me rejoices, because politics has come to define what it means to be Christian in America. But part of me wonders, how would women have gotten the right to vote or how would we have ever ended forced-segregation without strong political engagement. When and what should Christians engage in the political process and how should it be done?

  • Robin

    Dan Arnold’s last paragraph gets at everything I wanted to touch on. Whatever flavor of Christian you are, there are thing the state permits and participates in that you believe God abhors. Whether it is abortion, torture, war, or environmental degradation. When the state is actively allowing (or engaging in) something that you believe God hates, what should Christian engagement on those issues look like.

    It isn’t enough to simply poke the left or right for doing it badly, we also need a positive model for engagement. If left and right are currently responding incorrectly, what is a proper response?

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Gary#36, as the Rush song from way long ago said, “If you choose not to decide you have still made a choice” and in this case that choice actually does have an impact on who gets elected. You can choose your way, I will choose mine.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Dan Arnold #38

    But part of me wonders, how would women have gotten the right to vote or how would we have ever ended forced-segregation without strong political engagement. When and what should Christians engage in the political process and how should it be done?

    Yes, I have yet to hear an articulation I can agree with, even my own.

  • Gary

    DRY… I will choose to align myself, and my vote with Jesus. If Christians did the same thing, Democrats, Republicans and all of the sin and corruption that they legislate would possibly go away also…

    It is one thing to call yourself a Christian. It is totally something different to live like one.

  • Spearo

    In a world where common ground needs to be found, the constant din of left and right idealogues is disheartening. I liken our current situation to a minivan full of teenagers, arguing over who should pay for lunch, while ignoring the oil light on the dashboard.

    We were not promised easy lives and benefits for which we pay nothing. No one is guaranteed a job or a safe place to worship. Instead, our Lord and mentor says that no one has greater love than when they lay down their life for their friends. He also said that if you have done this for the least, you have done it for me.

    Neither party wants to recognize that we borrow over 40% of what we spend each year. Instead, they focus on pet issues that energize their aligned constituency. We know that Christians should steer clear of such irresponsibility and yet we see our brothers and sisters proclaiming that taxes should be raised or lowered and spending increased or cut while none of their strategies address the engine that is about to blow.

    Glad that someone has the courage to challenge Christians to invest less in politics and more in being Christlike. Hope it becomes viral.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Gary, excellent. So I will see you helping the poor and those that are abused by big business, those who are sick and don’t have insurance, right?

  • Hayes Conner

    MartySchoenleber has a great perspective in this sense, DRT….
    Why do we refer to some nebulous “current generation” being mystically qualified to lead its elders spiritually, as though youth and inexperience in and of themselves are qualities that we less young wish we had? I’m in my mid 40′s and am no less part of a “current generation” than I ever was in every way… socially, spiritually, secularly, economically, etc… “Generation”, whether “new”, “next”, or “now” has simply become a popular catch word in the Church, usually leading to oddly arrogant 18 year olds shepherding fawning middle aged people who have been convinced by earnest youth pastors that their time has passed and that they would do well to look to the youth groups to see what we should all do next. It’s all very “Hunger Games”. Scripture, no matter how archaic it appears to the child-leaders we’re grooming, still indicates that the elders should be leading the young for a hundred good reasons. Just look at all of the failed “ministries” who’ve closed their doors because of their written or unwritten policies to restrict their formal memberships to those under 30. In no way do I despise anyone’s youth. I simply advise pastors to stop pandering to them in the veiled interest of seeming culturally “now” themselves…

  • http://www.thefaithlog.com Jeff Doles

    Following the principle of not voting for the lesser of two evils, let us then go on and say, If anyone or anything is less than perfect, do not vote for them or support them in any way. Have nothing to do with them lest you be found somehow aiding or abetting evil.

  • Patrick

    Dan,

    I think POW status in warfare is not criminal and I think the OT text uses the term “slavery” for the contractural repayment of debt if the loanee fails to repay in cash, they had to work it off in labor with the loaner based on terms in the contract. Both of these are called slavery in the OT text and are perfectly moral positions, IMO.

  • Gary

    DRT… UM, Yes I do what I can… How about you? But then again, I am not the standard, but I know the one who is…

    Jeff… You will never find a sinless candidate, unless Jesus puts His name on the ballot. But when you vote for the lesser of two evils, you have history to prove what you are voting FOR. I will choose to vote AGAINST it.

