Faith Matters Sunday: Evangelicals and Politics 2010
Published on: March 27, 2010
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  • Distinguish between faith and assumption

  • Arleen

    It’s sad to see how believers have had a hand in turning the world against God, because they are watching our hypocrisy. And Jesus knows the heart; he knows it’s all about the money. He said you can’t serve two masters – it will be money or God; and it seems the Conservative Christian Right’s true master is “Money.” The world is watching and it grieves me when they see that the vast majority of Christians have placed more value on their tax dollars than on life.

  • CFB

    Interesting that you speak of the political involvement of evangelicals as a kind of natural ‘tide’ that ebbs and flows, as though dependent on lunar or other gravitational forces and independent of political ones.

    The fact is, the evangelical ‘tide’ of political involvement rolls in quite forcefully when statist politicians attempt to subvert and replace the central role of religion in the lives of Americans. For example, forcing evangelical Christians to fund schools which teach practices they view as morally evil as entirely benign ‘lifestyle choices’ is certain to make the tide roll in. Forcing them to fund abortions, which they view as the murder of innocents, is the most egregious example, but they are legion and expanding exponentially under this administration.

    Mr. Mead, other of your writings indicate you believe evangelicals are not intelligent enough to participate in the body politic in a way you find laudable. But they’re smart enough to see through the disgusting double-speak offered by totalitarian statists like Jim Wallis. I don’t know if you consider him an ally or not. If so, you should know that the vast majority of American Christians do not consider what he preaches to be remotely akin to the gospel of Christ.

  • Peter

    ” … the adventurous Reverend Jeremiah Wright” ???

    Quite an understatement, Mr. Mead. It’s obvious you take the dictates of political correctness seriously. Shame on you.

    As a free man, I don’t. So permit me to set your post straight regarding the reality of Rev. Wright. By his own words, the man is without question a loathsome black racist and bigot.

  • C. Olivas

    Mr. Mead,
    I’m disappointed by your benign description of Jeremiah Wright. A man of your brain thrust and intellectual honesty should not not cede ground to the undercurrents of political correctness.
    Mr. Wright is nothing more than a bigot.

    • Walter Russell Mead

      I see that the art of ironic understatement does not appeal to everyone as much as it does to me!

  • Luke Lea

    On Rev. Wright, I would say Obama’s motive in joining his church was to get street cred in the black community. As described in his memoirs, black identity was the main issue with him, and getting elected mayor of Chicago was his goal. Wright only became a problem when he raised his political sites.

    As with W., religious affiliation was a matter of political calculation. Obama took Wright about as seriously as W. took Billy Graham.

  • WRM, two commenters called Rev. Wright a bigot. Do you agree or not?

    On the post itself, who made you the expert on evangelism? What are your sources? I find it hard to believe you regularly move through evangelical circles. But in any case, you should cite some second hand sources. A poll, statements of evangelicals, their publications, etc. Something beyond your hand-of-god say so.

    Here’s something you don’t account for in the modern evangelical movement: the New Apostolic Reformation. Or how about Dominionists?

    No, you just stick to your over-worked four strands of foreign policy thesis and say evangelicals might become Wilsonian. What part of evangelicals’ efforts in Uganda are Wilsonian?

    Everyone is entitled to commentary, but not facts. If you don’t cite your facts, then your commentary is worthless.

  • Luke, you are so wrong. One large issue in Barack Obama’s memoirs, as with many bi-racial people, is black/white identity, not one of the two. Add to that the fact he never knew his father, who came and went back to another continent.

    Where in the world do you get him wanting to be the mayor of Chicago as his highest goal?

    Since I don’t know the innermost thoughts of the two men, and neither do you, I think it best to take them at their word (which seems completely authentic to me). W became born-again/12 stepper due to the direct influence of Graham. And if Obama really chose his church/pastor for political calculation, he really messed that up. There were dozens of safer black churches for him to choose.

  • Peter

    Mr. Mead, Mr. Mead.

