A Plea to Evangelicals- From an Evangelical.

Pippin Profile PhotoPippin Profile Photo
Pippin
Broadway Legend
joined:8/3/05
Broadway Legend
joined:
8/3/05
By David P. Gushee

Conservative evangelicals are bringing a version of Christian values into the public arena where every American has to deal with it, like it or not. A recent example of this is the way grass-roots "Bible-believing Christians" in the Republican Party are boosting the candidacy of Mike Huckabee, and quite possibly sinking the campaign of Mitt Romney, mainly because Romney is a Mormon yet another misunderstanding of the way faith is relevant to politics.

Evangelical politics matter to the general public, which is affected by what conservative evangelicals believe and "value." In the past seven years, we have seen that laws are written based on these values. Supreme Court justices are named based on these values. Executive-branch appointments are made based on these values. And presidential campaigns now seem to advance or collapse based on these values.

So the general public has come to understand that what conservative evangelicals believe and do matter an awful lot to everyone in this country. Many people are furious about it. But these beliefs and values also matter to other Christians, especially other evangelicals like me. Our reputation is at stake, our voice in the culture, and the health of our religious communities. If the most vocal evangelicals get this wrong, it damages all evangelicals all religious believers, really.

(Illustration by Alejandro Gonzalez, USA TODAY)

I am not just talking about a bit of embarrassment in polite company. If there are people who reject God or the church, Christianity or religiously inspired moral values because of what conservative evangelical political activists do, this is disastrous from a Christian point of view. There are many such people. Here we are at the very heart of our religious mission, and it is getting fouled up by our politics.

Conservative evangelicals are getting wrong both how they are bringing their faith to bear on politics and what they are saying when they do.

Married to the GOP

The "how" problem, among other things, is that they are married to the Republican Party and have therefore compromised the political independence of Christianity and the church. This is a huge mistake, an error of biblical proportions, because it verges on idolatry after all, "You shall have no other gods before me."

One obvious sign of this was the assumption in the Christian Right that its leaders would endorse a Republican presidential candidate that it was just a matter of which of those GOP gentlemen was the best Christian choice. Endorsing a Democrat was and is inconceivable.

Once any group of Christians gives itself away so completely to a political party, it ceases to be the church. The church becomes a branch office of the group's political party of choice The First Republican Church in America. This is the root problem, and it leads to all the other specific mistakes that follow: using the church (or parachurch organizations) and its considerable resources for direct or veiled candidate endorsements, political strategizing, dissemination of essentially partisan "voter guides," and get-out-the-vote efforts. A whole lot more than tax status is threatened when churches go over so completely to the business of secular politics.

The "what" problem is more subtle but just as important. Conservative evangelicals generally offer an unbiblically narrow policy agenda focused on just a few moral issues such as abortion and gay marriage instead of tackling the full range of biblical concerns, which include poverty, oppression and war. And when they do engage some of these other issues, such as the foreign policy of our nation, they are (ironically) not Christian enough. Their faith doesn't inform their vote in a way that makes sense biblically. They are getting their values from somewhere else not from Jesus which is why they look so uncomfortable whenever anyone raises the "Jesus issue" in relation to their support for, say, torture.

We must regroup. We evangelicals must rethink our engagement with politics. The place to start is by remembering that the church is not a branch of a political party and that its distinctive identity and mission must be protected, both for the sake of the church and for the sake of our culture and the world.

Compromised identity

The fundamental task of a religious organization is to serve God, not win in secular politics. Once this distinction is lost, the identity of the religious organization is compromised beyond repair. This is bad not just for the integrity of that religious group, but also for society, which if it is to flourish needs a variety of social institutions performing a variety of functions not every social institution morphing into a political organization.

Specifically for Christians, we (should) know that the mission of the church is to be Christ's faithful people, and to do its core work of preaching, teaching and serving our neighbors. If it is true (as we boldly believe) that the church is the central location for the work God is doing to redeem the world, then our focus should be on the church's work, not the state's. As one aspect of our God-inspired love for our neighbor, we can ask the state and its leaders to do justice, protect life and advance the common good. We can do this in many quite constructive ways, from scholarly work to declarations of principles to activism on specific issues.

But we dare not identify the work of any state, any political party or any politician with the work of God or the task of the church. Every time we do so we end up embarrassing ourselves, enraging the neighbors we are called to love, deepening the culture wars and damaging our own mission.

David P. Gushee is Distinguished University Professor of Christian Ethics at Mercer University, president of Evangelicals for Human Rights, and author of The Future of Faith in American Politics, to be released this week.
By David P. Gushee
"I'm an American, Damnit!!! And if it's three things I don't believe in, it's quitting and math."
DG
Broadway Legend
joined:11/2/05
Broadway Legend
joined:
11/2/05
"But we dare not identify the work of any state, any political party or any politician with the work of God or the task of the church. Every time we do so we end up embarrassing ourselves, enraging the neighbors we are called to love, deepening the culture wars and damaging our own mission."

I wonder how many of them would actually pay attention to this statement?
lildogs Profile Photolildogs Profile Photo
lildogs
Broadway Legend
joined:4/18/04
Broadway Legend
joined:
4/18/04
Great piece...

"Conservative evangelicals are bringing a version of Christian values into the public arena where every American has to deal with it, like it or not."

