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Just over a month into his job, Wayne Pederson was forced to resign as president of the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB). He did not violate the organization's statement of faith, code of ethics, or constitution. He simply worried aloud about mission drift.
"Evangelicals are identified politically more than theologically," he lamented in a Minneapolis Star Tribune interview. "We get associated with the far Christian right and marginalized . …Sometimes in taking our stands we have allowed ourselves to be typecast and the effectiveness spiritually has been diminished . …We do have a political orientation … but that should not be what we're known for."
He's right. Whether we speak as individual Christians, churches, ministries, or organizations that promote biblical values, we represent Jesus Christ. But we're often seen as indignantly condemning the sins of the world more than proclaiming the good news of salvation from those sins. When that happens, we have only ourselves to blame. Pederson's critics incorrectly accused him of trying to separate the spiritual from the political. But they risk falling prey to an even worse binary distinction common in modern evangelicalism. The only alternative to the politics of hysteria and outrage, this view claims, is disloyalty to the gospel.
When we take this view, we typecast ourselves—not by the positions we take but in the way we proclaim them. The default method for our "engagement with culture" then becomes outrage. We respond to disagreement with demonization and exaggeration. We make our dissidents (even those on small points) into "enemies" and threaten or savage them. Pederson questioned this approach, then found himself the recipient of this kind of angry bullying.