Baptists Debate Evangelicalism

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Baylor historian Thomas Kidd, Southern Baptist leader Russell Moore, and Southern Baptist pastor Thabiti Anyabwile recently came together at the Museum of the Bible in Washington D.C. to discuss American evangelical identity.

Tom Strode covered the event at Baptist Press.  Here is a taste:

The current crisis in evangelicalism, Kidd said, consists of multiple overlapping aspects, including:

— “One, confusion about the term.

— “Two, an impression that ‘evangelical’ may just mean white Republicans who consider themselves religious.

— “Three, a sense that political power may be the essential evangelical agenda.

— “And four, the inability of evangelicals of different ethnicities, especially whites and blacks, to agree on basic political questions.”

Moore said many people who do not attend or belong to a church “will nonetheless define themselves as rigorously evangelical because of the memes they are sharing” on social media. Evangelicals will have to deal with “the decongregationalizing of the movement itself,” he said.

In his talk, Kidd defined evangelicals as “born-again Protestants who cherish the Bible as the Word of God and who emphasize a personal relationship with Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit.”

Anyabwile told of convening a meeting of fellow black, Reformed pastors at which 60 to 70 percent of them said they no longer want to be identified as evangelical.

“I don’t think there are a lot of people who theologically are in fact evangelicals who are actually comfortable and actually embraced by the term,” he said. “That’s a problem. Ethnic minorities are only able to comfortably exist in evangelicalism to the extent that they don’t ‘get too political.'”

Read the entire piece here.

Was It Worth It?

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As many readers know, I am in the midst of the promotional campaign for Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump.  I am sure that the recent retirement of Anthony Kennedy, and his almost certain replacement with a more conservative justice, will be a major theme of my upcoming interviews and speaking engagements.

It is probably premature to think about whether a conservative Trump court will overturn Roe v. Wade.  A lot has to happen before that occurs, but I think it is safe to say that it is more likely today than it was before Kennedy’s announcement.

Abortion remains at the top of the Christian Right agenda.  Trump’s evangelicals care more about abortion than they do religious liberty, gay marriage, immigration, or any other social issue.

When it comes to dealing with the problem of abortion, the members of the Christian Right have been reading from the same political playbook for more than four decades.  It teaches them that the best way to bring an end to abortion in America is to elect the right President, who, in turn, will support the right justices.

But it is not exactly clear how this strategy will bring an end to abortion in America.  If Roe v. Wade is overturned by the Supreme Court, the issue will be sent back to the states.  Abortion is very likely to remain legal in the so-called blue-states, including California and New York (just under 20% of the population), and illegal in many of so-called red states, especially in the deep South.  State legislatures will need to decide how they will handle the abortion issue in the remaining states, but a significant number of them will probably allow abortion in some form.  To put it simply, overturning Roe v. Wade will not end abortion in America.  (I write about this in greater depth in Believe Me).

With this in mind, one must ask conservative evangelicals if getting into bed with Donald Trump was worth it.

Rachel Held Evans put it bluntly:

When Trump appoints a conservative justice to replace Kennedy he will change the ideological make-up of the court for a generation or two.  Conservative evangelicals are rejoicing today.

But what will the witness of the church look like in a generation or two?  How compromised will it be?  And who is asking these questions today?

One person asking such questions is Thabiti Anyabwile, a writer for the Calvinist website The Gospel Coalition and the pastor of an evangelical church in Washington D.C.

He is pro-life on abortion.

Check out Anyabwile’s recent article at The Washington Post: “Overturning Roe v. Wade isn’t worth compromising with Trump, my fellow evangelicals.”  Here is a taste:

And how do we calculate the moral damage and accountability of the harm done to the legitimacy of the presidency itself nearly every day on Twitter and as a Russian collusion investigation continues?

In sheer numbers, more lives are ended by legalized abortion. Christians are correct to focus energy and concern on ending the practice. But in quieter, sometimes less observable ways, the carnage mounts in racial injustice and discrimination.

The potential nomination of a potential pro-life judge does not, in my opinion, alleviate the concerns I have about the racial injustices this same administration seems to multiply each day. What many evangelicals don’t seem to understand is they’re turning blind eyes to their brethren suffering at the hands of this administration for the long-held hope of overturning Roe. I’m for overturning Roe, but I’m also for protecting black and brown lives from racism and the kind of criminalization that swells our prisons and devastates communities or separates families at the borders.

Some Christians appear to have made a Faustian bargain for the mere price of a Supreme Court nominee. The Devil gets the better end of that deal!

Judgment begins at the household of God; that is, judgment begins with Christians. Most evangelical Christians worry about God’s judgment of people who are not Christians. But the Bible calls us to first judge ourselves in light of God’s expectations for Christians. Indifference to other moral issues and forms of suffering call into question one’s understanding of the faith and one’s claim to be a Christian. I can’t tell the difference between true and false Christians, but God surely can. He knows who belongs to Him and who will inherit the kingdom of God. They are the righteous ones whose faith leads them to feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, visit the sick, and visit those in prison (Matthew 25:35-36).

Read the entire piece here.

What the Evangelical Movement Surrendered Last Night

thabitiI agree with just about every word in this piece  by evangelical pastor Thabiti Anyabwile. Here is a taste:

First, the movement has surrendered any claims to the moral high ground in electoral politics. Even though many evangelicals chose Trump while having significant reservations about his character, they nevertheless chose Trump. They did not choose character. To be clear, Mrs. Clinton was not an objectively better moral option. But not voting, voting third party, or writing in, as many said they would, were also options. The lion’s share of evangelicals put character concerns aside and pulled the lever for a man whose character is every bit as “flawed” as President Clinton’s, whose impeachment evangelicals supported. For that choice, as many have already observed, the moral high ground is lost.

