The 2008 election of Barack Obama reinvigorated an ongoing discussion within evangelicalism about the nature of its relationship to the political order. It is a discussion that will almost certainly receive a new infusion of energy during the 2012 election cycle. But analyses of evangelical captivity to politics and purported generational shifts in ideology have come close to reaching a saturation point, bringing evangelical introspection to the edge of exhaustion. Of the writing about evangelicals and politics, there is apparently no end.
Marcia Pally's America's New Evangelicals: Expanding the Vision of the Common Good (Eerdmans) is one of the latest attempts to understand the direction of evangelicalism's political priorities. For Pally, the emergence of the "new evangelicals"—figures like Tony Campolo, Shane Claiborne, and David Gushee—reveals important shifts, in both substantive beliefs and habits of engagement. She sees this movement as "new" because its members embrace "beliefs and practices that have advanced religion, liberal democracy, and just economic distribution." She contrasts the new with the "old evangelicals" (though Pally does not call them that), whose political engagement she believes has been sullied by allegedly "prototheocratic yearnings" and an attachment to free-market capitalism. The new evangelicals, she argues, allow religious convictions to shape their political vision, but nevertheless "support pluralism, economic justice, and liberal democratic government." Whether the new evangelicals are championing ideals wholly different from their forebears, or simply imbuing them with different meanings, is not ...1