Elite Evangelicals: Good News or Bad News? (Patton Dodd)

Hi Hanna, Jeff, Jerry, Michael, and David,
Welcome one and all. Each of you has already made significant contributions to the matter at hand—either by fostering it, covering it, or studying it—and I’m glad for the chance to bring your voices together. I’ll get things started, then step aside and let you all at it.
Let’s begin with a broad observation, and a question:
Evangelical Christians have not grown much in number in this country in recent decades, but they have certainly grown in prominence and influence. As Michael Lindsay’s new book “Faith in the Halls of Power” shows, evangelical leaders today are not only visible figures like James Dobson, Rick Warren, or even George W. Bush; they are also professors at leading colleges and universities, managers of Fortune 500 companies, well-networked figures in government offices, and creators of respected art and entertainment. Evangelicals are part of the American elite.
This news should not necessarily be unusual or surprising, though it may be to some, including evangelicals who have long felt themselves to exist in the cultural backwaters of the U.S. But it’s worth asking about the short- and long-term effects of these elite evangelicals on American life. Based on what you have observed and experienced, how do you feel about people with evangelical beliefs working at the highest professional, political, and cultural levels? Are powerful evangelicals good news or bad news for America?
I look forward to your responses.
Patton Dodd

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Harlan Hiltnre

posted October 17, 2007 at 2:52 pm

I find delusion exists on almost every level and in almost any subculture. Spirituality is liberating and enlightening. Religion however useful it may be in teaching morality is binding and limiting. Unfortunately those that were in the positions mentioned before the evangelicals arrived probably also wore colored glasses but they did not have a theological mission in mind. That can and is a huge difference. I do not wanted to be ruled by the Taleban or the Evangelicals because in my mind they are both religous zealots and not interested in fair and open dialogue.

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Gavin Young

posted October 18, 2007 at 12:24 am

I agree wholeheartedly with Harlan; the word “evangelical” presupposes the idea of pushing a particular agenda at all costs and no, they are not interestd in fair and open dialogue because they’ve made up their minds as to what constitutes the “Truth” and are hell bent on pushing that agenda on everyone else…it’s really rather scary. I recently heard of an evangelical outreach program called “The Truth Project”, which focuses on giving people a “biblical worldview” and shows them how far we as a country have strayed from this “ideal”. It infuriates me that evangelical Christians have elevated their message to be “The Truth”…can you imagine that kind of arrogance? I could go on and on, but won’t…I find this issue terribly pressing and it must be met head on…the Netherland, and Scandinavia look more inviting all the time…and by the way, I’m a Christian!!

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Alan Lunn

posted October 23, 2007 at 6:00 am

I too am a Christian and former atheist who wandered through the Evangelical wonderland for many years. I used to yearn, also, for the Republican hegemony that was finally and disappointingly realized in recent years. At the end of the Republican revolution was….what?
There was also the issue of Creationism and then Intelligent Design for which I had hoped there would be a slot in our science classes. That is, until last year, when I realized that evolution is not only valid but does not rule out a Creator.
I think the evangelical church, and the church as a whole, though seemingly wielding great political power, is on the verge of a makeover from within. The Modernist conception of the church with regard to the Post-modern culture we are moving into is a round peg in a square hole. The church has to change.
I don’t see any decidedly evangelical candidates now running for office. Perhaps the Moral Majority is now an anachronism. There was a big send-up for awhile, but the firecracker was a dud. And change is good. We have that behind us. A stronger, more loving and imaginative church will emerge. Our vision will be more holistic and inclusive than it has been.

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Mike Gramig

posted October 23, 2007 at 11:12 am

I follow this discussion thread with great interest. It has, however, reinforced my understanding of the dynamic of evangelicalism in the halls of power. Power is very seductive and dillicult to exercise. The potential for inflicting great harm is great.
In evaluating whether it is a good or a bad thing, part of the proof is in the puddin’. The last six and one half years of policy “leadership” by our self-proclaimed evangelical president have been an unmitigated disaster by almost every criterion of good leadership – except the success of this evangelical to aggregate power.
That brings me to the issue of “truth.” Truth is the ultimate manifestation of power. He or she that possesses “Truth” and acts upon it exercises the greatest power. Unfortunately, no human being will ever in this world possess Perfect Truth. To use Christian terminology, only God is perfect Love and hence, perfect Truth — “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). The danger to all human beings is to forget that any understanding of Truth that we may possess can only be understood as “truth” with a small ‘t.’ It is incomplete and will always introduce error in our efforts to exercise power in all of its other iterations (physical, political, financial, beauty, and , yes, religious power.)
I would have liked to have seen another evangelical leader included in this dialogue, Jim Wallis. I recommend to all readers to consider the blog on his book “God’s Politics,” at to balance the discussion of how evangelicalism is affecting public policy and its potential for better results than have heretofore been seen.
Keep up the pilgrimage, seekers.
In veritatis amore.

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daniel mccormack

posted November 1, 2007 at 2:28 pm

end game equals peace?

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posted November 15, 2007 at 1:12 pm

I recently had a falling out of sorts with a friend from Slovenia. As you know that country is still shaking from its experience with Yugoslavia and NATO…imagine growing up in country paranoid of its neighbors…my friend became a hardcore/punk/rocker who hates organized religions especiall Christianity, hates Bush, hates governments (Anarchist)–her and her group (and they are many) believe that Evangelicals or Right Wingers are part of secret societies such as Skulls and Bones, Illuminati, and the Freemasons ( who control the world-via banks, pharmaceuticals, corporations..). The growing number of Evangelical Christians in power causes this group of people/kids to be more paranoid and hopeless…their statements are all over youtube (try typing freemasons)–seems as if nobody is listening to them…I would like to see or hear Evangelicals in power reach out to kids like my former friend…

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