We're asked 114 leaders from 11 ministry spheres about evangelical priorities for the next 50 years. Here's what they said about politics.

"If we continue to put our faith in a political party or individual, a president or a court, to remedy our fallen nature," says columnist Cal Thomas, "we will be frustrated and disappointed." Even those evangelicals who are not as pessimistic say the future is perilous.

The Reverend A. R. Bernard worries that his congregation of 25,000 in New York City faces radioactive contamination from the failures of the Bush administration and also from fallout against conservative religion as "the conflict between the Muslim and Judeo-Christian worlds reaches critical mass." The radioactive burn will be "a tolerance that is trumpeted under the banners of relativism and universalism."

Family Research Council's Tony Perkins says the wedge issue of intolerant toleration will be gay rights. "As the government condones homosexual behavior, they will have to repress that which speaks against it. In Washington state, several justices have pointed to animosity against homosexuals as rooted in moral and religious positions."

Rudy Carrasco of Harambee Ministries in Los Angeles places hope in new immigrants taking leadership in politics and social action. "I am praying that our other immigrant churches will be like the Chinese churches. In San Francisco, they recently organized an anti-gay marriage march with 6,000 people." Within 50 years, he says, evangelical Wongs, Rodriguezes and Obasanjos will likely lay claim to mayorships in cities like New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Dallas, and Atlanta.

Most of the people interviewed believe that the evangelical Left and Right will gather around core values and issues. Walter Russell Mead, who keeps tabs on evangelicals for the Council of Foreign Relations, suggests that there may be a new "Protestant establishment" arising. "This is a generation that has more sophisticated players and is very much current with strategic thinking, economics, and public policy."

Bernard also sees a new evangelical center arising. "Extreme political reactions can become catalysts, but long-range change is based on a politics of the center." Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners magazine, has championed this idea for years: "We are speaking to a lot more people. Our conference had Sam Brownback and Rick Santorum speak to us on AIDS, Darfur, and poverty. … Something is happening now that I haven't felt in decades."

Father Richard J. Neuhaus says evangelicals will unite in a great 21st-century debate about what is human: "The question is whether there is such a thing as human nature. The biotechnological imperative, driven by scientific curiosity and hubris and the dreams of wealth beyond imagination, is going to be front-stage center in terms of moral challenge to the religious community and to evangelicals in particular."

But no matter the political shape of things to come, evangelicals remain ever optimistic: "Call me an idealist, if you will," says NYC's Bernard, "but the best chapter in the history of evangelicals in modern American life is still to be written."

Tony Carnes | Consulted: A. R. Bernard, Rudy Carrasco, Raymond Kwang, Walter Russell Mead, Richard J. Neuhaus, Tony Perkins, Cal Thomas, Thomas Wang, Jim Wallis.

Related Elsewhere:

More Christianity Today coverage of politics and law is available in our full coverage area.

In the next two weeks, we'll be looking at what evangelical leaders think are the priorities for the next 50 years in 11 categories: local church, youth, missions, publishing/broadcasting, theology, culture, evangelism, higher education, international justice and relief and development.

Christianity Today's other articles on its 50th anniversary include:

Where We Are and How We Got Here | 50 years ago, evangelicals were a sideshow of American culture. Since then, it's been a long, strange trip. Here's a look at the influences that shaped the movement. By Mark A. Noll (Sept. 29, 2006)
Sidebar: 'Truth from the Evangelical Viewpoint' | What Christianity Today meant to the movement 50 years ago. (Sept. 29, 2006)

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