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The New Christian Right I.Introduction A.It’s ‘New’ because evangelicals had been heavily involved in politics in the 19 th century (anti-slavery, Sunday.

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Presentation on theme: "The New Christian Right I.Introduction A.It’s ‘New’ because evangelicals had been heavily involved in politics in the 19 th century (anti-slavery, Sunday."— Presentation transcript:

1 The New Christian Right I.Introduction A.It’s ‘New’ because evangelicals had been heavily involved in politics in the 19 th century (anti-slavery, Sunday closing laws, humane treatment of Native Americans, prohibition, public education, the Progressive Movement and government action against industrialization or raw-capitalism abuses, etc.). B.The Secular Revolution (fueled by urbanization, modern science and technology, economic prosperity and intentional organized effort to displace the Protestant public ethos with a secular one) and rise of Protestant Liberalism on one hand combined with rise of Dispensationalism among most evangelicals (infatuation with end- times prophecy, pessimism about the last days, and the imminent return of Christ) caused many evangelicals to exit culture or politics and see it as unrelated to the church’s mission. In the 1950s and 1960s, Falwell said that a preacher would be judged by God for becoming involved in politics. They felt safe, however, in the South and rural parts of the country (still more numerous) even if elite centers turned secular. The paradigm shift was seen as happening somewhere else, not small-town America.

2 C.First stirrings prior to the 1970s – Democratic Party elected JFK (Catholic) in 1960; Barry Goldwater nominated as Republican 1964; George Wallace ran as an independent in 1968 (all of this weakened white evangelical tie to Dems). So what caused the shift to the GOP and Rise of the New Christian Right (political reawakening)?

3 II. Rise of the New Christian Right (NCR): The Causes Evangelicals began to climb the socio-economic ladder (1940-1960, white SBC averaged just under 8 years of formal education; by 1970 it was 11). With more money and education they acquired a new interest/stake in politics as well as more resources to engage it. Theological divisions came first (then cleared up w/ divorces); the progressives vs the orthodox. Religious camps in the past were typically denominational; alliances across denominational boundaries were rare. But, in the 20 th century, theological orthodoxy became the most important dividing line among the religious, not denomination. Traditional Catholics discovered they had more enemies within Catholic circles than among the evangelicals (same could be said of Protestants regarding their own denominations). In the 20 th century, churches responded to theological liberalism by splitting off (PCA) or reforming from within (SBC). Today, what matters most in Protestantism is orthodox belief (evangelicalism), not church affiliation (sharing pulpits increasingly common; Falwell). These theological alliances provided the framework for future political alliances and organizations in the Christian Right (Pat Robertson - Charismatic, D. James Kennedy - Presbyterian, and Jerry Falwell - Baptist).

4 ‘Status Politics’ and Emergence of Culture War issues, especially as partisan issues (that is, when parties and candidates took sides, religious views on culture war issues became divided not just theologically but now along party lines as well). Dramatic increases in and moral acceptance of teen pregnancy and births (% of births to unmarried teens grew from 15 to 70%), illegitimacy (5% 1960 to 40% today, much more dramatic for minorities with blacks, for example currently at 70% up from 22% in 1960), crime, pornography, # and rate of abortions (million a year), television content (Seinfeld’s “The Contest” vs The Andy Griffith cast), sexualization of youth culture/entertainment (and stat associated rise in promiscuity), working mothers, cohabitation, age and likelihood of marriage, ratio of divorces to marriages (.26 to.51), social acceptance of homosexuality, % children living with both married bio-parents (88 to 65), juvenile delinquency (17 per 1000 juveniles to 55); disintegration of traditional family; Supreme Court opinions involving abortion, secularization of public schools, school prayer, homosexual rights, creationism, sex education, suicide, gender indifferences, pornography and first amendment, etc. Read p. 108-109 of Brewer and Stonecash. Media – The NCR drawing on its institutional base (churches), took advantage of technological advancements and opportunities (from radio and television to webcasts and satellite, “Justice Sunday”). 1000 of 9000 radio stations are religious.

5 Influenced by the approach of NeoEvangelicals (Carl Henry) and Reconstructionists (D. James Kennedy; Graham and Christianity Today) – prior to the 1970s, evangelicals largely believed (as good fundamentalists and dispensationalists) that this world did not matter much (‘so heavenly minded they’re of no earthly good’). In fact, things were going to get irreversibly worse just prior to Christ’s return (prophecy). The church should concern itself only with saving souls, not ‘worldly’ things like politics (weapons of our warfare are not carnal). But the NeoEvangelicals and Reconstructionists, for different reasons, successfully convinced the others that God commands Christians to be concerned with all fronts/spheres in God’s World and Christians must reject the division of human affairs into “sacred” and “secular” categories (Francis Schaeffer called the philosopher of the Christian Right – stretch though); rather the Lord is Lord over all (including politics; i.e., render unto Caesar; redeem the culture; kingdom work extends to politics; etc.). "When I was growing up," recalls Fundamentalist Pastor Keith Gephart of Alameda, Calif., "I always heard that churches should stay out of politics. Now it seems almost a sin not to get involved.“ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aKUYqXOuNxM&feature=related http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aKUYqXOuNxM&feature=related http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zUMuUWpgokQ&feature=relatedhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zUMuUWpgokQ&feature=related (4:25 mark)