  • http://krusekronicle.com Michael W. Kruse

    “Yes, evangelicals are sitting in the lap of the GOP; but the Protestant liberal movement is even more in the lap of the Democrats.”

    Yes! Many forget that one of the drivers in the emergence of the Religious Right was the rise of the religious left in Mainline Christianity in the 50′s through 70′s. So now a new generation “who knew not Pharaoh” rises up and believes the answer to Religious Right domination is to create congregations/denominations that are “progressive” (read adopting about 90% of everything Mainline denominations have been parroting since the 60′s) .

    I was attending a Nazarene University in 1980 when I was compelled to sit through a chapel with Jerry Falwell lifting up his Moral Majority. That was when I finally decided to leave Evangelical Christianity and in 1983 become Presbyterian Church (USA). But it didn’t take many years to realize how thoroughly captive the PCUSA is to Democratic politics. One of the most depressing things I have found over the years is how much energy … on all sides … is spent on Christians posturing and trying to define their witness by being contra something else … contra-Republican or contra-Democrat. There is no core model for public witness, just a response to perceived excesses of others. I had hopes that the emerging church was going to be something new but I’m mostly disappointed.

    I’m not satisfied with the Anabaptist alternative. I’m more of a Christian realist but I find precious few venues for productive conversation.

  • CGC

    Hi Michael and all,
    I remember when Senator Mark Hatfield was in politics, he wrote a book called, “Between a Rock and a Hard Place.” When to engage in politics and when to be the alternative prophetic community that stands apart from politics takes so much wisdom, vision, and imagination that few probably can really see the trees from the forrest (I know I don’t).

    I think the Anabaptist alternative is not satisfying because of the worldliness of the church as well as not seeing that possibly a good earthly kingdom is posible to some extent (at least compared to some other earthly kingdoms). I don’t know if any Christian’s political savvyness can get around the Constantinian temptation but Jesus seemed to be very political in promoting God’s kingdom while subverting the kingdoms of this world. I think all the ways Christians are political is more undermining the faith than really helping it.

    I suspect that Christians are not political enough when it comes to preaching, teaching, modeling, and making a difference in our world at large but I for one have lost faith in the kind of political vision people would have today’s world. Every version I hear Christians promoting as ‘Jesus politics’ are simply the politics of the world rather than the politics of God’s kingdom.
    Every once in a while Ihear someone on this list or Tom Wright (who most conservatives hate his politics while they like his theology) say something that gets it right but it’s so far and few between.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Re: Kruse comment and others about some churches being in the lap of the Democrats…

    I have never seen a church like that. Perhaps I need to go out and see what one of those is like.

  • CGC

    Hi DRT,
    Michael’s context is the PCUSA which strongly endorses the Democrats platform. Also, visit some African American Churches in urban areas. I’m sure that others could name some more . . . . But my experiences in Evangelicalism is like yours DRT. I remember one lady who owned a Christian bookstore said to me with all sincerity, “Don’t you know that Jesus was a Republican!” I could not help but think when I left that particular Christian bookstore that told me more about that lady than Jesus.

  • Gary

    Please come quickly Lord Jesus!!! Christians are looking towards government for justice instead of you…

  • Amy G.

    This might be my favorite post of yours. Definitely adding that book to my Amazon Wish List! We’ve lost the Faustian bargain, indeed.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Hi CGC, thanks for that.

    A side story:

    In 1992 I moved into a neighborhood in Delaware and about a year later a batptist minister moved in across the street. True to my upbringing, he was black because all baptists are black, right ? [ I grew up in Pittsburgh and there were no white baptists to the best of my knowledge, baptist=black ].

    I sincerely kept asking him if I could come to his church, but in the end he never really gave me enough info to go. I ended up finding out that he actually broadcasted his services on local tv every sunday, and as I watched I realized why I was not allowed to go. I was the enemy. Quite an eye opener for me.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Gary#53 and other comments, I am going to give you some feedback.

    I think that pretty much everyone here on this site is Jesus follower. There may be some who come to debate without being a Christian, but in all the time that I have been here I have never seen one.

