Monday, August 11, 2008

Political changes in evangelical Christianity

Most of my blog reading is political, and like any plugged-in liberal I keep an eye on the group blog Daily Kos. Check out this recent post from master blogger Markos (Kos), about the political changes in the Right wing. Kos starts by comparing the "classic" right wing politicos of the Dobsons and that ilk, who are defined by what they are against, with the more modern evangelical defined by Rick Warren. Importantly, Warren will be hosting an event with both presidential candidates which is infuriating the old guard. Kos writes,
You don't have to be religious (and I'm clearly not) to get excited about a faith-based movement that is focused on service and charity, and that sees its mission as improving peoples' lives, rather than dividing them. There's a new generation of evangelicals who want to focus on issues like global warming and poverty, who are less interested in partisan politics than they are in pursuing an inclusive agenda to improve the world.....As Warren said in a Philly Inquirer piece now hidden behind a pay archive firewall:
"The New Testament says the church is the body of Christ, but for the last 100 years, the hands and feet have been amputated, and the church has just been a mouth. And mostly, it's been known for what it's against," Warren said during a break between services at his sprawling Orange County church campus.
      "I'm so tired of Christians being known for what they're against." [...]
Needless to say, this is all 100 percent opposed to the current Evangelical right wing, that has (pathetically) put all its faith in George W. Bush, that insists on injecting itself into the political process, that insists on defining itself based on who it hates and rejects, be it gays, or liberals, or people who have sex, or whatever....

These people thrive on division and wedge. And it burns them up that the presidential candidates -- including their Republican one -- are speaking to the "politically correct" Warren.
This is an interesting post because Kos, a non-theistic liberal activist, is seeing something positive in an overtly "Christian" view. Is the pendulum starting to swing? IS there a new common ground growing between liberal Christians and non-Christian liberals?


Ann said...

New fun from the Dio Ft Worth here.
We request that the Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth provide the guidance necessary so that we might "make a proposal" that would lead our Diocese into full communion with the See of Peter.

JCF said...

Ann, you beat me to it! (I was going to Hat-tip ya, promise ;-/)

Frankly, I still don't trust Rick Warren as far as I could throw him. Rick was all about how wonderful "Values Voters"---w/ him as their pied-piper, through his frickin' book---were, right after the big Rethug win in '04...

...and then BushCo becomes a catastrophe in '05, loses Congress in '06, and {surprise, surprise}, suddenly The Rickster is morphing to become a Friend-of-Barack!

Ergo, Rick Warren's #1 Agenda isn't the Left, OR the Right: it's Rick Warren! Blowin' in the wind. Feh.

Марко said...

"Oh, with what gladness and surprise the saints their Savior greet; nor will they trust their ears and eyes but by his hands and feet, those hands of LIBERAL LOVE indeed in infinite degree,
those feet still free to move and bleed for millions and and for me."

When you read the Gospels, it seems as though Jesus was a liberal. He consistently interpreted the Torah in a way that was compassionate and merciful (as opposed to literalist-fundamentalist). And he was criticized by the religious hardliners for this behavior. For example, look at the way Jesus understood the Sabbath. Jesus was constantly being told, "What you are doing is not lawful." Perhaps some American evangelicals are wanting to no longer be identified with the Republican Party. Another factor is that the old guard fanatics are dying off (Jerry Falwell and James Kennedy are dead).

Cany said...

I have a completely different take on this, but also blogged on it.

I'm with you, JCF. I don't trust him as far as I can throw him.

Oh, and BTW... at the bottom of my post, check the prices to get into this thing!!!!!!!!!!

Purpose driven big time profits! Ooooooweeeeee!

Marc said...

I echo Warren's untrustworthiness. Remember, he was a keynote speaker at one of Bsp Duncan's/DioPitt defining-who-were're-against parties.

David said...

::raises one eyebrow::

Anyone surprised that Warren's biggest concern is Warren ? Same thing with Nicky Gumbel (the Alpha Course guy), Joel Osteen, and any number of the more "user friendly" Evangelicals.

New packaging - full of the same, old bullsh*t :P

IT said...

I'm posting this for the second time as blogger has hiccups. Or something.

First, Ann, you should make a post on that. What a hoot.

Second, as for Warren. My point in posting this is not just Warren, who is a master salesman. (I'm as cynical as any of you and more than most, I'll warrant, on that issue).

The point is can what he represents be helpful to the more progressive views. Does he represent a type of Evangelical in which it is possible to achieve a modus vivendi? Kos thinks so.

If we are to change anything we have to figure how to build on common ground and not focus on the differences.

I consider it to the good if the rump end of evangelism represented by the haters and the cultural war are cut off, and the movement moves to the middle and Warren's "movement" potentially defines common ground.

Honestly, you folks are pretty funny, you really have a harder time figuring out how to live with the conservatives who are not even in your own church. I mean, think about it. Talk about litmus tests. We share a country with the evangelicals and there are a lot of them. THere is no schism possible. We have to live together and drawing these bright lines separating people is increasing polarization and anger to the harm of our society.

Besides if you work with them you can evangelise them in your own way. Fr Terry can show you how.


David said...

