WHO SPEAKS FOR EVANGELICALS?….Atrios wants to know who, if not Pat Robertston or Jerry Falwell, should be thought of as a spokesperson for evangelicals, or at least someone evangelicals themselves think of as a leader. It’s a good question, and one that I wish more tv bookers would ask.
I need the caveat, of course, that the evangelical community (and even the conservative evangelical community) is very diverse and doesn’t have one acknowledged leader. But given that, there are a few different groups of people who should be (and sometimes are) featured as evangelical voices. For religious leaders, there are Ted Haggard of New Life Church and the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), Rick Warren of Saddleback Church, Brian McLaren of Cedar Ridge Church, Joel Osteen of Lakewood Church, Rod Parsley of World Harvest Church, and Franklin Graham (Billy’s son). Political voices include Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention, Richard Cizik of NAE, Joseph Loconte of the Heritage Foundation, and Michael Cromartie of the Ethics and Public Policy Center.
And then, of course, there are your white liberal evangelicals (Jim Wallis, Ron Sider, Tony Campolo) and your black evangelicals (Herb Lusk, TD Jakes).
As for Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, their heyday was twenty years ago; the only reason they’re still booked as talking heads is that most producers don’t know these two men no longer have any power. But more than that, they’re just not representative of today’s evangelicals. Robertson is a Pentecostal and Falwell is a fundamentalist, and while you could broadly say that most Pentecostals and fundamentalists are evangelicals, not all evangelicals are Pentecostals or fundamentalists. That’s why some of the more extreme theological statements you hear from those two (God let 9/11 happen because of gays and women and the ACLU) aren’t shared by a lot of evangelicals. That’s not to say that many evangelicals (and some of the names I mentioned) don’t hold intolerant, troubling views. But when we criticize them, we should be able to distinguish between widely-held beliefs and the wacked-out positions of a couple of has-beens.
UPDATE: Whoops…managed to leave the granddaddy of them all–Dr. Dobson–off my list.