    Your approach is more than a bit aggravating to me. We tend to engage in debate about issues here, and while there is the occasional lament, such as you gave in #53, they tend to be more about the individual announcing the lament and less a complaint about the unworthiness of others. Your comment in #53 is a direct complaint and dig at real people that are taking the time to post here and think about the issues. I take your comment as an ad hominem attack against me and others that are here. We frown on that. Look up ad hominem on wikipedia if you don’t know what it is.

    I find, and I bet others do, your comments to have an air of superiority about them that is quite distasteful. For example, you say that ” I will choose to align myself, and my vote with Jesus”. Now if you are to combine my previous thought that everyone here is Christian with your comment, the essence of this statement is that you think that you know the will of Jesus better than others who differ from you. You see, what you know is what your interpretation is of the bible and Christianity. The same as mine is my interpretation. You do not know the will of Jesus any better than I do or any better than anyone else from an absolute perspective. We each have our blind spots and generally many here discuss to improve themselves and the nature of the arguments, that adds to the body of knowledge of Christianity. Putting other’s down does not contribute to the conversation.

    I also hope that you continue to come here and share your perspective. One of the big reasons that I like this site is because the people who call me out when I am being ignorant do so with rational arguments.

    Last, I admit that I got a bit snarky with you above. Sorry about that. Now you can see why I reacted that way, not that my behavior should have occurred, I will try to improve that int he future.

  • Gary

    DRT… Do you read as much between the lines in the Bible as you have about my comments? You are making far too many assumptions here.

    Whom did I put down? Who did I profess superiority over? When did I ever state that I know the will of Jesus better than anyone else?

    I shared my perspective as you state you do. I speak the truth as I see it, and I don’t get snarky. But I find it offensive that any Christian could even consider aligning oneself with a political party that condones abortion, and gay marriage. I also feel the same way about Christians that align themselves with unjust wars on countries or it’s own peoples constitutional rights.

    I never attacked anyone in this forum including you, but you did assume that I didn’t care about the “least of these”. I suggest you pay more attention to the log in your eye when someone is sharing a different perspective to consider…

    Enjoy voting for the lesser of two evils as you see it… I just can’t bring myself to vote for known evil.

  • tessa

    Scot, I think Francis Schaeffer did so much more for the church and was truly a prophetic voice than your one line lumping him with Falwell asserts. He did not seek power at all, nor was he aligning himself with the religious right, regardless of what his son says. He looked for co-belligerents who were willing to speak out against abortion. And why not? The evangelical world, indeed much of the Christian world, except for Catholicism, was silent on the issues of abortion, infanticide and euthanasia. Many of us would not be believers today were it not for Francis and Edith Schaeffer and the profound work of L’Abri. To essentially dismiss him in one sentence doesn’t seem right. I understand that your piece was not about Schaeffer, but to include him with Falwell and Dobson does him a grave injustice.

  • Mike M

    Christian values, not necessarily “what would Jesus or Paul do?,” have influenced politics in this country since the Pilgrims. Noteworthy examples include liquor laws, slavery, Prohibition, war, and the civil rights movement. Republican presidents have had 20 years to end abortion by executive order but didn’t: Reagan, Papa Bush, and Baby Bush. Why not? Mainly because the anti-abortion issue is a great vote-getter.
    The death penalty applies to only 3 issues at the federal level: treason, counterfeiting, and piracy. It does not apply to unborn babies or civilian victims of aggressive wars which means tbey are unconstitutonal. Nor is torture, the overthrow of duly elected governments we don’t like, or using taxpayer money to bail-out banks. So yes, Gary: what is the lesser of (unfortunately only two) evils?

  • Gary

    Thank you for understanding my point Mike. But we have more than two choices…

  • http://cramercomments.blogspot.com D C Cramer

    For another interesting counter-example to neo-evangelical Religious Right, see Asbury history professor David Swartz’s forthcoming book, The Moral Minority: The Evangelical Left in an Age of Conservativism (UPenn Press, forthcoming).

  • Gary

    Just a thought… Maybe we should read the Bible for a new and fresh perspective.

  • http://shortstorykitchen.com Lou Barba

    @ Micheal Edwards
    There is only one God. He has already decided what is right and wrong in every situation. Put on the mind of Christ (God) and you will easily be able to discern His will. The Bible is easy to interpret if you are, like Christ, trying to do more than you have to, instead of trying to find out how much you can get away with. Perhaps the Southern Baptist Convention was comprised of folks who were not aware of the mind of Christ.