    An ironic understatement on Obama’s spititual advisor Rev. Wright? My foot.

    You wouldn’t dare be politically incorrect for an moment, especially on raial matters, Mr. Mead, least it gets you tossed out of your cushy establishment position(s). Right?

    • Walter Russell Mead

      Dear Peter,
      You seem awfully confident in your ability to read people’s minds and discern their motives. I’m sorry if my writing has given you the impression that I am an unprincipled hack who will only say what his corporate taskmasters permit. (I suspect that my corporate taskmasters would laugh uproariously if they heard that people thought that they would exercise their mighty, dissent-crushing powers of coercion to protect the reputation or the feelings of an anti-capitalist Chicago preacher who hates them and everything they stand for.) I won’t try to persuade you that you are wrong about the kind of person I am. That would be undignified and futile. But I hope you have a nice day!
      Best,
      WRM

  • Norm

    Another thoughtful essay, thank-you, Dr. Mead.

    You’re quite right that the US has had a history of religious millenarianism that has interacted with conventional politics sometimes pushing to the left and sometimes to right. I wonder if that isn’t something of a moderating influence. For example, at mid-century conventional morals seemed fairly secure but racial injustice was bubbling up as the industrialization of WW2 and the population shifts from people looking for work in the Depression shook up the traditional regionalism. Many churches did pull for equity and supported civil rights.

    After the sixties things were getting crazy and the moral order no longer seemed so secure to the churches started pulling back toward recognizable good and evil rather than total post-modernism and that manifested in something that was understandably conservative in appearance.

    Today, the question becomes where is the excess that needs balancing. Two years ago it would have seemed that Mammon and globalization were threats that would be balanced by tilting politically left. However, I think there is an argument that is percolating from the Tea Partiers and others on the right that in Obama’s quest for a fairly conventional western European welfare state there is also the kernal of Leviathan that really doesn’t have any place for other power centers between the state and the individual. Given the dissident roots of so much of American religion I think there is good reason to believe that Leviathan trumps Mammon as a threat – at least in the short run.

  • Rev. Salguero

    Esteemed Dr. Mead:

    I was part of the conference call last week. I thank you for your work, research, and willingness to listen to the participants.

    I agree with your general overall assessment that progressive Evangelicals are a small group that may or may not exert more public influence. (Caveat: the White House Council on Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships has several of these “progressive” Evangelicals on the board. Obama had a Hispanic Pentecostal from Chicago as part of his outreach and advisory team).

    What I would like to hear more about is how you see the impact that the issue of immigration and the overwhelming support of Hispanic Evangelicals for comprehensive immigration reform will have on the U.S. Evangelical mindset. Second, do you think it is absolutely true and necessary that as Latinos/as and other groups move up socio-economically they will move to the right?

    Again, thanks for the work and dialogue and may your Spring be filled with God’s blessings and peace.

  • Edmund Burke

    Excellent and insightful post Mr. Mead. I only wish I could say the same for some of the comments. As a traditional, Catholic conservative I am deeply distressed by the hysteria I see and feel by my colleagues on the Right.

  • Ken Smith

    At the risk of commiting the sin of flattery, I will say that the recent posts on religion on this blog show some of the best and broadest thinking of anything on offer today. I like the use of analogies from nature–tides and climates and such.

    I am particularly grateful for the linkage of Protestant thought to skepticism about global warming. I have often thought that the “warmists” (to use a term that is admittedly problematic) appear to be driven by a teleological vision reminiscent of medieval scholastics, and the “skeptics” often appear as early enlightenment rebels (i.e. Baconians) who struggled mightily against the old Aristotelian establishment. The simpler Catholic vs. Protestant paradigm may be more useful, particularly since conservative Protestants are typically reliable foes of “warmist” orthodoxy.

    It would be interesting to draw out some comparisons between the Council of Trent and the post Climategate efforts to reform and reinforce global warming orthodoxy. On the issue I personally remain a Protestant at best, and a Humean at worst.

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