Oh don't worry IT, I take your point quite seriously. And yeah, a Warren-style "conservative evangelicalism" might offer some hope of reconciliation. I just wanted to make clear that, IMHO, the Warrens of the world will cooperate with that to the extent it serves their own interests - not out of any excess of altruism, or sudden outbursts of tolerance :)

As an aside, I'm old enough to object to calling Dobson, et al "classic" conservatives. To me, that label belongs to the spectrum of the Republican party from Eisenhower to, say, Goldwater. This unholy mix of fundamentalist Christianity + extreme social conservatism is definitely "neo-con" to me :)

Tom Sramek, Jr. said...

I just wanted to make clear that, IMHO, the Warrens of the world will cooperate with that to the extent it serves their own interests - not out of any excess of altruism, or sudden outbursts of tolerance.

Before we start casting stones at Rick Warren, I suggest that we examine our own motivations. I've personally been impressed with Warren's Purpose Driven Church and Purpose Driven Life books and, frankly, with the man himself. You don't have to agree with his theology to admire the fact that he expresses his faith much more effectively than 95 percent of Episcopalians.

I doubt any one of us is completely free of serving our "own interests" so let's not pretend we're purer than Rick.

David said...

...the fact that he expresses his faith much more effectively than 95 percent of Episcopalians.

Sorry, but I call bullsh*t on that. I'd suspect anyone who'd make such a stmt hadn't been around many Episcopalians (who, I admit, often express their faith in a way more familiar to St. Francis* than the typical in-your-face talk, talk, talk, you get from modern American evangelicals)

A shallow mishmash of poor Biblical scholarship / literalism with a sort of "soft" evangelical fundamentalism does not a deep, meaningful theology make.

And yes, I agree with the fact that we all have our own interests - but I don't think I ever implied otherwise. I just chose to focus on the Warren crowd's interests to make a point.

*"Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words."

IT said...

Cany's blog points out that Warren is very gay unfriendly and allied with the haters.

Which is useful to remember. Politics is like making sausage: the closer you look, the more put off you are. But can we make mutual use of each other? Should we? I think we should.

(sorry for those who saw that red, I've been playing with font colors and it turns out they don't show up in all browsers).


Anonymous said...

I am a little bit skeptical of Warren and the more successful Emerging Church evangelicals. They have conservative gender ideals, in which the man is the head of the house, the woman defers to him, and that her role is as servant to the husband and servant and teacher of the children. Reproductive freedom is generally not well looked on, with abortion out of the question and with contraception somewhere between "OK if you are strapped financially" to "as bad as abortion". Women are typically not considered leadership material in paid employment, either - job, not career. Same-gender sexual relationships, monogamous or not, are simply not acceptable to most.

The hierarchical view of life, including the ideology of patriarchy, is intrinsic to American evangelical Christianity. The goal is "reconciliation" to a kinder gentler status quo with straight white men on top, not to a new kind of justice based on equality.

So I am reluctant to help the new-wave compassionate conservatives. They still have so far to go on gender issues, they tend to encourage women to stay with battering husbands, and the like. And I don't see them supporting things like non-sectarian public quality daycare along the lines of France, because the evangelical ideology is pretty much that the nuclear family is the one and only childraising unit, even praising homeschooling.

Sure, if Warren got his PDL church members to buy smaller cars and carpool when practical and lobby for CAFE standards, I'd ally for that issue. But I see opportunity for collaboration to be very well defined and finite.


Anonymous said...

Markos has been fairly dismissive of "women's issues" like reproductive rights, equal pay, and the like. He's also been less than attentive to minority communities. In these attitudes, he's not too different from white male liberals as a whole - doesn't affect him or interest him, so he doesn't really see the issues. John Aravosis, a prominent gay political blogger, is the same way. Both Kos and John A. are highly focused on the horse race aspect of politics as "the real politics", and haven't been hugely interested in long-term cultural or religious or social trends.


JCF said...

[Disclaimer: Godwin's Law violation ahead!]

[Rick Warren] expresses his faith much more effectively than 95 percent of Episcopalians

Mein Kampf was a tremendously effective expression of a belief-system too, Tom: your point?

Being "effective" means NOTHING, if it's effectively evil.

And, IMHO, that's what Rick Warren's "Purpose", c. 2004, was.

Is he changing?


God only knows, any Imago Dei can, praise Christ!

...but as the FOCUS of Rick's c.2004 (anti-LGBT) evil, I have my doubts. That's not "casting stones", Tom: it's keeping my Kevlar flak-jacket at the ready! ;-/

FranIAm said...

JCF and others have said it well- I do not trust anything too "purpose" driven and there is the whole big not-so-gay-loving matter.

The whole thing kind of smells funny to me, but maybe I grow cynical these days...

David said...


Well come join the rest of us crusty, old cynical types for a liquid refreshment of your choice at the Friends of Jake Virtual Pub :)

::raises a black and tan as a toast to Fran::

toujoursdan said...

You don't have to agree with his theology to admire the fact that he expresses his faith much more effectively than 95 percent of Episcopalians

What faith? His books seem to be a reaffirmation of modern American middle class values with a bit of the prosperity gospel thrown in? What is his faith in really?

David said...


Exactly. There's a whole bunch of "conservative" Christians who equate sheer numbers to success (whether that's numbers of, supposedly, committed people, or numbers of dollars).

But to subscribe to the theology of a mega-church like Saddleback is like eating a diet consisting only of the icing scraped off the top of a cake. All easy, empty calories - nothing substantial.