Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Another View on Evangelicals Cracking Up

Certainly, nothing in reading David Kirkpatricks "The Evangelical Crackup" struck me as wrong - it just struck me as somehow "off the point" - yet again. [read David Domke's take on the article here.]

Joe Carter at Evangelical Outpost hit the point for me:

The article itself is mostly a rehash of the dominant media perspective on evangelicals and politics, though it is noteworthy for Kirkpatrick's style of "journalism by name-dropping." The 7900 word article manages to cram in the names of 23 evangelicals leaders: Terry Fox, Jerry Falwell, James Dobson, Pat Robertson, Paul Weyrich, D. James Kennedy, Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, Marvin Olasky, David Welsh, Ralph Reed, Frank Page, Rick Scarborough, David Wells, Scott McKnight, Jim Wallis, Tony Perkins, Gene Carlson, Todd Carter, Joe Wright, Paul Hill, Harry Jackson, and Donald Wildmon.

But while Kirkpatrick focuses on the cult of personality, the true crux of the conservative Christian political movement is based on a culture of principles. Rather than focusing on a "Who's Who" of Christian leaders, an adequate understanding of the "evangelical Right" requires the recognition and prioritization of six core principles. (Note: Many of these themes were outlined in the National Association of Evangelical's
paper on civic engagement [a very good read for those who really want to understand Evangelicals]):
Joe goes on to list those 6 core principles:

Principle 1: Protecting the sanctity of human life
Because all humans are created in God's image, evangelicals believe that all people have an inherent and inalienable dignity. We believe that it is at the times when life is most vulnerable, particularly in the early stages of development and at the period near death, that life is most in need of protection. Evangelicals believe in promoting policies that recognize the dignity of all humans without regard to such relativistic criteria as mental capacities or "quality of life."

Issues: Abortion, euthanasia, embryo destruction, capital punishment, cloning, and unethical human experimentation.
Principle 2: The nurturing of family life and the protection of children
While the institutions of marriage and church bear the primary responsibility for fulfilling this duty, evangelicals believe that the government should promote laws and policies that strengthen the well being of families.

Issues: Promotion of policies on marriage and divorce law, education, tuition vouchers, drug policies, abstinence promotion, fair labor practices, anti-discrimination legislation, protections against spouse and child abuse, affordable health care, reducing crime
Principle 3: Seeking justice and compassion for the poor and vulnerable
Evangelicals believe in the promotion of both a fair legal system that does not favor either the rich or poor and in a fair economic system that does not tolerate perpetual poverty. This principle also includes the protection of the vulnerable members of society, including the poor, children, the elderly, the disabled, refugees, minorities, the persecuted, and the imprisoned.

Issues: Poverty reduction both in America and abroad, torture, anti-pornography legislation, immigration reform, stemming the AIDS pandemic, ending slavery and sexual trafficking, stopping prison rape.
Principle 4: The protection of religious freedom
Evangelicals believe that the joint freedoms of religion and conscience constitute the First Liberty and are deserving of protection both in our own country and abroad.

Issues: Defense of First Amendment protections, expansion of religious freedoms abroad
Principle 5: Seeking peace and restraining violence
Although evangelicals prefer that governments pursue nonviolent paths to restoring peace, most of us recognize that military force can be a legitimate means of restraining evil. While there is no consensus on how this principle should be implemented, we are in general agreement that the principles of just war must guide our government's policies.

Issues: Defending against terrorism, ending genocide, weapons proliferation, defending human rights against tyrannical regimes
Principle 6: The protection of God's creation
Evangelicals believe that stewardship of the earth is a responsibility delegated to us by our Creator. Because the earth is a shared resource, the government has a particularly important role in implementing policies that protect the environment.

Issues: Promoting recycling, reduction of pollution, protecting animals from cruelty, conservation of resources, proper care for wildlife and their habitats
He rightly points out that you understand currents within the Evangelical movement not by treating them like "cults of personality" but by understanding how they prioritize and view those core issues.

This gives folks a principled way to determine which groups are likely to be approachable and open to common work - and on what issues. It also avoids some of the following foolishness:
For example, Christians have always been concerned about protecting God's creation. Yet it is only when an evangelical leader or organizations takes a stand that is outside the dominant conservative narrative (i.e., Richard Cizik saying that global warming is anthropocentric) do they take notice.

The media also tends to conflate the priorities of all evangelicals with the primary concerns of specific groups. Because of the influence of Dr. James Dobson and Focus on the Family, the media tends to portray all evangelicals as putting the primary emphasis on principles 1 and 2, to the exclusion of all others. So when Rick Warren talks about AIDS or poverty in Africa (Principle 3 issues), he is portrayed as breaking away from Dobson and the "religious right--even though they are in agreement on the importance of Principles 1 and 2.
Joe points out that Evangelicals do not have a generally accepted political theology (with the exception of neocalvanists) - and while they agree on the principles in general they do not have a unifed, developed view of their application to specific issues. Therefore
What Kirkpatrick is noticing is not a "crackup" among evangelicals but the continual re-prioritization of principles and disagreements over how they correlate with specific issues. At the level of the level of the church and community this is an ongoing, never-completed process.
Now, this touches the heart of my major problem with how political and theological liberals view the theological, and most political, conservatives I hang with. The constant reference to this leader or that leader - and the manipulation through demagoguery and distortion of the Gospel - is not what I see going on in the Evangelical movement I am part of. These folks strain and strive to understand Biblical principle on which to base their life - and they study, pray, and generally work hard to achieve that. Joe's view that there is
continual re-prioritization of principles and disagreements over how they correlate with specific issues. At the level of the level of the church and community this is an ongoing, never-completed process.
speaks to the world I live in better than almost any other comment I have seen.

This may gives a bit of a deeper insight than what normally comes around.

Read more!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Christian Carnival CXCIV (194)

Many got the notification that the Carnival this week would be late. I have always skirted this edge because my two long work days were on Wednesday and Thursday. When I changed jobs within my company my days off became Tuesday and Wednesday - the perfect host schedule really.

Now, the theme of this Carnival was going to be something about birthdays - since mine was Thursday. It was also going to be a breeze - I would have a whole day off on Wednesday instead of going to work. However, one passage stands out now after the computer issues I had from Monday - Thursday:

James 4: 13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into this or that town and spend a year there and do business and make a profit.” 14 You do not know about tomorrow. What is your life like? For you are a puff of smoke that appears for a short time and then vanishes. 15 You ought to say instead, “If the Lord is willing, then we will live and do this or that.” 16 But as it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. 17 So whoever knows what is good to do and does not do it is guilty of sin. (NET Bible)
The theme became (and nothing was easy or relaxed):

Read more!