Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The End of Evangelicalism as We Know It? If so, it would be a good thing.

Gordon McDonald, a man who knows too well the destructive impact of scandal, writes for Leadership an article titled "When Leaders Implode--Ted Haggard, self-destruction, and the consequences we all suffer." His article is pertinent to the situation incited by Ted Haggard's conduct but also pertinent to my last two blog entries: here and here. In the latter of these two entries I speak of being an "evangelical" but not a "cultural evangelical." McDonald's essay touches nicely upon this crucial distinction.

I have a fairly poor batting average when it comes to predicting the future. But my own sense is that the NAE (as we know it) will probably not recover from this awful moment. Should it? Leaders of various NAE constituencies are likely to believe that their fortunes are better served by new and fresher alliances.

Ever since the beginning of the Bush administration, I have worried over the tendency of certain Evangelical personalities to go public every time they visited the White House or had a phone conference with an administration official. I know it has wonderful fund-raising capabilities. And I know the temptation to ego-expansion when one feels that he has the ear of the President. But the result is that we are now part of an evangelical movement that is greatly compromised—identified in the eyes of the public as deep in the hip pockets of the Republican party and administration. My own belief? Our movement has been used.

There are hints that the movement—once cobbled together by Billy Graham and Harold Ockenga—is beginning to fragment because it is more identified by a political agenda that seems to be failing and less identified by a commitment to Jesus and his kingdom. Like it or not, we are pictured as those who support war, torture, and a go-it-alone (bullying) posture in international relationships. Any of us who travel internationally have tasted the global hostility toward our government and the suspicion that our President's policies reflect the real tenants of Evangelical faith.

And I might add that there is considerable disillusionment on the part of many of our Christian brothers/sisters in other countries who are mystified as to where American evangelicals are in all of this. Our movement may have its Supreme Court appointments, but it may also have compromised its historic center of Biblical faith. Is it time to let the larger public know that some larger-than-life evangelical personalities with radio and TV shows do not speak for all of us?

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