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Saturday, February 5, 2005

Evangelical leader: Moral Majority 'an aberration.'

Now here's an important story:

A top official of the National Association of Evangelicals told reporters gathered at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary that the Moral Majority, a 1980s political movement dominated by Christian conservatives, was "an aberration and a regrettable one at that," even though it drew evangelicals into the political process, because the organization was "fatally flawed by a hubris that made the movement condescending and more than a bit judgmental."

"The Moral Majority lacked a servant heart of Christ born out of humility and compassion for a fallen humanity," said the official, Robert Wenz, who is vice president of national ministries for the National Association of Evangelicals.

"Instead, it was all about making America a nice place for Christians to live. This is not the kind of social involvement that we need or that evangelicals espouse."

Instead, Wenz cited as a positive sign what he described as "a reemergence of the evangelical church in the inner city" with programs addressing substance abuse, parenting, and "healing ministries of all kinds." He said those churches have emerged at a time when many of the more visible evangelical churches, the so-called megachurches, have located in suburban areas.

Wenz spoke at the first of a series of courses that evangelicals, basking in attention following polls suggesting that moral values played a role in President Bush's reelection, are holding in an effort to explain the influential religious movement to news reporters. Organizers plan similar sessions at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., next month, and then at seminaries in Dallas and Los Angeles.

Wenz said it is important for evangelicals to be clear that they have no allegiance to the Republican Party and that the GOP owes them nothing. In an interview, he said evangelicals, for example, are increasingly concerned about environmental issues, not an issue traditionally associated with the Republican Party.

"Global warming is a reality and is not a bunch of liberal hype," Wenz said in an interview.

There's more in the story — especially about the failure of white Evangelicals "to recognize the economic and social justice concerns of nonwhite evangelicals." ("Official Chides Christian Right: Moral Majority Called Aberration," Michael Paulson, Boston Globe 2.5.05)

Copyright © 2005 by Philocrites | Posted 5 February 2005 at 12:09 PM

Previous: More on 'Eyes on the Prize.'
Next: 'Creation care': Environmentalism for Evangelicals.





February 5, 2005 12:13 PM | Permalink for this comment

Style postscript: Why do I capitalize Evangelical when the news media do not? I reserve the word "evangelical" for things pertaining to the Gospels and to the proclamation of good news; "Evangelical" refers to that subgroup of Protestant Christians that locates religious authority pretty much solely in scripture and that tends to describe a person's acceptance of Jesus as their "lord and savior" as the defining moment in salvation. By this logic, it's a bit easier to talk about, say, "evangelical Unitarian Universalists" than to talk about "Evangelical Unitarian Universalists," although there were in fact Evangelical Unitarians in the early 19th century and Evangelical Universalists throughout the 19th century. A subject for another day, perhaps.


February 5, 2005 02:56 PM | Permalink for this comment

So, are you saying we should de-capitalize the "B" in "John the Baptist"?

I would add (or substitute) a third classification to define who is Evangelical and who isn't. You use the following two criteria: 1) Scripture as primary (only?) authority and 2) An emotional "born again" experience as central to salvation (welcoming Jesus into your heart). I'd add, 3) An emphasis on spreading the message and gaining converts as a primary duty of Christian discipleship.


February 5, 2005 03:07 PM | Permalink for this comment

ps. I might add that I believe it is this third criterion that creates a tension within the Evangelical community (a tension that is perhaps observed in the article you've referenced above.) The tension is between two "great comissions": one which says to "feed the hungry, clothe the naked, release the prisoner, care for the widow, etc." and the other which says to "go forth and make disciples of all nations." What is a Christian to do?


February 11, 2005 09:16 PM | Permalink for this comment

Here's Rachel Zoll's AP story about the Gordon-Conwell conference: "Religion Today," Worcester Telegram & Gazette 2.10.05. A few highlights:

Speakers at the gathering, organized by the seminary, listed what they consider among the biggest myths about evangelicals: that they are anti-intellectual; that they seek to create a Christian government in the United States; and that their belief that salvation comes only through Christ is intolerant and aims to silence other religious expression. . . .

While people outside the evangelical movement often view it as monolithic, major divisions exist, including disagreement over which moral and public policy issues should be paramount. Some speakers said evangelicals too closely align themselves with Republicans and focus too much on abortion and gay marriage, instead of broad social concerns. . . .

University of Akron political scientist John Green has said that Wenz's NAE, whose member churches claim 24 million congregants, represents the pragmatic center of evangelicalism compared to two other wings: progressive evangelicals and the Christian right, which includes much of the Southern Baptist Convention. . . .

David Wells, professor of historical and systematic theology at the seminary, said some of the trouble stems from a tendency to equate evangelicals with fundamentalists. Fundamentalists are cultural separatists, withdrawing from people who hold different beliefs and adopting "a set of cultural attitudes that evangelicals have abandoned," he said. Evangelicals seek to involve themselves in society, engaging members of other religions and influencing the broader culture.

"Race, poverty and the environment are, or should be part of, our biblically based ethic," Davis said.

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