Friday, May 9, 2008

Evangelicals on politics and faith

On Wednesday, a group of leading Evangelical Christians released a 20-page paper they call The Evangelical Manifesto. It is a remarkable document -- an impassioned defense of Evangelicalism as well as a call to reform it. It's the most honest self-examination I've ever seen come from a religious group, most likely because it's not an official denominational pronouncement.

Here's a summary, and here is the complete text.

First, the manifesto describes what Evangelicals are: followers of Jesus who define their faith and life according to the Gospel. It stakes out a middle ground between liberal revisionists (who run the risk of being "Christians who betray Jesus with an interpretation") and fundamentalists (who tend to react to the modern world in ways "that are personally and publicly militant to the point where they are sub-Christian").

Then it pulls no punches in outlining where Evangelicals have gone astray -- for example, by becoming "cheerleaders for those in power and the naïve sycophants of the powerful and the rich."

While decrying faith that is entirely private and personal ("hot tub spirituality"), the manifesto also warns against politicizing Christianity:

"That way faith loses its independence, the church becomes 'the regime at prayer,' Christians become 'useful idiots' for one political party or another, and the Christian faith becomes an ideology in its purest form. Christian beliefs are used as weapons for political interests.

"Christians from both sides of the political spectrum, left as well as right, have made the mistake of politicizing faith; and it would be no improvement to respond to a weakening of the religious right with a rejuvenation of the religious left. Whichever side it comes from, a politicized faith is faithless, foolish, and disastrous for the church – and disastrous first and foremost for Christian reasons rather than constitutional reasons. Called to an allegiance higher than party, ideology, and nationality, we Evangelicals see it our duty to engage with politics, but our equal duty never to be completely equated with any party, partisan ideology, economic system, or nationality."

There is much more to the document, but this was the part that struck me as particularly worthy of conversation in this blog. What do you think is the role of faith in politics? Is a politicized faith always "faithless, foolish, and disastrous"?

---

Edit to add, by request, a link to the list of those who signed the manifesto.

46 comments:

Gamecock said...

Neither of the links identifies who signed the manifesto. That is a problem.

More later on substance

Gamecock said...

There are some important truths in the document, but it is quite vague, especially its use of the term "evangelicals" followed by alleged mistakes of same. Yes, some public figures have gotten too political, but the biggest problem is the bias of the MSM in how it treats conservative Christians as opposed to liberal Christians.

Where would this country be without the Christians that took the liberty in Christ literally and crossed the Atlantic? That sought the abolition of slavery? That sought protections for workers during the inductrial revolution?

Was MLK's church too closely identified with politics as he lead the civil rights movement?

no

Were secularist's orgs and the judiciary too closely identified with a culture of death in advocating abortion incl usuroing the power of the people to self govern when they re-wrote the constitution and inposed their amorality on the whole nation in Roe v Wade? making the tterences of God in public schools and the public square the equivalent of profanity?

So then Christians were forced into the political arena to defend their free speech rights and to recapture their rights under the constitution, esp to take back their schools and protect innocent human life.

more later on liberal christians

Anonymous said...

I can't see too many of the worst offenders signing on to this one.

In just the executive summary alone, this comment would never get buyin:

We also repudiate the two other positions. First, those who believe their way is the only way and the way for everyone, and are therefore prepared to coerce them.

Seriously, now, evangelicals who would even CONSIDER that their way is NOT the only way and refuse coercion?

I'm with gamecock on this, who signed that sucker?

Gamecock said...

anonymous

Signers include Southern Baptists Rick Warren and Timothy George. Non-signers include Southern Baptist Richard Land.

more leaks coming

Jane Pope said...

Sorry about not linking to the signers of the manifesto! I meant to do that. I'll add it to the original post now; it's a pretty impressive list, I think.

Gamecock said...

Even the leaks show that both lists are impressive, and I think their are good arguments on both sides, partially for the reason of the vague language involved.

I think there is good faith on all sides, and I hope the left takes note of true diversity..

of ideas on among conservative Christians.

Gamecock said...

Jane

You are the best. Integrity, Christian spirit, Intelligent, a true gift from God, or, for anon and Ps's benefit, from evolution! Heck, I love you!

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure that politicized faith is disastrous for any church. It seems to be how most "faiths" survive.

Judaism, for example, would be but a grease stain on history without politics. The same is true for all major religions. They've all grown through politics.

The whole aim of Islam, for example, is to set up a theocracy. They would nevr buy into such a manifesto.

I don't see it ever stopping in places where they already have a stronghold.

But, I did find the comment about the "striking intolerance of the new atheists" a bit funny.

Yeah, I guess we atheists are getting a little more vocal about our displeasure with the religious nutcases out there, but when has that ever made a difference to an evangelical?

Gamecock said...

