Despite ongoing cautions about Christian entanglement in state affairs, a new study of clergy suggests political issues are regular topics in the nation's pulpits. In addition, the research findings indicate no one "Christian" view is likely to dominate this fall's presidential election as liberals and conservatives move further apart.
The six-year survey of nearly 8,000 pastors in eight denominations concludes, "The theological divide among Protestant clergy is probably widening, as those in the conservative denominations remain relatively stable in beliefs and identifications, while mainline Protestant clergy seem to be drifting in an even more liberal theological direction." Four political science college professors conducted the research: James L. Guth of Furman University, Corwin Smidt of Calvin College, Lyman Kellstedt of Wheaton College, and John C. Green of the University of Akron. Results will be published next year in "The Bully Pulpit: The Politics of Protestant Clergy" (University of Kansas Press).
According to the analysis, many Bible-believing Christians see political liberals as the enemy. Two-thirds of the most conservative believers say it is difficult to be both a political liberal and a true Christian.
Guth says evangelicals in recent years have been relying more on the political process to bring about reform. "Evangelicals have moved to a position that the government plays a critical role in setting moral parameters and, therefore, government policies do make a difference," Guth told CT.
"This new civic gospel is part of the notion that the Christian Right has tried to develop of America falling away from its Christian beginnings."
Copyright © 1996 Christianity Today, Inc./CHRISTIANITY TODAY Magazine1
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