6 A giving people – evangelicals give money and time. They give lots of money and time. They give more money and time than other more casual religious & non-religious people. Not only do they give lots to their churches, but they give significantly more to other religious and non-religious non-profits (including charities and political interest groups) than others. They are more likely to believe they should and less likely to make excuses when they don’t than others. The NCR, with all of its fund-raising and group membership drives, have thrived on this. Two Waves - first, occurring in the late 1970s, was at the top (in D.C.) with narrow lobbying groups; the GOP and DEM parties sort of took sides with Reagan speaking the language of evangelicals (Connerly vs Reagan answer to D. James Kennedy’s question); however, little success changing public policy during Reagan years. Second wave came after Pat Robertson’s failed presidential bid. Controlled by secular conservative strategists, featured grassroots mass membership organizations (Christian Coalition), different more inclusive/secular language and style (defending not Christian America but Family Values), and more inclusive of political conservative agenda rather than Biblical morality (not just anti-pornography and abortion but also for term limits, strong defense, and Balanced Budget Amendment, and tax cuts. Second wave far more successful as evidenced by Republican Revolution in 1994 and the Contract with America.

7 III. Who is the NCR? Evangelicals, but disproportionately fundamentalist (fewer confessional and reformed folk). Historian George Marsden jokes, “A fundamentalist is an evangelical who is angry about something.” A fundamentalist, though no longer apolitical, is typically far more politically concerned about the moral behavior of non-believers than other evangelicals. Groups – Started with the Moral Majority, then the Christian Coalition, now the American Family Association (but also, Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, Center for Reclaiming America, Alliance Defense Fund, Traditional Values Coalition, Concerned Women of America, Eagle Forum, etc.) People – James Dobson, Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, D. James Kennedy, Tony Perkins, Chuck Colson, Phyllis Schaffley IV. Changes in the NCR – though the number of NCR identifiers and sympathizers has not seriously changed since the early 80s, the NCR has experienced a few changes: Less visible in the GOP – Many believe that the 1992 GOP convention hurt the Republicans because so many keynote speakers were NCR representatives (Pat Buchanan, Pat Robertson). Today, they are rarely allowed to speak at the GOP and the few that do have softened their rhetoric.

8 Focus a bit less on national elections and more on state and local political issues (gay marriage; abortion) Has occasionally expanded its issue list, but this has been hard (why include lower taxes and immigration reform? Why exclude environmental policy? Appears to be more “mainstream” and less organizational and peripheral inside the GOP. A gradually growing group of evangelicals share the same values on cultural issues, vote GOP, but have more diverse views on other issues and do not like to be identified with the NCR. They would laugh at my Lord’s Prayer joke. V. Assessing the success of the NCR Some have argued that the NCR has been ineffective given its goals. Abortion is still legal, cultural change (“moral decline”) has only increased more rapidly, no significant number of evangelicals elected to major offices, GOP inaction in terms of policy priorities, DEM party liberalized even more after 2000. This has led many, including some of its earlier leaders and founders, to declare it a failure and seek alternative (non- political) solutions to perceived cultural problems (see books by Cal Thomas, “Blinded by Might” and David Kuo, “Tempting Faith”). Politics is ‘downstream’ from culture. Also, consider GOP candidates. Evangelical influence?

9 – Internal Criticism remains – from its inception, some argued that Schaeffer’s original vision was never realized or embraced. The movement never really developed (or allowed themselves to be informed by) a coherent biblical worldview of all life FIRST. Rather, it simply became a lapdog of the GOP with no public theology worked out at all (Ready, Shoot, Aim! OR the God Says That Settles It approach). There was no intellectual-theological reformation among evangelicals, just a UNcaged-tiger knee-jerk reaction to cultural displacement and rise of secularism and liberalism. Basically, the internal critics (usually the Neoevangelical crowd) argue that unlike Catholicism and the Reformed and Confessional tradition, the Christian Right did not get the ‘cart before the horse’ (public theology before political activism). It exposed itself to and tasted political power without a firm theological basis and got ‘captured’, embarrassed, frustrated, scorned and mocked. It was merely floundering about with no underlying anchor. Others point to GOP success (elections); evangelical voter mobilization for GOP, Supreme Court appointments, Democratic moderation in the 90s, return of faith in politics (Obama) and a few minor victories here and there as evidence of success. On the cultural front, a significant resurgence of the mind in evangelicalism and prominent evangelical scholarship; also, rise of major evangelical players among elite places of influence and power (White House, Harvard, Wall Street, Hollywood, etc.).


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