Ok Jane, I have read the summary in toto, and as usual, you identified the portion most relevant to the public square. I think my initial substantive post remains true, but, I agree with you that this document is quite awesome in many ways. There Bible believers are not mental midgets! And I hope anon and porn-o take note.

I do think that the signers make a mistake of accepting some liberal MSM premises without saying so, and that the portions of the manifesto (a bad name btw) deemed aimed at distancing themselves from the strawmen of the left is quite vague, and obviously intentionally so. This is not to their credit, and shows a certain cowardice, which

the rooster will spell out in detail

tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

I see no one on this list that I agree with their theology. This is just another way to tell bible believers that we need to stop believing what the bible says and start believing what they do. We all just need to get along. We can't believe that sin is sin. That the bible means what it says. How silly is that? Oh please.

pornstudent said...

From the Press Club & Interview Videos:

"In the last generation it's [Evangelicalism] been overtaken by cultural associations, so for many people it's fundamentalism; or it's been overtaken by political associations, so for many people it's become the religious right." "We are opposed to theocracy." - Os Guinness

"[Evangelicals] go back and forth between giving up on the culture or trying to take it over... The manifesto is positioning us as saying there is someplace between those two extremes." Rich Mouw

As someone who wants the government and the religious to leave me alone, I'm glad these Evangelical leaders don't want a theocracy or a Christianized culture.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I don't believe all Bible believers are mental midgets at all. Conformists, perhaps, but not necessarily mental midgets.

There is a lot to be said about compartmentalizing certain parts of our lives in order to be more efficient in others.

Nothing I know of would prevent an otherwise intelligent person from being both an evangelical Christian and a physician, for example.

It's when they mix the two that I would be concerned as a patient.

Now, as far as this document goes, some 90% or more doesn't concern me since it's not about me. It seems to be a decent enough self assessment, a stepping back and looking at the bigger picture, which is rarely a bad thing.

And it's good to see them realize just how good they have it here compared to the rest of the world where either one particular religion rules exclusively or where they would have no special privileges at all (such as the tax-exempt status they largelyly have in the U.S.).

Two large global powers now re-ascending, China and Russia, don't particularly cater to the non-orthodox, quasi-political offshoots of mainstream religions as we do in the U.S.

LBE said...

The unbelieving world has a greatly exaggerated view of just how involved the average evangelical is in politics. There seem to be a handful of noisy evangelicals that a credulous media simply assume speak for all of us.

Gamecock said...

I want to revise a previous post that alleged a certain "cowardice." I want to read the whole document and think some more.

Anonymous said...

Well, it's usually the vocal minority that speak for the rest of us until we also learn to speak up.

I don't think Madalyn Murray O'Hair was exactly the best atheist "spokesperson" possible, but she was certainly the loudest and got the most attention.

Gamecock said...

A column that addresses many of my concerns about the manifesto:

http://www.townhall.com/columnists/FrankPastore/2008/05/12/questioning_an_evangelical_manifesto

Danbo59 said...

Obviously Roman Catholics cannot ascribe to what is written here as emphases numbers three (3) and five (5) -- in the summary -- are incorrect. Incomplete understandings of Salvation and the Word of God are part of the reason why Evangelical Christians have limited success.

Anonymous said...

First of all, I'm a little surprised that this blog topic hasn't generated more interest.

Secondly, I find it interesting that this manifesto which targets evangelicals of both the left and the right is being looked upon as though it ONLY pertains to those on the right - as though it is ONLY the right that has crossed the line.

We have several families that have joined our church in recent years because in their previous church week after week all they heard was left-wing politics.

I guess I am what some might call a right-winger. I'm pro-life and I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman. Probably most of the people who attend my church vote along the same lines as I do, however, I've never heard my pastor preach politics from the pulpit. Beyond encouraging us to vote, to be in our church on a Sunday morning you would never know an election going on. It is never mentioned or referred to in any way. Additionally, I can't remember the last time I had a conversation with another church member about politics and I don't get the impression that they spend a lot of time dwelling on the fortunes of the Republican Party. I'm sure there are exceptions, but I think our church is fairly typical of conservative evangelical churches. I'd love to hear from others as to what their church experience has been.

Anonymous said...

South Carolina wants to add a cross with the words "I believe" on license plates.

What's next ? KKK license plates ?

Christians have killed far more in the name of their religion than the KKK could ever dream of.

Have you Wacko's gone far enough already ?

Danbo59 said...

Good for them! I wish NC would do the same. I'd be first in line for one of them.

And by he way, if you read the story, you'll find out that you don't have to have your license plate customized in this manner -- it's optional. So chill out.

Anonymous said...

^

And by the way, I did read it and I never said it wasn't optional. The simple fact that one faith is offered over all others says it all about your pompous Christian religion.

No, I wont "chill out" when you thumpers try to push religion into government in any sort of form.

