A Response to Rachel Held Evans

August 14, 2010

So right before my wife and I left for Colorado Springs for a pastoral retreat, I read Rachel Held Evans post on the blog at onFaith. I read it with interest, because it seemed to “represent” all next generation evangelicals. I wrote a response post questioning why the prolife cause has been so out of favor with young evangelicals while causes like sex trafficking, etc are chic.

Rachel, to her credit, wrote a thoughtful response that generated a lot of very smart and thoughtful comments. I have had time to think this over the last week and wanted to continue the conversation.

I think its helpful , as Christians, to engage each other. While we were in Colorado, we had the chance to hear Jim Daly, the new man in charge at Focus on the Family. I was encouraged by his approach to cultural issues. He expressed his desire to stand for family issues, but to also engage the other side, to see them as human. As a conservative myself, I wish our politics had more of this.

The engagement of Christians and politics has always been messy, but perhaps some well-thought-out perspectives would help us.

We tend to stereotype the other side. Perhaps its the influence of talk radio and opinion TV (cable news shows that I refuse to watch anymore.) Their ratings may be up, which many on the conservative side of the aisle point to as evidence they are “speaking for the people.” I think they are dumbing down the people, offering heated opinion without context or nuance. As Christians, its easy to get sucked into the entertainment side of this, its easier to see Obama as a socialist, Bush as a crazy war monger, all Republicans as greedy corporate shills or all Democrats as liberal, culture-eating scum. Its easier to create enemies in our minds than to engage people and to love people as Jesus loved. That doesn’t mean we stop advocating for the causes dear to our hearts, but to assume everything evil about the other side hurts discussion and progress and definitely is an obstacle to the Great Commission.

False assumptions Because its easier to stereotype people, its easier to assume and assign bad motives. I see this on the conservative side of the ledger. Many Christians have convinced themselves that the President is hell-bent on destroying the country. (Why a President running for reelection in two years would want to dig his own grave is beyond me.). Now, you may disagree with his policies, but do we know or have the right to judge his motives? I don’t think so.

The same goes for the other side. I am chagrined, especially to see all prolifers dumped into the “shoot abortion doctors and do violence at clinics” category. That is a gross mis-characterization. Most prolifers fight in the trenches day in and day out, advocating for public policy and caring for young mothers and hoping to educate the public on the tragedy of abortion (a tragedy even Hillary Clinton acknowledged). A tiny, small, infinitesimal percentage even remotely think violence is a good thing. Let’s remember that every movement has its extremists. The abolition movement had its John Browns–did that make slavery a bad cause?

I also think that writers like Rachel Evans and Matthew Turner sometimes assume that everyone who believes in creationism is unthinking and that everyone who believes the end-times scenarios of Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins or others are just nonrational morons who want to sell their stuff, move the mountains, and wait for the Rapture. That’s really not fair. Just like its not fair to assume young evangelicals concerned about social justice are just wimpy, Obama-supporting socialists.

Causes Ala Cart, Rachel Held Evans admitted that perhaps some causes are chic to twenty-something evangelicals and some are considered political. Because the prolife battle has been around for several decades now, perhaps evangelicals are tired and want to move on. Or perhaps they rightly feel we have been too one-issue focused and need to have a more full palate of biblical issues of justice. I would agree with the latter. I think the cause of sex trafficking, for instance, should be front and center, as should religious freedom, poverty issues, HIV, etc. But that doesn’t mean we should give up the prolife cause. It, too, is an issue of justice.

Now, perhaps the rhetoric of prolifers could be updated for a new generation and our rhetoric could be more loving. I would agree. And maybe we need to focus on the issue, how we can make a difference, one-on-one, in the culture, emphasizing the power of grace and the Gospel, rather than the hard-edge of politics. I think this is where Rachel and I agree. Why can’t both parties work together to reduce the number of abortions?

And the truth is that for too long conservative political organizations and politicians have used the prolife issue as an easy way to guarantee the votes of Christians, waving the Bible and flag in an insincere attempt to get votes. That’s why I’m enthused to see more and more prolife Democrats.

Adding to the Bible One of the major beefs of our generation of evangelicals is that we feel politics has added many layers to our set of Christian beliefs. In other words, in addition to the very biblical cause of prolife, traditional marriage, etc, we’ve glommed on talking points like tax cuts, prowar, immigration, etc. Sadly, many seekers assume that to be a Christian means to be a Republican, as if upon conversion you are not only indwelt by the Holy Spirit, you’re also registered to vote in the GOP primary. Sadly, I think many Christians have decided to see the world through the eyes of Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, and Glenn Beck rather than through a biblical worldview. Now, a biblical worldview may cause you to agree with Fox, Rush, and Glenn at times, but hopefully it should cause you to disagree at times. I hope.

Politics as the hope of the world. Mainly, Christians must live . . . like followers of Christ. That is to say we are different. We have the life of Christ in us. We have the Holy Spirit indwelling us. So our thinking, acting, doing should be vastly different. Which means we have to reject an “end-justifies-the-means” mentality to politics. It means we should be known for our balance of grace and truth. Not backing down on what we believe, but also speaking the message with love, knowing that ultimately, it is God, not our clever arguments, that changes hearts. It means we should be thoughtful, slow to speak, pondering every issue through the lens of Scripture. It means we should love our enemies, even those whose worldview is vastly different. It means the Great Commission should be our priority, the Church should be our focus, and love should be our motivator. It means we shouldn’t put our faith in on party or the other, one leader over another, one election over another. Because ultimately, our hope is in something and Someone greater.