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Why Last Saturday's Political Conclave of Evangelical Leaders Was Dangerous

The 150 evangelical leaders who met behind closed doors on January 14 to anoint a Republican candidate for President were wise not to have invited me.

I believe that Christians have an urgent duty to engage the social, economic, and moral threats to a healthy society. That requires a wide variety of political action. However, one thing it doesn't call for is playing kingmaker and powerbroker.

By conspiring to throw their weight behind a single evangelical-friendly candidate, they fed the widespread perception that evangelicalism's main identifying feature is right-wing political activism focused on abortion and homosexuality. In truth, it is hard to imagine the Religious Left in 2008 doing something similar: holding a conclave to decide whether they would throw their collective weight behind either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, unwilling to leave the Democratic primary results to the voters.

I am jealous for the reputation of evangelical Christians. And so are a host of other Christian thought leaders. In 2008, Presbyterian pastor (and Christianity Today board chair) John Huffman gathered a broad-based group to affirm and lend support to a defining document, entitled "An Evangelical Manifesto." The broad coalition included key seminary presidents, leaders of Hispanic evangelicalism, tall-steeple pastors, and leaders of key parachurch ministries. There were even denominational leaders: the national commander of the Salvation Army was among the first to sign up after the charter signatories.

The Manifesto explained that evangelicalism is defined by its beliefs, its piety, its compassion, and its mission activity. The Manifesto was largely positive, but when it finally turned negative, it strongly ...

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Past Imperfect
David Neff
David Neff was editor in chief of Christianity Today, where he worked from 1985 until his retirement in 2013. He is also the former editor in chief of Christian History magazine, and continues to explore the intersection of history and current events in his bimonthly column, "Past Imperfect." His earlier column, "Editor's Bookshelf," ran from 2002 to 2004 and paired Neff's reviews of thought-provoking books and interviews with the authors.
Previous Past Imperfect Columns:
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Why Last Saturday's Political Conclave of Evangelical Leaders Was ...
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