Iztok said...

Wow I can't believe I actually agree with Danbo on this thing.

It is optional in NC as well. 300+ license plate users can get whatever group started.

NC already has "In God We Trust" license plate. SC has "In Reason We trust" on top of that.

Gamecock said...

Anon's anti-theism religion hold the all-time record for slaughter, by a factor of tens of millions.

Iztok said...

Gamecock,

your God almost eradicated all human population not to mention completely innocent animals. Percentage wise he is the most vile being ever known in human literature. Unless someone unleashes nuclear weapons and eradicates whole population on this planet we can't come close to this "achievement" and showcase of "love".

Anonymous said...

Personally, I am so sick of Evangelicals. I believe that many of our contry's problems at home and around the world are caused by this zealous group of people. If they truly wanted to evangelical, they should spend more time on what Jesus would do (love one another, help the poor, heal the sick) instead of being political activists. Imagine what a great world this would be.

Danbo59 said...

Anonymous said, "If they truly wanted to evangelical, they should spend more time on what Jesus would do (love one another, help the poor, heal the sick) instead of being political activists. Imagine what a great world this would be."

Frankly, I can't argue with that.

Jande said...

I notice that some of you don't have the faintest idea about what God is really all about with humanity. God made all people just like people make toys and dolls for their children and toddlers to play with and tare up. When they tare them up, you don't really care do you? You just buy your children a new toy to play with and tare up. Well God don't really care if you let your lives go to the devil either. He doesn't care because he gave you the choice to be either what he wanted or Not. So when he decides to wipe out part of the human race, its no more to him than throwing old broken toys into an incinerator. After all he can make some more new ones, and that's just the way it is. So get use to it folks. God is not this big bundle of love that everyone says he is. God has a preferance. Either you suit him and serve him or you don't. I could care less what everyone else does. I do what I think is best for myself and my family. We choose to suit and serve God. He's probably numbering all our days right now and considerering all your remarks on this and all other religious and political blogs. So Enjoy your life.

Jande said...

By the way, Christianty is not only a faith; it's a culture, a way of living life.

You can't take Christianty out of politics or out of the public because it's a way of living life and it's embedded in the hearts and minds of human beings as well as being their way of living their life.

Government can forbid it publicly with some Atheist laws but it will always still exist because it lives eternally in the hearts and minds of the Christian people and their descendants. Their mind's whisper of thought will still be their victory over the empty lives of their foe the Atheist in the end.

Danbo59 said...

Jande, I don't know how you can consider yourself Christian with thoughts like you've espoused. What you've said runs contrary to everything that God has revealed about Himself through our Lord -- His Son -- Jesus Christ.

Danbo59 said...

Jande misrepresents Christianity in stating, "Well God don't really care if you let your lives go to the devil either."

Preposterous! If that were the case He'd have never sent His Son to redeem us. He'd have abandoned us after The Fall. Where do you get these notions? Have you ever read the Bible?

Jande further expresses, "I could [sic] care less what everyone else does. I do what I think is best for myself and my family. We choose to suit and serve God."

First of all, I think you meant to say 'I couldn't care less...." Regardless, you are not suiting/serving God at all if you live according to your own words above. You cannot obey God's Great Commandment -- You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind and with all your soul, and you shall love your neighbor as you do yourself -- when you couldn't care less what anyone else does.

Jande says, "...will still be their victory over the empty lives of their foe the Atheist in the end."

A Christian's enemy is not the Atheist. The Atheist is our brother -- lost as he may be. A Christian's enemy is sin.

Jande, you are in need of a re-examination of what Christianity is about. Nothing in what you've written is close to Christianity.

Jande said...

Danbo people are controled by either good spirits or evil spirits, you can not love evil and love God. You will either love the one or love the other. You can not be a luke warm Christian. You must either be hot or be cold. if you are luke warm God will spue you out of his mouth.
I did not say that God did not want people to suit and serve him. I said he Gave them the choice. That's as far as his cares extends. Salvation is an individual thing between one person and God alone. We people don't and can't save anyone else, only God alone saves any one person.
our business is to live our own lives as best we can for him, and if anyone sees the blessing of God and wants to join us, we recieve them. if not we say howdy do, h a nice day, and go on about our way.
Anyway, RP gets better results.

Anonymous said...

Next week on American Idolators...

Would you rather be judged by a
god like Paula Abdul or Simon Cowell?

Jande said...

Anonymous,
allow me to give you a riddle.
I'll bet you think that the heart has to start beating before the brain can start working in a human being. If you do, you are wrong. Check the scientific facts out. A thought has to be sent to the heart through the nerve system in our human bodies, to signal the heart of our new born babies to start beating first. So Where does the first thought come from, if not from the outside of the human body to the dead brain inside of the new dead human body to send the signal to the heart, to beat?
The invisible energy of intelligent thought was here long before our universe was.

