Today’s evangelicals vs. the GOP’s “evangelicals”

by Ryan Streeter on November 9, 2012. Follow Ryan on Twitter.

This email from an evangelical pastor that Matt Lewis posted today really resonates with me.

He mentions how a large percentage of evangelicals cringed at Republican primary candidates’ references to social issues and then writes:

We are talking about, yes abortion, but also human trafficking, poverty, orphan care, adoption, etc. The primary hit on none of these…[E]vangelical churches are taking seriously intentional diversity. You have guys like John Piper and Tim Keller talking honestly about race. You have a whole movement of people going into the urban areas and planting churches. So there is a strong discord between what the GOP keeps insisting that evangelicals care about and the discussions actually taking place…If the GOP wants to win, I’d suggest a listening tour in some of the top churches like Tim Keller’s church in NY, Andy Stanley’s church in Atlanta, and other churches. I’d suggest attending conferences like Passion and Catalyst and The Gospel Coalition. I know the Obama folks are in tune with these, often attend these churches, and go to the conferences. Rather than going to Iowa and wooing old white culture warriors.

I’m the son of an evangelical pastor, and I’ve attended evangelically-based Presbyterian, Lutheran, Episcopalian, and Anglican churches in the various cities in which I’ve lived over the past 20 years. Everything the writer says is 100%, completely, totally, indisputably true.

Most evangelicals under the age of 40 have spent more time reading about and participating in the work of, say, the International Justice Mission than going to the pro-life rallies their parents took them to years ago. This doesn’t mean they’re not pro-life. They are. In fact, their non-evangelical friends are more pro-life than their boomer parents, so that issue remains important, but it’s not a hot-button issue for them.

There are many theologically conservative people out there who are growing politically liberal for the reasons the writer mentions: political conservatives have ignored or misunderstood their passion for justice while the left has not. It’s not that Obama has duped them. It’s that conservative candidates are totally out of step with what motivates them.

  • knivesout

    I attended Tim Keller’s church for about 10 years (I’ve since moved out of NYC). I am also a Republican-turned-Democrat, and voted for Obama twice. The GOP has lost a lot of us because they seem to think that promoting life stops once someone is born. Tim Keller taught me about social justice. Jesus fought against Pharisees, and for the poor and marginalized. The Christian right have become Pharisees and they ignore everyone Jesus fought for.

    • Kimberlyanndonohue

      Jesus never meant for the government to take care of people. That is the church’s job if they are unable or their family is unable. That is biblical. You are rt that the GOP needs to do some changing but social justice was never meant to be done through the government bc Jesus knew the government was corrupt. Government is corrupt and cannot take care of people. Government holds people on welfare down and keeps them from excellence which is what God is about. God wants to his people to be excellent in everything they do. Government handouts do not do this. Ps I am also a young evangelical in a multi racial church

      • knivesout

        I believe Jesus said very little about how government to be run. If anything, the thing he talked about most was the Kingdom of Heaven. He did not espouse any ideology, especially no modern ideology like “conservatism” or “liberalism.” There was no democracy like the one we have then. Our government, a democracy, is made of us, and our laws and our expenditures reflect our desires and hopes. Our government is not this abstract faraway entity like the Roman emperor was in Jesus’ day. If Jesus really was about government in any way, he sure did a heck of a job to hide it. Instead Jesus advocated for those without power. The Beatitudes really speak for themselves.

        • Nmwally

          Remember: Jesus COULDN’T be involved in politics. Romans wouldn’t have been cool with that. We can. it’s an avenue we have for affecting change. So lets not be so quick to say that Jesus wouldn’t have cared about politics. Living for the Kingdom and politicsl involvment can co-exist. Just a thought. 🙂

        • Mcsmith2222

          “Give to Caesar what is Ceasar’s; give to God what is God’s”

          I think that goes a long way towards understanding how Christ viewed the role of government and the church in people’s lives — he definitely has succinct ideas about both…

      • Revbill

        Right on sister. Obama will destroy the constitutional protections that “the church’ enjoys. We’ll see who wants to line up first for the firing squad after proclaiming “gay” marriage is not biblical. Sick twisted theology, this!

