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What’s Left (and Right) for Evangelicals?

Naomi Schaefer Riley and I have talked before. She interviewed me for God on the Quad in what seems like a lifetime ago. I know that she was, then, trying to be the go-to gal for urbane but fair analyses of conservative Evangelicalism. For the most part, she nails it, except when she seemed to journalistically indulge a crush on my kind but nerdy students who showed her around campus.

So I wonder if the same thing is going on here. In the WSJ‘s “What Saddleback’s Pastor Really Thinks About Politics” she claims that Rick Warren is the new figurehead for the Evangelical right.

“Overhyped.” That’s how the Rev. Rick Warren describes the notion that the evangelical vote is “up for grabs” in this election. But what about the significance of the evangelical left, I asked the pastor of Saddleback Church after his forum with the presidential candidates last weekend. “This big,” he says, holding his thumb and forefinger about an inch apart.

Meh. Can we believe the new Right-leaning figurehead when he describes his opposition as insignificant? Is he just whistling past the graveyard?

I still think he misses the point.

I do agree with him when he says that the younger Evangelical sort is actually more concerned with abortion than their parents. No one believes more strongly than I that life is a precious thing that begins at conception. Because I have four children in Heaven, I have studied the Scriptures at length on the issue. I want to foreground the biblical attitude toward children at every turn. The ancient Hebrew, for instance, was radically different from all her contemporaries in the way she honored the life growing in her womb. To the ancient Greek or Roman, childhood was a necessary evil on the path to adulthood where real significance began. But even before birth, that Hebrew child was part of the Covenant. The casting-out of infants was so common in the ancient Near-East that historians marvel that the Hebrews didn’t do it.

I appreciate Warren. He has entered the political conversation and improved it. He demonstrates tolerance and integrity. He takes his Christian values “to the streets.” If he’s the new Evangelical figurehead over James Dobson, I’ll be the first to applaud. Heck — I’ll give him a standing ovation!

But this ever-so-slightly-left-leaning Evangelical would like the figurehead to shake things up even more. I think that’s what Warren’s not hearing. The divisions are too calcified. We’ve lost sight of our purpose. Warren’s way closer than Dobson, that’s for sure.

So don’t dismiss me yet, Pastor Warren. Even if I am only “this big.”

1 thought on “What’s Left (and Right) for Evangelicals?

  1. I like Rick Warren. I don’t like everything he says. I don’t like everything he does. I don’t like all of his theology. I read PURPOSE DRIVEN LIFE and thought, “So what?” But he, like Billy Graham, serves as a positive force for American culture, pointing people to Jesus and saying that we are created to be a part of God’s wonderful creation. We are valuable. We are unique. We are loved.

    I like the civility he’s trying to introduce in the USA. No progress will ever be made when people on both sides say they’re right and the other side is wrong. It’s about finding common ground.

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