June 25, 2008

Church, Politics, and the New Dogma

Reported this week by the Pew Forum is that that 50 percent of U.S. evangelical Protestants are likely to be Republican or Republican-leaning compared to 34 percent who linked themselves to the Democratic Party. The survey draws primarily on nationwide polling of more than 35,000 U.S. adults. While this may seem like "politics as usual," it's not easy to compare these statistics with previous polls as the demographics are somewhat different. But what some are indicating is that these numbers reflect a change from previous years in that more evangelicals identified with issues regarded as standard to Republican party platform. But Obama's campaign of "change" is wooing younger evangelicals and we're seeing presidential race more dependent on issues of faith than not.

Relevant to these statistics reported by the Pew Forum is
Most evangelicals, whose denominations teach that Jesus is the sole route to salvation, instead say people who have "led good lives" go to heaven. Only one in three Catholics say their church should preserve its traditional beliefs rather than change with the times or adopt modern practices.
So while those identifying themselves as evangelicals has decreased, so too has their emphasis on doctrinal distinctives. A friend recently shared with me that her adult children are supporting Obama because they identify with the values and issues that are a part of his platform. These same children have zero interest in the doctrinal teachings of the church, finding them irrelevant and misplaced because our church and state needs to focus on the more "practical needs" of people.

I hesitate to suggest that the dogma of the evangelical community is shifting, but it is. This new dogma focuses on the outworking of the church's ministry in the community, but has a blatant disregard for the identity and mission of the church. As a Christian community, we are called to care for the widows, the needy, and protect the vulnerable. But that isn't the end of the mission, that's just the beginning.

The long-time fear among secularists that church and state separation is being breached are protesting little these days because they know that the new dogma of evangelicals has little to do with distinctively Christian practice. And as self-professed Christians continue to protest the exclusivisity of the faith and promote a ethics-based pluralism, secularism and enjoy irreligious nature of a nation entering the gates of post-Christianity.

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