The Evangelical Crackup

Ken AshfordEnvironment & Global Warming & Energy, Godstuff, Sex/Morality/Family ValuesLeave a Comment

Time was where "evangelical" evoked names like James Dobson and Jerry Falwell and, by necessary extension, the conservative GOP agenda.

But Kevin Drum points to a considerable crack-up within the evangelical movement, which casts "old guard" evangelicals (Dobson et al.) on the outside of the National Association of Evangelicals (now headed by Richard Cizik), looking in with noses pressed to windows. 

The issue that is causing the rift is global warming:

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 certainly is.  In other words, these Christian Right leaders are accusing Cizik of messing with their brand.  This is a rather audacious complaint.  It’s as if Dobson and company view the "moral agenda" of evangelicals as their exclusive birthright.  But no longer, with young turks like Rev. James Wallis:

A new generation of pastors has expanded the definition of moral issues to include not only global warming, but an array of causes. Quoting Scripture and invoking Jesus, they’re calling for citizenship for illegal immigrants, universal healthcare and caps on carbon emissions.

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?"

Nice to see this shift.  Hope to see more.