      • Guest

        Yes. Ideally, the church (collective body of Christ, not just the church entities) would step up and take care of people in need: the poor, the oppressed, the widow the orphan, the broken in heart and spirit and situation. But, alas, the rub is that the church is not doing that on a whole. There are some groups and some congregations, but the body of Christ is not on the whole paying attention to the most vulnerable in this world. How truly sacrifically do you give of your time and money? Truly? How sacrificially do I give? I can speak for myself, not very. And you can see this across the nation in Christians in the schedule and pocketbooks. So, until the church steps up to take her rightful place in providing for the hurt and the needing around us and beyond us, then there is a hole that government will step into fill. Let’s fill the hole, brothers and sisters, and then government won’t need to.

    • Joseph Quesnel

      Who are you to call anyone a Pharisee?? Take the beam out of your own eye.

  • Joshua Little

    Amen! This is just why, as Douthat recently wrote, Republicans need a better message about the economy. Obama’s policies aren’t really going help issues of human trafficking or poverty. The moral case for free enterprise is very compelling, but Arthur Brooks is the only one making it.

  • Jeeadie

    I would love to see the charitable giving statements of many who voted for Obama. I agree that it is not the governments place to legislate charity. God asks us to give. He doesn’t make it law.

  • Michael Hamm

    So people are willing to destroy the economic framework that enables them to hold their increasingly liberal views? Well done. Wait a few years and you won’t be thinking about abortion. You’ll be trying to avoid starvation in this third world nation we’re building. If you voted for Obama, you voted for the destruction of America, period.

    • Macaibhistin

      Really? The greed of the right wing politicians and the ambitious self-centred ness that characterizes America is probably what is already killing this country. Take a look around.

    • Ctnorman7

      Yes, because third world nations are usually those with more liberal governments. Wait? It’s actually the opposite of that? Oh, sorry.

    • civilian

      “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.” Sometimes we forget that Jesus gave up (sacrificed) his life for humankind. Are you willing to give up (sacrifice) your dependence on and comfort from cash for humankind? If the answer is “no” then you are not a Christ-follower.

  • guest

    While it is true that social policy encompasses much more than abortion, and young Christ followers care about those diverse issues, the focus of this election was primarily fiscal. I would be interested to know how young believers prioritize social policy vs fiscal vs foreign, etc. How do they reconcile the many proverbs instructing us to avoid debt? Or Paul’s writing that he who doesn’t work shouldn’t eat?

    In the general population, my opinion is that Mr. Obama is simply a more appealing personality and the democratic party is perceived as cooler than a bunch of out of touch old white men.

  • Jon Trott

    Sad, sad, sad. It is like the folks within the Christian Right speak a wholly different language and of course think we “Obamagelicals” are compromising with “the world” or even “Satan’s plan for America.” It is painful especially because these folks are our brothers and sisters, and we (I at least) feel too keenly a huge chasm between them and us regarding our faith’s application to the world around us. They frighten me one second, yet I so want to embrace them the next. They are my brothers and sisters… yet I do not understand them. I don’t understand the way they think. I don’t understand why they are so afraid. I don’t understand why they hate our President, the very man I view as the finest of my lifetime. I don’t understand why they listen to Rush Limbaugh (and oh, so many of them do, including at least one very dear to me). I don’t understand how they read into Scripture all sorts of stuff that just isn’t there while ignoring the obvious stuff that is (God’s overarching concern for the poor, for instance). I don’t know what to do about these things, other than to gently let them go. I cannot change my brother or sister. I will have to love them as they are, as God loves me who am as I am. And it is no fun at all.

    • Annette Laing 75

      Thank you. My heart exactly.

    • Darcy

      So well said. Thank you for speaking out for so many of us.

  • sjernigan

    I am a 62 year old female, Christian, and for the most part have voted republican for many years. I find myself growing more politically liberal for the reasons you have stated. As I talk with my own children and their friends, who range in age from early twenties to thirties, I find that they are more about loving people and less about condemning. I have found myself more and more discouraged about the lack of the church speaking out about world social issues and just concentrating on pro-life. I believe there is a big shift with this younger church generation for the better and I am looking forward to seeing it. I believe the mega churches are more a thing of the past as this new generation moves into the neighborhoods and becomes the hands of Christ. It is more about being the gospel and less about talking about it.

