I posted a link on Facebook to Missional Yoda’s post on former evangelicals, “Want To Hear Me Talk About How Dumb And Ugly My Ex-Wife Is…Again?” Please read his post to get the background to this one. A friend of mine gave a lengthy response which prompted me to write an even lengthier response which didn’t quite fit in a status update. So, here it is.
Adam wrote: “Wow, there is so much to say here. My real question about these types is, do they actually realize that it’s re-packaged liberalism? I used to think it was just overcompensation, but I guess it depends on the person. Not long ago, I read a thread where one person that I know was talking about not letting liberals and the current administration destroy the country under the guise of righteousness. Another person I know attacked him for this (in a very hypocritical way I might add) stating that opposing our current rulers is wrong, and that we should be praying for our president. This is true, but I know that person well enough to believe that he realistically never prayed for George W. Bush.
Jesus is NOT a liberal. He wasn’t left or right, He is God. He is righteousness incarnate. Yes, I do believe that conservative evangelicals hijacked Christianity for a time, but the goal of Christians should not now be to assist in letting it be hijacked by the opposite side. I’ve never bought into this “we can’t legislate morality” idea, because it doesn’t even make any sense. All legislation is tied to some form of morality, so it’s just going to depend on what brand of it you subscribe to (i.e. social justice, healthcare for all, etc…).”
Jeff replied: One of the more confusing phenomenons I’ve watched these past few years is conservative evangelicals pendulum-swinging to liberalism (to use that limited paradigm for the sake of discussion), especially when they also complain about how evangelicalism has become too political. Some of these former evangelicals were conservative due to their upbringing more so than conviction so its understandable that they would change over time. As an aside, I think extended adolescence in our society has contributed to severe shifts like this happening later in life rather than traditional college age when the questioning of one’s religious and political beliefs typically seems to happen. I don’t mean to condescendingly imply, however, that it can all be chalked up to a youthful or immature rebelliousness. Some of it is certainly due to well thought-out conviction.
The top issues the newly-progressive-former-evangelicals mainly focus on, however, can certainly be addressed within a more “conservative” paradigm rather than embracing a progressive one. For instance, evangelicals have (fairly) received a bad rap for failing to give adequate attention to the pressing poverty-related issues of the day. Many have responded either by joining the “evangelical left” or by leaving evangelicalism all-together. But as Robert A. Sirico addressed in a recent column, the question is not whether to help the poor, but how. Those who have defected from evangelicalism due to its lack of concern for and action on behalf of the poor have found a measure of satisfaction with progressivism but it has turned out to be fools gold as the big-government solutions they turn to inevitably do more harm than good. The rhetoric is better than the results.
Rather than embracing the statist approach of those such as Jim Wallis and Brian McLaren (who recently declared: “we must talk about the joy in paying taxes”), a renewed commitment to American federalism as endorsed by the Christian Right/Tea Party could keep the federal government from overburdening the people to fund its involvement in areas it has no business interfering in. This arguably would leave more resources for individuals and churches to address the poverty issues directly in their local communities where those closest to the situation know best how to address them (on that note, see David French’s recent post: A Personal Guide to Fighting Poverty).
If evangelicalism has suffered from a constricted political vision, let’s expand it to biblically faithful horizons rather than jumping ship for “re-packaged liberalism.” This may not lead us to down-the-line Tea Party-ism but it certainly won’t lead us to the evangelical left. Looming over all of this discussion is the question of what evangelicalism even means today but that’s for another day.