When I was growing up in the evangelical world, we did not think that it was appropriate to be involved in public life. One of our favorite songs was: "This world is not my home, I'm just a-passing through. . . . And I can't feel at home in this world anymore." We were a faithful band of believers in a world that was headed for destruction. Our main task was to warn others of the wrath that is to come and invite them to join the spiritual minority whose wealth is stored up in a place where moth and rust do not corrupt.

As a graduate student in the 1960s, I became convinced that evangelical Christians should be actively involved in the political process, and I engaged in such activities, often with a sense of deep alienation from the evangelical community. Later, I used my position in academia to call for an aggressive evangelical involvement in movements of social, political, and economic reform.

Currently, I am much more ambivalent about that whole project, given the ways in which evangelicals have become aggressively "public" in their social witness during the past few decades. There are times when I wish I could call off the whole thing, urging the evangelical community to return to its earlier posture of politically passive other-worldliness.

Yet, I am not ready to retract what I said 20 years ago by silencing the evangelical voice in the public arena. The better strategy is to understand the reasons for the current grassroots, evangelical political involvement and to encourage evangelical reflection about an appropriate Christian witness to society.


Like our pietist forebears, we North American evangelicals stress the need for a religion of "the heart." To be a Christian is to experience inner regeneration ...

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