  • Darcy

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. You are speaking for so many of us.

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  • Mike

    “There are many theologically conservative people out there who are growing politically liberal for the reasons the writer mentions: political conservatives have ignored or misunderstood their passion for justice while the left has not.”

    Out of curiosity, what are the justice issues that would cause a theological conservative to lean left?

  • John Gunter

    Thanks for voicing what many of us have been feeling. I am conservative theologically, socially, and financially. However, I could not bring myself to vote for Romney this year. It pains me to see how far out of touch the Republican Party has gotten from people like me. Right now, I feel like a political orphan. Looking forward to either a Republican reformation OR a legitimate third alternative.

  • John

    Hmmmm . . . justice; justice isn’t so much the issue as how to achieve justice and of the two competing ideologies only one can be correct. Policies that lean socialist always have an appearance of “justice” and “compassion” until the realization sets in (usually too late) that those policies actually perpetuate poverty. This is why not a single socialist nation has EVER succeeded. So; those who short-sightedly take what appears to them to be a “short-cut” to helping the poor are, in fact, sentencing them to continued poverty.

    We have the same problem in the Church with the notion of how to display Christ’s love. Some seem to believe that God’s unconditional love simply embraces ALL lifestyles while a proper examination of the scriptures reveals that God’s unconditional love as revealed by Jesus actually brought people to repentance (a change in actions or how the lived their lives). If our demonstrations of God’s love aren’t leading people to repentance perhaps it is mere tolerance and not really love at all.

    Make no mistake about it, my generation understands full well the passion for justice, compassion and love. We simply disagree on how these attributes are properly defined or displayed.

    • AnneEHollis

      Beautifully stated.

  • Progressive

    All this talk about socialism not working or it’s the church’s job to care for the poor without the government’s help…read the OT the “church” was the government…they collected taxes (tithes) to provide for the needs of the country. Jesus never said it was the church’s sole responsibility to care for the poor…government has a role in all areas of civil societies. BTW, there are plenty of examples of democratic socialist systems though out the world that are working just fine. Democratic socialism has brought a much better quality of life to the people in Scandinavia and France and Germany and Britain, and it has not erased one iota of the political freedoms we cherish in this country.

    • Anneehollis

      I would argue your comment that socialized health care has brought a better quality of life. One of my closest friends has family living in Scandinavia. Her uncle died within 2 months of discovering he had cancer because it wasn’t his turn on the lists yet for treatment.

      I too agree with this article that the GOP is out of touch with things that concern the younger generation (environment, human trafficking, poverty etc), but I think the problem many young people don’t recognize is that there is a cost involved in everything we do. The government cannot physically afford to maintain everything that (ideally) we’d like to have or do (regardless of how just it may or may not be). Just like many of us would love to own our own homes, nice cars, take vacations and give generously to charities (etc), most of us can’t do or have everything we wish. We have to be selective, be intentional with where we spend our money. Once the right and left can find a balance between the things in our nation that need attention and a reasonable way to pay for it, we’ll be getting somewhere.

  • Nathanael Schulte

    I’m not saying this article goes this way, but what pains me about alot of the comments on here is how quickly this ends up becoming just as judgmental against politically conservative folks as anything.

    I think just looking at me and the company I keep, I don’t think most people would guess I was politically conservative. There’s a lot about the “religious right” that I don’t buy into, although abortion is extremely important to me, to the point I could never vote for Obama, and didn’t end up voting for Romney either.

    I actually care deeply about the poor, but I don’t believe continuing to increase government welfare dependency is the answer either, nor do I believe it’s okay to continually push for higher tax rates for higher income earners to fund programs that just seem to keep people in perpetual dependence instead of helping them transition out of the welfare system.

    I suppose, in the end, I, being conservative politically, don’t like being lumped into a big group any more than my liberal friends do.

    That’s my two cents. Thanks for the post 🙂

  • Areopagus

    Yes, politicians co-opting religion to further their own agendas. I’ve heard of that happening.