Tuesday, December 19, 2017

What is an Evangelical? (II)

A long time ago, I wrote in this space about "What is an Evangelical?" Reading it today, I am amazed at my own perspicacity, and I generally still agree with myself -- although I'm surprised that back then I didn't know who Rick Warren and Joyce Meyers were; and Michael Gerson has since become a valuable conservative pundit. Richard John Neuhaus has since died.

But the question of "what is an evangelical?" gains added steam today because of the election of 2016, in which a large majority of self-identified evangelicals voted for D. Trump.  Because of this, there are some among the minority who didn't who are no longer willing to call themselves evangelicals.  (Roy Moore of Alabama, running as an ultra-conservative evangelical but accused of sexual misconduct, also comes in for some blame for this.)

But this is the logical outcome of the political identification of evangelicalism with conservatism -- and not just conservatism, but specifically anti-abortion/pro-life conservatism. If a candidate is on the "right" side of the single issue that concerns you, then no other trait of his can be of any relevance.  The result is that we have Donald Trump, who is willing to gut healthcare, give tax breaks to the already wealthy, trash the environment, break up and deport families, and give barely-coded support to white supremacists -- but who will appoint judges who might someday in the future make abortions somewhat harder to get. (Gay marriage, too. Evangelicals today are very supportive of government control of what people do with their reproductive systems.) This is totally aside from his rebarbative personal qualities.

So a lot of people are saying, finally, "count me out." I was already out of evangelicalism in that sense, but I'm glad to see the scales falling from many people's eyes.  I would love to see evangelicals move away from the right, and cease to be running dogs of the Republican Party. Unfortunately, I don't see this happening in anything like the degree I would welcome.

LATER: Some additional thoughts from Timothy Keller in the New Yorker (!).

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