Cracking the Evangelicals

CRACKING THE EVANGELICALS….I’ve been following this with only half an eye, but the battle between the “old guard” evangelicals (Dobson, Weyrich, Bauer, etc.) and the younger crowd is heating up. The latest round is a letter from the dinosaurs asking the National Association of Evangelicals to fire Richard Cizik, ostensibly because he thinks we ought to do something about global warming. When you get to the end of the letter though, you find out what their real problem is:

Finally, Cizik’s disturbing views seem to be contributing to growing confusion about the very term, “evangelical.” As a recent USA Today article notes: “Evangelical was the label of choice of Christians with conservative views on politics, economics and biblical morality. Now the word may be losing its moorings, sliding toward the same linguistic demise that “fundamentalist” met decades ago because it has been misunderstood, misappropriated and maligned.” We believe some of that misunderstanding about evangelicalism and its “conservative views on politics, economics and biblical morality” can be laid at Richard Cizik’s door.

Well, that’s clear enough, isn’t it? It’s not just that they want to stay focused on abortion and gay marriage, the Dobson crowd’s usual hot buttons. Their agenda is far broader: they want to make sure that evangelical Christians stay closely aligned with conservative views on “politics [and] economics.” In other words (say it quietly, since the IRS is listening) Republican Party views. Opening up the evangelical agenda to topics such as citizenship for illegal immigrants, universal healthcare, and caps on carbon emissions risks finding common ground with Democrats:

The best-known champion of such causes, the Rev. Jim Wallis, this week challenged conservative crusader James C. Dobson, the chairman of Focus on the Family, to a debate on evangelical priorities.

“Are the only really ‘great moral issues’ those concerning abortion, gay marriage and the teaching of sexual abstinence?” Wallis asked in his challenge. “How about the reality of 3 billion of God’s children living on less than $2 per day? … What about pandemics like HIV/AIDS … [and] disastrous wars like Iraq?”

Anyway, I don’t have any special comment here. Just thought I’d let everyone know that there are cracks in the evangelical movement’s longtime role as a bought-and-paid-for subsidiary of the Republican Party, and those cracks are getting bigger. The old guys don’t like it much, but time may not be on their side.