Evangelicals' Conflicting Interests in Fighting Persecution
With rich social networks and broadcast ministries, the evangelical world has no match in the capacity to mobilize grassroots pressure. From the mid-1990s onward born-again Protestants have provided the groundswell for initiatives against religious persecution, trafficking, and other abuses. This achievement is a testament to the growing reach and sophistication of evangelical leaders, but it did not come easy and is not necessarily sustainable. Despite the popular media image of a disciplined "Christian Right" drawing millions of evangelicals into its fold, Bible-believers have competing impulses toward politics in general and international engagement in particular. These tendencies had to be overcome during the antipersecution campaign and remain obstacles to sustained pressure for continued action.
One impulse in the evangelical community is to withdraw into personal piety or communal devotions detached from the wider world. Many evangelicals remain focused on the individual dimension of the faith, and their churches respond with spiritual succor, therapeutic ministries, and family support, and in some cases even promise personal prosperity. Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam contends that evangelical congregations produce strong bonds among members but do less "bridging" outward.
Contrary to their "fundamentalist" image, most evangelicals are neither militant nor overly focused on politics. Indeed, overt political action often carries the taint of worldly preoccupation, which can distract the faithful from spreading the good news of salvation. Evangelicals can also be hesitant to appear too self-interested in their political efforts. Michael Horowitz found evangelicals apologetic about the past sins of Christendom ...