Through this long election campaign, the theme of "evangelicals and politics" has surfaced again and again. Endorsements from high-profile clergymen have been sought—and then discarded. Candidate appearances have been scheduled in churches, charities, colleges, and other places important to evangelicals. Party platforms have been modified with evangelicals in mind. And staff have been hired specifically to find out the best possible answer to one fundamental question: What do evangelicals want?
A spate of recent books by evangelicals provides a set of windows through which we can see what evangelicals want. And what they want is not what everyone is used to thinking evangelicals want.
The first feature of these books is their moderation in tone, as even the late D. James Kennedy writes, "God created only one country in the history of the world: ancient Israel. He did not create America. The United States is not the new Israel." Southern Baptist leader Richard Land freely acknowledges the plurality of religions in contemporary America and insists that church and state must be rigorously kept separate. In short, there are no advocates for theocracy in any of these books. As Kennedy memorably puts it, "Jesus is not on the ballot."
At the same time, there are no broadsides against America, either, no easy "Amerika" jibes, no wholesale denunciations of the United States' leaders, its military, its corporations, and its popular culture, as we have been led to expect. Instead, Ron Sider leads the way in calling evangelicals to a responsible engagement in politics that will increase justice, morality, compassion, security, prosperity, and freedom for all.
This responsible engagement, furthermore, is seen by almost all of these ...1