    @Phil_style
    We have no other way to determine how to vote than by what politicians supposedly or actually stand for. I like to say that in God’s life, there is no democracy. One decision fits all.

    @DRT
    As I said to Phil, with God, one decision fits all. There is a right and wrong to every situation. If you put on the mind of Christ, it is easy to discern what that is. I am reminded of Jesus’ answer to the disciples when they said what you did about using resources for the poor. Mary bought ointment to anoint Him with and the complaint was that the money should have been given to the poor. He said that the poor are always with you, but I am not. So, allocations of resources is not always cut and dried, not always what seems to make sense.

    @Scot
    If I go on with this much longer, I will almost be writing a guest post. I can somewhat summarize that Jesus (God) has always been extremely active in the making of history and still is. If we are followers of Jesus, we will be drawn into the making of history, too.

    Lou Barba

  • http://restoringsoul.blogspot.com Ann F-R

    Thank you for introducing us to this book, Scot. The political “sides” arguments spiritually weary and drain us, rather than empower us in Christ.

    Lou Barba, you seem to believe that you can ascertain completely when God stands on one person’s side or against another’s. Do we imagine we already have “the mind of Christ”, perfectly? (I recall Phil. 3:7-ff, especially vv. 12-13, as being successive to 2:5.) When Jesus spoke of loving neighbors and enemies, of being perfect & complete in love toward everyone, good or evil, the sinful and the righteous, does he not counsel us against those broken flesh-based assumptions? The Jesus you describe sounds as if he would have preferred to hang out w/ the Pharisees, from my POV.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Gary, I provided the evidence for my assertions in my feedback.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Lou Barba#63 says

    As I said to Phil, with God, one decision fits all. There is a right and wrong to every situation. If you put on the mind of Christ, it is easy to discern what that is. I am reminded of Jesus’ answer to the disciples when they said what you did about using resources for the poor. Mary bought ointment to anoint Him with and the complaint was that the money should have been given to the poor. He said that the poor are always with you, but I am not. So, allocations of resources is not always cut and dried, not always what seems to make sense.

    Don’t you see that you contradict yourself within the one paragraph? You seem to think you can put on the mind of Christ, and say it is easy to discern then. But your last sentence says that things are not always what they seem. Which is it?

  • Fish

    “But I find it offensive that any Christian could even consider aligning oneself with a political party that condones abortion, and gay marriage. ”

    I find it offensive that any Christian could even consider aligning oneself with a political party that opposes universal health care, supports turning social security over to wall street, and believes that poverty is a personal choice.

    Quoting: “There are ethical corporations, yes, and ethical businesspeople, but ethics in capitalism is purely optional, purely extrinsic. To expect morality in the market is to commit a category error. Capitalist values are antithetical to Christian ones. (How the loudest Christians in our public life can also be the most bellicose proponents of an unbridled free market is a matter for their own consciences.) Capitalist values are also antithetical to democratic ones. Like Christian ethics, the principles of republican government require us to consider the interests of others. Capitalism, which entails the single-minded pursuit of profit, would have us believe that it’s every man for himself. ”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/13/opinion/sunday/fables-of-wealth.html?src=me&ref=general

  • Gary

    Hmmmm… From the scriptures I have read about Jesus, I don’t recall Him ever going to Caesar for for help… And if you don’t want to look into the scriptures, maybe you should look into your own constitution where it clearly states that the federal government doesn’t have jurisdiction over healthcare… But your state does. Social inSecurity is in that very same category, as well as help for those in poverty. So you are aligned with the wrong party on all fronts.

    Now… is Universal Healthcare, Social inSecurity, and poverty an abomination in the eyes of God?

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Gary, perhaps you do not realize that the people are the ones responsible for the government in the US. It is a reflection of us. But let’s be clear, I am not advocating that we give up our Christianity and instead be zealots for government. Not even close. Though I have made the observation above that if you chose not to vote for one of the two parties that you indeed have an impact on the election that you need to consider. Simply abstaining does not mean that you don’t have impact.

