Evangelicals Retreating from Politics?
The cycle is beginning again. Some Evangelical leaders are questioning whether they’ve suffered from being aligned with right wing politicians. It’s time for some serious soul-searching, to decide whether their literal interpretation of the Bible has been wrongly portrayed as an ultra-conservative political movement.
As the Herman’s Hermits song went, “second verse, same as the first.”
Or think of Lucy holding the football so Charlie Brown will come running up to kick it. “Come on, Charlie Brown, I promise I won’t pull the football away this time.”
Now, is this stock-taking and soul-searching for real, or are they just pulling the latest version of their retreat-and-then-suckerpunch strategy?
40% of Evangelicals describe themselves as either Democrat or moderate. But statistics like this are reported periodically, and there always seems to be a disconnect between church members and their conservative “leaders,” who keep using a megaphone to drown out the rank and file.
Several months ago, a survey indicated that 52% of Evangelicals were very concerned about environmental issues. However, they preferred the term “creation care” so they wouldn’t be lumped together with liberals or environmentalists.
And now some of their leaders are worried about losing members because of being synonymous with the Religious Right.
The provost of a Christian college has said “Because evangelicals have been portrayed as being very, very limited in their range of societal concerns, there is an element of challenge in the evangelical community to say, ‘let’s not get caught up in narrow partisan concerns.’ Many evangelicals say they feel very alienated with the partisan rhetoric in the nation.”
He went on to say that many Evangelicals are concerned with employment, labor, housing, health care, education, human rights, racial equality and the environment.
Now this is great, if true. But this cycle keeps repeating itself. Several years ago, during that spree of African-American churches being burned, Ralph Reed (head of the Christian Coalition at the time) made lots of public outreach statements. The kiss-ass sucking-up motive was so blatant, his statements basically translated into “we’re losing the Negro vote. Here’s an opportunity.”
And more recently, one of their loudest and most ubiquitous leaders (I think it was either Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell) gave a public statement / sulking-spree about retreating from politics because of being “misunderstood” and misrepresented by the media. Ahem — how can we miss you if you won’t go away?
So if Evangelical leaders are genuinely concerned about their beliefs and convictions being “used” by right wing politicians, and wanting to re-think their political alignment, that’s great. But if this is just a political strategy — we’ve heard it all before, and we’re ready.