Guest / Limited Access /

Evangelicals apparently have so much political clout that they are poised to install a theocracy, according to some commentators. Such critics don't notice there is little distinctively evangelical about the evangelical approach to politics. The evangelical emphases—on conversion, the Cross, the Bible, and activism—do not themselves amount to a full, independent theological system. Nor do they take us far in understanding politics, which requires at least some grasp of history, government, law, justice, freedom, rights, mercy, violence, and war. Thoughtful evangelicals trying to understand politics often draw on the wider resources of Calvinist, Anabaptist, Anglican, Lutheran, or Catholic teaching.

Still, venerable publications like The New Republic go overboard when they claim that evangelicals merely march to the drumbeat of Catholic thinkers like Richard Neuhaus, Michael Novak, and George Weigel. Yes, evangelical distinctives can be compatible with a range of other doctrines. Hence, we can speak easily of evangelical Anglicans or Lutherans, even of evangelical Orthodox or Catholics. The Economist plausibly took Sen. Sam Brownback, a recent convert to Catholicism, to symbolize growing evangelical international activism on religious freedom, sex trafficking, AIDS, Sudan, and North Korea.

Evangelical activism through the centuries has undoubtedly produced some laudable results. The evangelical commitment to religious freedom predates the Enlightenment, and the ethic of personal responsibility helped produce the civil society that Alexis de Tocqueville so admired during his 19th-century visit to America. But it also produces major problems. Currently, evangelical activism hampers responsible political engagement ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Read These NextSee Our Latest
Also in this Issue
Subscriber Access Only What Happened to Religion in Canada?
How our neighbor to the north lost its faith.
RecommendedMormons and Christians: So Close, Yet So Far Away
Mormons and Christians: So Close, Yet So Far Away
What should we make of claims that the two faiths are on a path to reconciling?
TrendingOld Hollywood’s Abortion Secret
Old Hollywood’s Abortion Secret
What a culture of death tells us about a culture of life.
Editor's PickHow Science Became a Weapon in the Mommy Wars
How Science Became a Weapon in the Mommy Wars
Peer-reviewed research intensifies parenting debates… and can leave us even more confused.
Christianity Today
The Problem with Prophets
hide thisSeptember September

In the Magazine

September 2006

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.