Iztok said...

Jande,

blood is being pumped into the baby by mom. So blood is being circulated way before anything else gets developed. Visceral nervous system is the one that controls heart. The conscious control or sensation is not needed for heart beat.

Perhaps 7th and 8th grade biology (at least in Europe) would get you that minimal level of knowledge.

Danbo59 said...

Jande, try once more...in English. Your grasp of facts is questionable.

It's you, Jande, who is apt to be spewed from the mouth of God -- for living in a shell and not caring about your neighbor.

Jande said...

So, if the heart is beationg in the baby after the navel cord is cut, why do you suppose the baby doesn't already breath when it's born, until after the doc spanks him or he gets a jolt?
The child can't breath because his lungs haven't been told to work. However some never breath because they were not supposed to live in this world. They were just supposed to be born dead.
All Life is given only through the air you breathe. If you don't breath it, you remain dead and you are just a living lump of brain dead tissue from your Mothers body. If you are living and can't get your breath, you also die.
The only thing that keeps the form in the stomach of a woman alive, after she concieves, is the nourishment of the flesh of the woman herself, and the will of God to allow her to do so.
The Child is always brain dead until it takes its first Breath outside the mothers womb, that is given to it by the same thought that made its heart beat and its lungs function, the invisible thought energy of God, who gives the thought and the breath of life.

Iztok said...

Jande, where you get this information? Obviously from some freak source as it is not even remotely true.

1. Baby does begin to breath on their own most of the time w/o external stimulation. Ever seen Discovery channel? Or Animal planet? As with any other animals this is function of visceral nervous system.

2. "The Child is always brain dead until it takes its first Breath outside the mothers womb, that is given to it by the same thought that made its heart beat and its lungs function"

If baby is brain dead in womb it will be brain dead after they are born too. Perhaps you never noticed or heard people about baby movements, responses to music, light etc?

Iztok said...

"Baby does begin to breath on their own most of the time w/o external stimulation."

Let me clarify this just in case. By external stimulation I meant intervention by nurses etc... not in a sense of natural stimulation as in change of temperature and environment.

Here is a quote from the article:

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002395.htm

"At birth, the baby's lungs are filled with amniotic fluid and are not inflated. The baby takes the first breath within about 10 seconds after delivery. It sounds like a gasp, as the newborn's central nervous system reacts to the sudden change in temperature and environment."

Danbo59 said...

Jande wrote, "...The Child is always brain dead until it takes its first Breath outside the mothers womb."

Apparently, Jande, some remain brain dead much longer -- long enough to post on blogs, no doubt. What medieval text are you getting this garbage from?

What religious affiliation do you represent so wonderfully?

Danbo59 said...

Yeah, that's what I though, Jande.

Gamecock said...

Iztok

God gets to be God.

Iztok said...

Gamecock: "God gets to be God."

Yet so far no evidence of it. Our world looks just as we would expect it to look if such creature wouldn't exist.

I have done what supposedly would bring swift "justice" from such creature and supposedly it worked in the Bible but somehow doesn't work now. At least petty and vengeful God of the OT has lost its power. Further more, even Christians don't agree with other Christians on which God's word is exactly the right translation and version. All this simply demonstrates that God even today is unable to guide even Christians to come up with perfect translation of his word. Somewhat meager power one would say.

So if this is what your God is we are just as well justified to say it is not there.

"They are real fast when they slaughter their own people in the millions."

Sure. Tell me a single good deed that a Christian would do or is capable of that atheists wouldn't be doing and being capable of doing?

Gamecock said...

Yes Iztok, atheists are capable of converting to Christ and then performing the good deed of sharing the good news (gospel) with others.

amen

bigcock said...

How to Persuade an Atheist to Become Christian

How to Become an Atheist

Iztok said...

"How to Persuade an Atheist to Become Christian"

- Trying to use logical arguments will not work, as it may have been logical enquiry which originally convinced them to become Atheist.

Nice one!

Good points:

- An unbeliever may not be swayed by arguments from the Bible, since he or she does not believe that it is divinely-inspired, or possibly that deities even exist.


- You may never be able to convert an atheist. Sometimes, trying to do will even make them more adamant in their own beliefs.

- Try to avoid intellectual debates with atheists

Those are really good pearls of wisdom.

So don't use logical arguments and avoid intellectual debates.

At least the article points out to the obvious - there is no logical arguments supporting theism and therefore no intellectual debate is to be had.

Gamecock said...

Better late than never I hope, but I have read the whole Evangelical Manifesto, and while I wince at some of the language that cedes false premises advanced by the media concerning their ties to to politics, I come away thinking now, that, on balance, it is a net positive to the mission of evangelicals and all Christians, i.e. converting non-Christians into Christians.

more later