I'll buy that, as long as the same goes for them dealing with atheism and 'mos.
Phyllis Rogers Stone
Suspended
joined:9/16/07
Suspended
joined:
9/16/07
I find it interesting that "Bible-believing Christians" has to be qualified. Can there be any other kind? Aren't "Christians" who are just picking and choosing what they want to follow from the bible just as damned as those who don't follow it at all?
lildogs Profile Photolildogs Profile Photo
lildogs
Broadway Legend
joined:4/18/04
Broadway Legend
joined:
4/18/04
Most people aren't smart enough to be real Christians--it takes patience, consideration and humility, which is why I don't do it.
Phyllis Rogers Stone
Suspended
joined:9/16/07
Suspended
joined:
9/16/07
I think most people don't have the discipline. There are a lot of rules! And only the very righteous seem to follow all of them.
roquat
Broadway Legend
joined:5/25/05
Broadway Legend
joined:
5/25/05
The evangelicals described here (which are also the ones who tend to dominate media coverage of political issues) are analogous to the Pharisees described in the Bible, who insisted on strict adherence to every single rule, but who had no genuine charity in their souls. Christ specifically warned against following such people, because everything they do is done for show--for themselves.
I ask in all honesty/What would life be?/Without a song and a dance, what are we?/So I say "Thank you for the music/For giving it to me."
lildogs Profile Photolildogs Profile Photo
lildogs
Broadway Legend
joined:4/18/04
Broadway Legend
joined:
4/18/04
Maybe this is just a load of horse$hit coming from me, but I always thought being a Christian had less to do with following the diet and dress code and more about charity, love and Ye Olde Golden Rule...which is the least followed of all
Phyllis Rogers Stone
Suspended
joined:9/16/07
Suspended
joined:
9/16/07
I think that might be modern day secular (and my its very nature heretical) Christianity. I don't think the golden rule was in the bible.
Bluemoon Profile PhotoBluemoon Profile Photo
Bluemoon
Broadway Legend
joined:12/28/04
Broadway Legend
joined:
12/28/04
"So whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them; for this is the Law and the prophets." (Matthew 7:12 RSV)


It's easier to change your clothing and eating habits than it is to change your heart.
Phyllis Rogers Stone
Suspended
joined:9/16/07
Suspended
joined:
9/16/07
Oh, okay. I didn't realize it was in there. That's still not what I understand Christianity to be about, though.
artscallion Profile Photoartscallion Profile Photo
artscallion
Broadway Legend
joined:5/15/07
Broadway Legend
joined:
5/15/07
Depends on if you define Christianity as the religion of christ, which christ taught, or as the religion about christ, which the church teaches.
Art has a double face, of expression and illusion.
Phyllis Rogers Stone
Suspended
joined:9/16/07
Suspended
joined:
9/16/07
It has to be the latter, doesn't it? Isn't the religion of Christ Judaism?
Bluemoon Profile PhotoBluemoon Profile Photo
Bluemoon
Broadway Legend
joined:12/28/04
Broadway Legend
joined:
12/28/04
Luke's gospel is a bit more specific. It's amazing how easy it is to skip over the non-jugemental part.

"Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For the measure you give others will be the measure you get back." (Luke 6:36-38 RSV)
Phyllis Rogers Stone
Suspended
joined:9/16/07
Suspended
joined:
9/16/07
Matthew 11:20-24 - Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not.
Pippin Profile PhotoPippin Profile Photo
Pippin
Broadway Legend
joined:8/3/05
Broadway Legend
joined:
8/3/05
Phyliss, the religion of God is Judaism.

Christians are "Christ" centered, and believe in the old and new testament, whereas Judaism only accepts the old testament. And Christ is only in the New testament, though there are constant illusions to a "Savior" throughout the O.T
"I'm an American, Damnit!!! And if it's three things I don't believe in, it's quitting and math."
SonofMammaMiaSam Profile PhotoSonofMammaMiaSam Profile Photo
SonofMammaMiaSam
Broadway Legend
joined:11/7/03
Broadway Legend
joined:
11/7/03
"give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For the measure you give others will be the measure you get back."

It sounds like a night at the SOMMS household.
lildogs Profile Photolildogs Profile Photo
lildogs
Broadway Legend
joined:4/18/04
Broadway Legend
joined:
4/18/04
Or half a night in mine....
artscallion Profile Photoartscallion Profile Photo
artscallion
Broadway Legend
joined:5/15/07
Broadway Legend
joined:
5/15/07
Well christ was born into judaism. But the ideas christ was teaching were not judaism. Those teachings were the beginings of christianity, the teachings of christ. My point is that the church, with all its ritual, worship and protocol, has turned it into a religion about christ, not of him.
Art has a double face, of expression and illusion.
FindingNamo
Broadway Legend
joined:7/22/03
Broadway Legend
joined:
7/22/03
"good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over"

That's actually the first known publication of a Mojito recipe.
Can you hear me now? Twitter: @NamoInExile
SonofMammaMiaSam Profile PhotoSonofMammaMiaSam Profile Photo
SonofMammaMiaSam
Broadway Legend
joined:11/7/03
Broadway Legend
joined:
11/7/03
Bottoms up!
lildogs Profile Photolildogs Profile Photo
lildogs
Broadway Legend
joined:4/18/04
Broadway Legend
joined:
4/18/04
"good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over"

If that's what they did in church, I'd be the deacon.
Bluemoon Profile PhotoBluemoon Profile Photo
Bluemoon
Broadway Legend
joined:12/28/04
Broadway Legend
joined:
12/28/04
Hee-hee. I did have to laugh even as I was posting that. So ripe for the taking...
Phyllis Rogers Stone
Suspended
joined:9/16/07
Suspended
joined:
9/16/07
If they served Mojitos in Church I'd start going again.
Mister Matt Profile PhotoMister Matt Profile Photo
Mister Matt
Broadway Legend
joined:5/17/03
Broadway Legend
joined:
5/17/03
So if I prefer mine stirred, not shaken, am I going to Heck?
"What can you expect from a bunch of seitan worshippers?" - Reginald Tresilian