Thursday, December 2, 2010

The seduction of American evangelicalism

Has anyone noticed the secularization of the modern conservative movement -- that is to say, that the leading lights of today's political right are no longer evangelical Christians? With Moral Majority, Jerry Falwell and D. James Kennedy all dead and the rest of the "religious right" virtually irrelevant, it seems that "Christian influence" on that side of the political fence has waned.

There's one problem with that outlook: Consistent, comprehensive, historic Biblical Christianity, especially acting as an independent prophetic voice, never truly existed there. Ever.

That sounds nutty except for one fact of history -- the modern conservative movement, which has existed since the mid-1950s, was secular from the word go; evangelicals, generally apolitical, weren't involved until the late 1970s, when they were recruited by conservative fundraisers. And that had the effect of compromising what it truly meant to follow Jesus Christ, suggesting that doing so could be reduced to a few "cultural issues" that -- coincidentally -- could raise a lot of money for the sake of Christian "values."

Of course, it never occurred to us that the secularists would concede on such things as abortion and gay rights, which they really don't care about, in order to win our votes on economic issues and "big government," which have little or nothing to do with authentic Biblical faith. The truth be told, the secular right would have never bothered with us it we didn't have money ourselves and thus had interests we felt we needed to protect.

And therein lay the seduction.

It's become clear that non-believers are now telling us what being a Christian really means. These days we don't need to watch Christian TV to get our daily dose of "Christian" propaganda -- the Fox News Channel will do nicely. Some years ago a friend told me about a conversation she had with someone who had suggested that Richard Mellon Scaife, the right-wing financier and publisher of the Tribune-Review, was a Christian; I assured her, "Scaife's no Christian." This is also why Christian involvement in the "tea-party" movement is so problematic.

So what does that mean? Well, we need to rethink, revisit ... and repent. II Corinthians 6:14 warns us not to "be yoked with unbelievers," and we've clearly violated that maxim. But what about "values?", you may ask. What about them? The devil will give us those -- so long as people don't see Jesus.

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