More on Protective vs. Transformative Social Action

Yesterday, I posted about how evangelicals have succumbed to a “protective social action” rather than following the Lord’s calling of a “transformative social action.”

I said, “Evangelicals move toward social action when a James Dobson says something in the humanist/secular culture is a threat to Christian values – for instance, gay marriage. Our political involvement has been impulsive based on fear of a threat to our values. It is a political action based on fear: ‘We must protect ourselves from this threat!’ However, as a result of this protective social action, any injustice in the public sphere that is not seen as a threat to evangelicals is left unnoticed by them.”

I just watched this past weekend’s Ethics and Religion Newsweekly on PBS, and the evidence of what I wrote is there in the words of Focus on the Family's James Dobson and his lieutenant, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council.

Watch this video, and listen carefully to their words. Do you hear a “transformative” social agenda, or do you hear a “protective” social agenda, one that mobilizes when there is a perceived threat?

(Click on image to activate, then press the play button)


Ted Gossard said...

Certainly James Dobson means well. And I have to respect him, in that he will keep saying the same thing, no matter what we or anyone else says. Though I am also saddened. And would not recommend him and his books to others. In spite of the good that is there.

Certainly, though, I think they do think in terms of protective. Though I wouldn't want to say that they wouldn't hold to the possibility of "revival" changing the moral landscape of our country.

Bob Robinson said...


I'll blog more on this soon:

Part of the problem with a protective social action is the presumption that the only way for social change is through revival.

Think about this theory: If the only real way to transform society is through a revival then we must be protective until such an event occurs. We cannot hope for any real transformation until then.

I've heard this line of thinking a number of times from leading evangelicals: "The only way to change society is one heart at a time."

If that is the thinking for the leading evangelical social activists, then no wonder they are suspicious of talk that we can be proactive in really changing the world for the good and for the glory of Christ.

blind beggar said...

Bob: This is such an important concept you have articulated, i.e., how evangelicals have succumbed to a “protective social action” rather than following the Lord’s calling of a “transformative social action.” Looking forward to more soon.

Can you unpack your point you made in the last two paragraphs in your response to Ted? I’m not sure I followed it (old age).

Bob Robinson said...

blind beggar,

I will certainly unpack that in my next post.

Thanks for your being here. We love the blind beggar at vanguard church!

sabbath day's journey said...

I'm really appreciating your view here...I look forward to reading more when you write again. Good to see you posting!


DLW said...

Whether it's protective or not, it currently is a losing battle given the strategies and rhetoric being applied to the matter.

I wrote recently on how I broach the issue of homosexuality. It doesn't fit well on slogans, though s'pose saying "homosexuality is both chosen and not chosen and we need empathy and discernment in dealing with it", or "there's a difference between God's Ideals and Human Laws that inevitably accomodate Human Fallenness. A chief sin of the religious right is that they confuse this distinction."

I think part of what needs to happen is for us to decentralize more of our political activism and find a balance between the anabaptist approach and the Wallis/Colson approaches. This is what I proffer with my house church model for political activism.

Just letting you know...