Sunday, May 11, 2008

An Evangelical Manifesto: Support "useful idiots."

“Christians should never have a political party. It is a huge mistake to become married to an ideology, because the greatest enemy of the Gospel is ideology. Ideology is a man-made format of how the world ought to Work, and Christians instead believe in the revealed truth of Scripture.” Chuck Colson

An Evangelical Manifesto (EVM) was released on May 7, 2008 by a “group” that wants to be called “Evangelicals”. (They have provided their definition of evangelical.)
I would urge anyone reading this blog to read the Evangelical Manifesto, text or a summary.

The ink already drying, EVM is being attacked. I view those who penned EVM and those who signed, as sincere Christians.

I have read, reread and will read EVM. I have some comments and questions.

The Evangelicals involved in EVM do not speak for the Church or a church, they speak for their purposes:
We speak for ourselves, but as a representative group of Evangelicals in America. p. 2
The two-fold purpose of this declaration is first to address the confusions and corruptions that attend the term Evangelical in the United States and much of the Western world today, and second to clarify where we stand on issues that have caused consternation over Evangelicals in public life. p. 2

What shall the signers be called?
We Must Reaffirm Our Identity Our first task is to reaffirm who we are. Evangelicals are Christians who define themselves, their faith, and their lives according to the Good News of Jesus of Nazareth. p.4

What are the causes to be addressed by the EVM?
“Evangelicals repudiate two equal and opposite errors into which many Christians have fallen recently. One error has been to privatize faith, interpreting and applying it to the personal and spiritual realm only. Such dualism falsely divorces the spiritual from the secular, and causes faith to lose its integrity and become ―privately engaging and publicly irrelevant, and another form of ―hot tub spirituality.” p.15
The other error, made by both the religious left and the religious right in recent decades, is to politicize faith, using faith to express essentially political points that have lost touch with biblical truth. That way faith loses its independence, the church becomes “the regime at prayer,” Christians become “useful idiots” for one political party or another, and the Christian faith becomes an ideology in its purest form. Christian beliefs are used as weapons for political interests. p.15

Shall we blame the Fundamentalist? (A scapegoat?)
The fundamentalist tendency is more recent, and even closer to Evangelicalism, so much so that in the eyes of many, the two overlap. We celebrate those in the past for their worthy desire to be true to the fundamentals of faith, but Fundamentalism has become an overlay on the Christian faith and developed into an essentially modern reaction to the modern world. As a reaction to the modern world, it tends to romanticize the past, some now-lost moment in time, and to radicalize the present, with styles of reaction that are personally and publicly militant to the point where they are sub-Christian.
Christian Fundamentalism has its counterparts in many religions and even in secularism, and often becomes a social movement with a Christian identity but severely diminished Christian content and manner. Fundamentalism, for example, all too easily parts company with the Evangelical principle, as can Evangelicals themselves, when they fail to follow the great commandment that we love our neighbors as ourselves, let alone the radical demand of Jesus that his followers forgive without limit and love even their enemies. P.9

Have the signers realized what George Santayana says in his Reason in Common Sense "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."?
We are not uncritical of unrestrained voluntarism and rampant individualism, but we utterly deplore the dangerous alliance between church and state, and the oppression that was its dark fruit. p. 18
“Not uncritical”, yet many para-church groups say they speak for the church. In another era Roger Williams saw through this flaw and after persecution and suffering avowed, “A free state and a free church.”
“Politics are not the task of a Christian” Dietrich Bonhoeffer

What will be solved? My pessimism
Popular religion” remains extraordinarily difficult to define, measure, and evaluate. What even a preliminary survey shows, however, is that the great flotilla of America’s formal religious history floats on a vast, ever-moving sea of popular Christian practice. (Mark A. Noll in “The Old Religion in a New World.”)

As a layman I have observed a growing unrest among Christians about the political situation. References that a political party was the Christian Party has dread annoyance. I attended a theological seminar in which the questions turned to the issues addressed in the EVM during the question time.

A free state and a free church, we must evaluate and mull over what is taking place with the EVM. I do not want to be schmoozed by some ill informed religious group, nor do I want to be duped. But I want to see the EVM receive a fair minded hearing.

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