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  • Writer's pictureScott Carr, Jr.

The Crumbling of Evangelical Politics

Updated: Jul 17, 2020

During the Bush administration, the evangelical political consensus crumbled. Evangelicals had served as a significant force in Bush’s 2004 reelection and in his administration, but the public soon turned against the Iraq War, and corruption amongst Bush aids, and revelations of torture at the Abu Ghraib prison further complicated his support [1]. A number of evangelicals dissented from the Christian right and its exclusive two-issue platform on abortion and same-sex marriage [2]. Instead, the New Evangelicals, led by individuals such as Rick Warren, sought to address broader issues including poverty, disease, and illiteracy [3]. They rejected the Christian Right’s assertion that America was a “Christian nation” [4]. Rev. Gregory Boyd, in particular, reminded Americans that “Christ’s kingdom was ‘not of this world,’ and world kingdoms were the domain of fallen man”. “To identify the Kingdom of God with that of any version of the kingdom of the world is…to engage in idolatry” [5].

The fractured evangelical community struggled to come to a consensus during the 2008 presidential campaign [6]. Key figures on the Christian Right, including James Dobson and many Catholic bishops, rejected the Democratic Party’s platform supporting abortion and chose to support the Republican candidate, Senator John McCain despite initial concerns over “his reluctance to talk about the ‘moral issues’ and his own faith” [7]. Many of the New Evangelicals after the election, however, submitted an agreeable plan to Barak Obama to reduce abortion without outlawing it, prohibit discrimination against homosexuals with exemptions for religious institutions, outlawing torture, and comprehensive immigration reform [8].

For much of the 21st-century, evangelicals have been unable to agree on what political issues to prioritize. The Christian Right has remained allied with the Republican party while the New Evangelicals have grown more comfortable with the Democratic party [9]. For evangelicals long used to political power in the Republican party and New Evangelicals looking for it within the Democratic party, it is best to remember and continue wrestling with Jesus’ statement: "I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one [10]". Christians will not find a perfect home in either party for neither is the Kingdom of God, but they are still called to work with the government for the good of the society they are presently citizens of.

[1] Fitzgerald, Frances. The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America. New York: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 2017, p. 535.

[2] Ibid. pp. 537-538.

[3] Ibid. p. 544.

[4] Ibid. p. 547.

[5] Ibid. p. 539.

[6] Ibid. p. 540.

[7] Ibid. p. 580.

[8] Ibid. p. 577.

[9] Ibid. p. 585.

[10] John 17:14-15 NRSV.

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