National Evangelical leaders reportedly urged Christian conservatives recently to support an expansion of concerns beyond “single-issue” politics such as abortion and marriage. More than 70 theologians, pastors and other religious leaders said in a more than 19-page document called “An Evangelical Manifesto” that faith and politics have been too closely mixed. The culture war, they argue, has become a “holy war” with a “dangerous incubation of conflicts, hatreds and lawsuits,” according to the document.
What do you think of the manifesto and its premise?
I’d love to endorse an Evangelical Manifesto, and one would think my continued presence on this forum would qualify me for solicitation as a desired signatory for such, but not very many of our frontline Evangelicals (that everyone knows and would regard as representative of Evangelicalism) were invited to participate. Some Evangelicals lent their imprimatur to this manifesto, but there are so many obvious and influential absentees that I perceive a politically correct agenda at hand.
Evangelicalism is something of a gentrified Christian fundamentalism. I attended Biola University, and it was Dean Torrey who wrote “The Fundamentals” of Christian doctrine, but Fundamentalism brought with it many extra-biblical traditions with which we are today unfortunately stereotyped.
Evangelicalism is essentially stage two of biblical fidelity, yet the manifesto’s definition seems co-opted by liberals that are on the verge of exiting the movement. We are about biblical truth, yet this “manifesto” wants to marginalize our issues. We cannot kill pre-born infants and profess the Evangel, nor engage in sodomy and disparage God’s destruction of the ancient city for which the behavior is named. Evangelicalism simply agrees with God; the manifesto redefines His will to cultural norms. Richard Mouw, a manifesto drafter and president of my alma mater (Fuller Seminary) obviously endorses this document, yet he earlier endorsed the Mormon cult also, effectively nullifying his sway among mainstream Evangelicals.
So, an Evangelical manifesto would be warranted and welcomed — just not this one.
THE REV. BRYAN GRIEM
Montrose Community Church
Sounds like a good idea, and seems to represent an evolution — if you’ll pardon the expression! — among Evangelical Christians.
I personally believe that it’s never a good idea to be a single-issue political person, and Evangelicals seem to be realizing that as well. Already liberal and conservative Christians are beginning to get on the same side of environmental issues, and the manifesto seems to be a logical extension of that tendency. Conservatives and liberals will still disagree, of course, on certain issues; so will Republicans and Democrats.
But for conservative Christians to try to get away from single-issue thinking is a giant step forward, it seems to me, both for our country and for our varying faith stances in the Christian community. We all must realize that those who disagree with us aren’t children of the devil but children of God who happen to see things differently from the way we see things. That respect for dissenting opinions is what I believe America is about. I also believe it’s what a mature faith is about as well.
THE REV. C. L. “SKIP” LINDEMAN
Congregational Church of the Lighted Window
United Church of Christ La Cañada Flintridge
National Evangelical leaders are moving from overly politicizing one narrow form of Christianity to now a formal declaration of a culture “holy war.” Granted, the shift from “single-issue” politics to a broader political agenda in “An Evangelical Manifesto” and bringing religious expressions into the public square are very positive statements.
But why not take that concept and seek common ground among Americans rather than finding additional ways to polarize in the form of a culture war? All religions suffer when they are perceived as a source of unproductive rancor based on wedge issues, reducing religion to a special interest group. Additionally, it is scary to think that the greater ethical and spiritual teachings of a religion can be boxed into a narrow political agenda and imposed by clever political strategies of an election cycle.
In Islam, the goal is to change the status quo by seeking justice and peace for all in an inclusive and pluralistic manner. The Constitution of Medina drafted by the Prophet Mohammed in 622 AD was a prime example. It constituted a formal agreement between the resident Muslims and all of the significant tribes and families of Medina, including Muslims, Jews and pagans. The document was drawn up with the explicit concern of bringing to an end the bitter inter-tribal fighting between the clans by securing religious freedoms and making provisions for security to maintain peace.
Islam is not subordinated to any political ideology, liberal or conservative. Its sacred principles and spiritual teachings are above the political decisions that people of faith make in an election cycle.
American Muslims as well as members of other faith groups should represent a spectrum of political philosophies and be a voice of conscience for the various political candidates, parties, causes and issues. Islam teaches that political decisions should be aimed at social justice for all and cannot be accomplished by judgmental intolerance.
Political choices by nature are very temporal and circumstantial; political engagement, guided by one’s faith, can be used to create common ground among all Americans to advance the common good — a point grossly understated in the 19-page Evangelical manifesto.
Islamic Congregation of La Cañada Flintridge
Scientology is nonpolitical and nondenominational. We honor all faith practices while remaining independent of political issues. The Scientology Church is challenged with forward progress based on our own endeavors, hard work and real results. It does not depend upon any government or candidate endorsements for future prosperity.
The liabilities outweigh the benefits of a faith-based political platform as outlined in “An Evangelical Manifesto’s” paragraph, “That way faith loses its independence, Christians become ‘useful idiots’ for one political party or another, and the Christian faith becomes an ideology.” This would be true for any religious group that surrendered to political policy whims. It is important to participate in government as individuals, and each American is already guaranteed a voice by constitutional law regardless of religious practice.
This document received criticism for ignoring certain Christian groups to respond as signatories. It is a marginal document not only because of this, but because it addressed and invited only Christians to respond.
In a country that trades globally and acts globally, it is fitting to write a manifesto that invites all faith traditions to participate.
Any important treatise about the role of religion in our country today would embrace all American faith communities.
Glendale Church of Scientology