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Neuhaus on An Evangelical Manifesto

Richard John Neuhaus offers a foretaste of a longer treatment of this manifesto, promised for FT. His abbreviated bottom line is this:

I have no doubt that some who signed the statement simply wanted to affirm the important truth that evangelical Christianity is defined by the lordship of Christ and not by political partisanship. Issuing what is inevitably perceived as a politically partisan manifesto is an ill-chosen means for achieving that purpose. Only the naive or disingenuous among the signers will express surprise that the media depicted the manifesto as an election-year effort to drive a wedge between conservatives and what is portrayed as a more authentic evangelicalism. Whatever the good intentions of some signers, the reporters got the story right.

The fact that Jim Wallis is among the signatories is a dead giveaway.

Update: Stanley Carlson-Thies reminds us that there are some distinctive elements of the evangelical witness that shouldn’t be let behind, so to speak.

Discussions - 2 Comments

Reading the summary, one notices three things right away: 1) a fear of evangelicals being the used as the "useful idiot" BRAWN by the conservative intellectual (and farily secular) BRAINS. 2) a fear of reactions caused by "culture-warring," with an explicit share of the blame for the recent spate of intolerant-atheist bestsellers being cast upon "culture warring" evangelicals. Protesting against abortion? Partly linking your support of G.W. Bush to his evangelical faith? YOU helped cause people like Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris to exist. 3) A repudiation of a "sacred public square" that favors one religion, that a) IGNORES the fact that no leaders of the Christian right (names, dates, and quotations please, if I'm wrong) calls for the establishment clause of the 1st Amendment to be taken out, and b) IGNORES the fact that Protestant Christianity has a whole lot to do with the ongoing culture and very coming into existence of the USA. This idea that you can speak of Evangelical Protestant Christianity as simply one religion among the many that are practiced in America is preposterous. Our common culture is INFESTED with practices and beliefs derived from that Christianity, and so it cannot but be a factor in any debates about our culture, whether it wants to or not. Sorry, if the ANY American is faced with the proposition that says, "pro or con, old-fashioned Protestant Christianity should have 75% less influence on our overall culture than it does now," or, "pro or con, old-fashioned Protestant Christianity should have 75% more influence on our overall culture than it does now," well, that's a proposition that MATTERS in very real world terms. And so it is a ridiculous TRICK that says when I politically oppose some degradation of the culture, it is because I want to preserve the Christian elements in our culture (which is usually true enough), which means that I am FAVORING my religion at the expense of all others (which is false in the way they mean it). Evangelicals can and should be scrupulous about not linking their theological and ecclesiastical commitments to the "state of American culture," but they cannot, cannot, cannot, avoid being FACTOR IN THE WORLD. To be taken seriously, that is, to have many persons believe they you speak the truth, is to become a factor in the world, and all the struggle with worldliness that that is going to entail. Deal with it. The USA is at bottom a sinful kingdom of the devil the way every polity on earth has been and it will pass away, yes, do remind us of that. But this idea, that we should gnash our teeth about Christians being thankful for the many uniquely Christian-friendly aspects of America, that we should say, "I'm neutral about whether America's CULTURE should become less Christian, as opposed to it containing fewer followers of Christ," is ridiculous and unbiblical. Any denomination that endorses political participation in democracy by its members, KNOWS it is going to have its members trying to figure out how to vote in ways that will make the culture more Christian, and KNOWS they in doing so they will often be used, and often stir up offense.

Weak apologies for the numerous minor errors in the above...and the most relevant bit of the Neuhaus: "But mainly it comes across as a striking instance of evangelicals approaching their cultural betters with hat in hand and pleading to be liked, or at least less disliked."

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