Evangelical Voters, Practice What You Preach
At this moment of alleged political clout, let's look to the Bible, not to political parties, to set the agenda.
BY: Ronald J. Sider
Evangelical political activists are all over the media these days-the cover story of Time, front-page stories in national newspapers, top national TV shows. White evangelicals' overwhelmingly pro-Bush vote was a key in reelecting the President-and pushing the issue of moral values to the center of public debate.
However, before evangelical political activists develop grandiose plans to transform America-or liberals succumb to fears of some new Dark Age-we need to ponder some painful facts.
In spite of a strong evangelical commitment to strengthening moral values in American society, evangelicals are often simply not practicing what they preach. InScandal of the Evangelical Conscience
, I cite poll after poll that shows, as one evangelical leader noted, "that evangelical Christians are as likely to embrace lifestyles every bit as hedonistic, materialistic, self-centered, and sexually immoral as the world in general."
Evangelical political activists talk a lot about protecting and restoring marriage (and I agree). But numerous polls show that evangelicals and born-again Christians (a somewhat broader category) divorce at the same rate as--or slightly more often than--other Americans. And, according to pollster George Barna, 90% of all born-again folk who are divorced did soafter
they accepted Christ!
Evangelical political activists promote abstinence programs to reduce out-of-wedlock pregnancy (and I agree), but the sexual behavior of evangelical youth is not a lot different from the rest of the society. In the last ten years, several million of the most devout American evangelical youth have signed the "True Love Waits" pledge to abstain from sexual activity until marriage-but a massive recent study found that 88% had broken their promise.
Evangelicals have enthusiastically endorsed President Bush's Faith-Based Initiative to allow faith-based organizations equal access to government funds to run social programs that empower the needy (and I agree). But year after year for more than thirty years evangelical giving to their churches to fund and run these faith-based social programs has dropped-even as their annual incomes have grown larger and larger. Only six percent of born-again Christians give the traditional tithe of 10%. The average for evangelicals is a mere two-fifths of a tithe.
And when it comes to racism, Lord have mercy. In a Gallup poll survey on how people respond to having a black neighbor, evangelicals were more racist than everybody else.