    Frankly I really don’t care what the constitution says. We should figure out what we want and make the constitution match that. It is simply a document written by some dudes like you and me. If we want to change it, then change it.

    And you continue to drop innuendo’s that you indeed have a political preference though your overt points deny it. You said “you are aligned with the wrong party” in #68.

    You continue to give baseless arguments with vague statements that seem to incriminate the other person, like #62 “Just a thought… Maybe we should read the Bible for a new and fresh perspective.” This implies that you read the bible more and better than others.

    And last, you are driving this off topic. All I wanted to show is that it is not obvious to good minded Christians that one of the two parties is the ethical/moral/Christian choice. And you yourself have said that. Yet you attack people who say that they support the dems over the repubs.

    Can you not see that if you are attacking people who support democrats that you are implicitly supporting the republicans? Do you really not see that in this context?

    The point of the post is to get to Jesus way, neither party. You are portraying the bad side of what this post is about. You are taking us into political party debate as opposed to something else.

    I believe you are a troll.

  • Gary

    There you go name calling again DRT… If you would actually read my posts you would see that I am not a Republican. In fact my first post states that. I am also sorry that you don’t think the word of God as the standard… and if the people are responsible for the government of the United States, and you vote in favor of those that push an agenda against the standard, what are you supporting?

    I am not a troll, just someone who has a different perspective on issues. So, if you don’t like my perspective, show me where I am wrong. Name calling just shows me that you aren’t willing to consider that you just might be wrong, and you aren’t willing to be challenged. If that is the case, maybe you shouldn’t participate in such a forum…

    When did I say I don’t vote?

    I stand behind what I said in my post #68… Where is my perspective wrong?

    Did I ever say that anyone should support the Republicans?

    As far as my post #62… That implies the importance of the standard. Not that I am any better… You are reading between the lines again in an attempt to ignore my perspective of the issue.

    Now if this issue was about supporting the Republicans as Christians, I could also show basis as that is against the standard also. It just so happens that the people who want to call me names are also the ones who have no problem supporting candidates or a party that is in favor of promoting what God calls an abomination… Only the guilty should feel challenged, and I am sorry you are one of them DRT.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Gary, and with that you have the last word. God bless.

  • Gary

    And may the Lord richly bless you DRT!

  • http://shortstorykitchen.com Lou Barba

    @ all repliers
    One decision fits all. To discern that, you need to put on the mind of Christ. Obviously, the disciples complaining about Mary using money for ointment did not use the mind of Christ. but their own minds. The notion of right and wrong being different for different people or situations is what has muddled the entire message of Christianity, today and in the past. Probably in the future, too.

    Lou

  • http://www.faithinterface.com.au/ Roger Morris

    Great article. As an Australian Christian, it is all too evident how American Christianity (and to be fair, Western Christianity in general) has been confused in the mind of so many with political ideology. This is evident in both the Christian Right/GOP movement and the Christian Left/Dem movement. Both are in error. This happens frequently in Australian Christianity to a certain extent as well, but not as strongly. The answer, clearly, is for the faithful Christian to remain unaligned politically – to transcend party politics.

  • Fred Alger

    You should check out http://www.JesusIsInvolvedInPolitics.com

    That author thinks he refutes everything you are claiming.

  • http://www.biblical.edu Todd Mangum

    Many of us thought we’ve voted for “post-partisan policies and postures,” only to find that we’d in fact voted for another politician. I’m afraid our political system is inherently built on partisan polarization. But, rather than withdraw and concede the ground to those even lesser equipped or interested in fairness, goodness, and righteousness (cf. G. K. Chesterton on this point, for one), I’d still commend engaging — and modeling fair-mindedness and civil dialogue as we do.

    Thoughtful, refreshing piece as usual, Scot.

  • Ann Chessman

    Frank Schaeffer, son of Francis, was the actual architect of politicizing the church. Now he has nothing good to say about the people you credit for doing it and he hates the religious right that he created, and has very little to do with the church.

  • CGC

    Hi Ann,
    Frank Schaeffer is Eastern Orthodox but he seems to be a disillusioned Christian at best. When the EO’s I know talk about Franky, they really don’t know what to say much less if they really claim him still? I have never met Frank Schaeffer but I wonder if he is as bold and in your face as he writes when it comes to speaking to him in person?


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