Second, the movement has abandoned public solidarity with groups who considered Mr. Trump an existential threat to them. I’m speaking here of the many groups who expressed reservation regarding Mr. Trump’s racism, religious bigotry, misogyny, isolationism, and nativism. People with those concerns came from a lot of groups in the country, including African-American Christians, many themselves evangelicals. At 80 percent, white evangelicalism en masse sided with Mr. Trump over and against the concerns of fellow evangelicals weary of his alienating and divisive rhetoric and campaign promises. Based on correspondence during the campaign and following the election, it seems clear to me that that voting decision will likely put a deep chill on efforts at reconciliation and co-belligerence in the culture. For many, evangelicals expressed solidarity (again) with some of the worst aspects of American history and culture while abandoning brothers and sisters of like precious faith. Coming back from that may be difficult.

Third, the movement failed to escape its partisan bias in favor of more principled and biblical stands. A good number of evangelicals took #NeverTrump positions because they did not recognize Mr. Trump as a bona fide conservative. They felt conservative principles had been abandoned by party leadership. They felt a charlatan had hijacked their political home. But not enough of them sought out a new home, one of their own making based on more sure biblical grounds. Instead, some evangelicals offered “biblical” justification for voting Trump and minimized his character flaws. Others endorsed and vigorously campaigned for him. With last night’s election result, the GOP stranglehold on evangelical conscience and voting may have tightened to unbreakable strength. It may be we’ve reached the point that the only thing that would move evangelicals in more constructive directions would be outright persecution from the GOP itself. Short of that, it’s difficult to imagine evangelicals going elsewhere. This, for me, is all the more discouraging because I’ve long endured evangelicals questioning African-American allegiance to the Democratic Party. “Why do nearly all African Americans vote for Democrats?” they ask. “Isn’t it better if African Americans refuse allegiance to that party?” I resonate with the sentiment; but I wonder if it’s not born in some sense of hypocrisy. If the movement doesn’t escape its partisan pull, its usefulness will be seriously compromised.

Finally, the movement has made its evangelistic mission more difficult with many it wants to reach. A good number of people outside the faith look at the exit polls aghast and angry. Aghast because they themselves cannot imagine supporting a candidate with the personal moral flaws of Mr. Trump. Angry because they’ve watched evangelicals moralize in public for a long time, often shaming people for their sins and moral weaknesses. The vote for Trump creates or amplifies a credibility problem for evangelicals. Why should the unrepentant listen to their gospel when it seems so evident they’ve not applied that gospel to their political choices? “Shouldn’t we view evangelicals as basically concerned with politics over all things?” they ask. Convincing answers will be difficult to find. For many, Christ and the gospel are now bound up—rightly or wrongly—with evangelicals choosing a man with little resemblance to either.

Read the entire piece here.

Evangelical Options in November

Evangelical votersI wrote about this yesterday in the comments section of this post, but I thought I would elaborate a bit more here.

How will evangelicals vote in November?

This post is premised on the belief that evangelicals–while unified around their belief in the new birth, the inspiration of the Bible, and certain core doctrines (Trinity, deity of Christ, Jesus’s resurrection)– are a diverse bunch when it comes to how their beliefs translate into the world of politics.

Here are some of the ways evangelicals have approached, and will approach, the 2016 POTUS election cycle:

1. Some evangelicals will vote for Trump because he will “Make America Great Again.”. These evangelicals backed Trump in the GOP primaries even when there were other evangelical-friendly candidates available (Cruz, Rubio, Carson, Huckabee, Santorum). They include Dallas Baptist pastor Robert Jeffress, Liberty University president Jerry Falwell Jr., and all of those evangelicals who voted for Trump in the southern primaries and elsewhere.  Many of these evangelicals were present at this meeting in September 2015.

2. Some evangelicals will  vote for Trump because if they don’t Hillary Clinton will be elected president and they  will lose the Supreme Court. Most of these evangelicals backed another candidate during the primaries, but they have now turned to Trump as their only option.  They include Mike Pence, James Dobson, Tony Perkins, and Eric Metaxas.  Some of these “anti-Hillary” Trump supporters can come across as very excited about The Donald. Others are going to hold their nose and pull the lever for him.

3.  Some evangelicals continue to oppose Trump and have not made it clear what they will do in November. I am thinking here of Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse (if you can call a Missouri-Synod Lutheran an “evangelical”) and Southern Baptist leader Russell Moore. Perhaps some of these folks are praying that something might happen in Cleveland next week that leads the GOP to pick another candidate.  Others might be praying that an independent candidate will arise at this late date.  These are long shots, but let’s remember that evangelicals believe in miracles.

4.. Some evangelicals will vote for a third-party candidate.  I don’t know of any major evangelicals who have come out in support of the Libertarian ticket or the Green ticket.  If you know of evangelical leaders who are endorsing these candidate please let me know in the comments. I am curious.

5.. Some evangelicals will not vote in the presidential election. They will exercise their civic duty by casting votes in non-presidential or “down-ballot” elections.

6. Some evangelicals will vote for Hillary Clinton.  I am guessing that many evangelical Democrats–including most black evangelicals– will vote for her.  Recently Thabiti Anyabwile, an African-American Southern Baptist pastor in Washington D.C.,  made a case for Clinton at the theologically conservative (but politically diverse–I assume) Gospel Coalition blog.

Is there a category I am missing?

If you are an evangelical (or something close) where do you place yourself?