Lisa Miller wrote the main feature article, "An Evangelical Identity Crisis: Sex or social justice? The war between the religious right and believers who want to go broader." It gives an excellent overview of the rise of the Religious Right in the 20th Century (from the rise of Fundamentalism to the Scopes Trial to Roe v. Wade to the Moral Majority). She also documents the change that seems to be happening in contemporary evangelicalism:
“For the first time in a long while, then, there is a serious rethinking of the politics of Jesus in America—or at least the efforts of different elements in the country, from believers of progressive, moderate and conservative bents, to claim they are acting in his name in the public sphere...Some Christians, exhausted by divisive wedge politics, are going back to the Bible and embracing a wider-ranging agenda, one that emphasizes reaching out to the poor and disenfranchised.”
In "Church Meets State," Newsweek writers explain how successful or not the Religious Right has had on public policy on these issues: Judges, Abortion, God and Schools, Foreign Policy, Gay Marriage, Stem Cells, Birth Control and Sex Ed, Public Displays of Religion.
In a very telling article from conservative evangelical Michael Gerson (a Wheaton grad, Gerson was once a speechwriter for George W. Bush and was named in the February 7, 2005 issue of TIME magazine as one of “The 25 Most Influential Evangelicals In America"). Gerson’s article gives insights from a conservative who is more than the stereotypical right-winger.
In the words of the The New Yorker,
“Gerson knows that he is an enigma to the liberal establishment of Washington. He is a churchgoing, anti-gay-marriage, pro-life supply-sider who believes absolutely in the corporeality of Jesus’ resurrection…Yet among his role models he counts Martin Luther King, Jr., and the radical evangelical abolitionists of the nineteenth century, and his chief vocational preoccupation is the battle against infectious disease in Africa. He has won the admiration of many AIDS and debt-relief activists, including the U2 singer Bono.”
Gerson writes how the change in political activism among evangelicals will change the political landscape in the Newsweek article, "A New Social Gospel: Many evangelicals are chafing at the narrowness of the religious right. A new faith-based agenda."
“It was not long ago that the three-time Democratic candidate for president, William Jennings Bryan—who championed legalizing strikes, giving the vote to women and a progressive income tax—was also a fervent, Bible-quoting evangelical. A politically progressive evangelicalism is not an innovation, it is a revival; not a fresh track in the snow, but a rutted path of American history.”
“Republicans will find it increasingly difficult to appeal to the new evangelicals with tired symbols like school prayer or the posting of the Ten Commandments.”
“These changes in evangelicalism should be an opportunity for Democrats. But seizing it would require a philosophic shift. Modern liberalism has defined the belief in truth as the enemy of tolerance because absolute claims of right and wrong lead to coercion. And religious claims, in this view, are the most intolerant of all, and should be radically privatized so no one's morality gets "imposed" on another. It is difficult for liberals and Democrats to appeal to religious people while declaring their deepest motivations a threat to the republic. And it is difficult to imagine the history of the republic if this narrow view had prevailed. How does moral skepticism and privatized religion motivate decades of struggle against slavery, or lead men and women, step by step, toward the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma? If there is really no truth, why believe in, or sacrifice for, the self-evident truths of the Declaration of Independence?”
Very insightful stuff there.
Even the “dissenting article” had something to offer. In Sam Harris’ "The Case Against Faith: Religion does untold damage to our politics. An atheist's lament," he disagrees with Gerson’s point of view. Harris’ point of view is that religion (no matter what kind) always is harmful to public policy.
“Religion is the one area of our discourse in which people are systematically protected from the demand to give good evidence and valid arguments in defense of their strongly held beliefs. And yet these beliefs regularly determine what they live for, what they will die for and—all too often—what they will kill for.”
I disagree with Harris’ general premise, but this quote, I thought, was very intriguing:
“Given the most common interpretation of Biblical prophecy, it is not an exaggeration to say that nearly half the American population is eagerly anticipating the end of the world. It should be clear that this faith-based nihilism provides its adherents with absolutely no incentive to build a sustainable civilization—economically, environmentally or geopolitically. Some of these people are lunatics, of course, but they are not the lunatic fringe. We are talking about the explicit views of Christian ministers who have congregations numbering in the tens of thousands. These are some of the most influential, politically connected and well-funded people in our society.”
Good stuff in the November 13, 2006 issue of Newsweek!
technorati: politics, social action, emerging church