The Evangelical: An Updated Conception

When the word “evangelical” appears in the media, it is commonly associated, or even equated, with the religious right and a socially conservative standpoint. During both the 2000 and 2004 elections, evangelicals were closely associated with opposition to issues such as gay marriage and adherence to traditional family values; due to their strong affiliations with these standpoints, they were credited with turning out in huge numbers to support Bush and, by many, were credited with winning the election for him. Although the social issues most commonly associated with evangelicals are still of significance to them, evangelicals are certainly not, as a group, completely preoccupied with them as is clearly indicated by the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE).

When looking at the home page for this group, the news is dominated by issues concerned with human rights such as opposition to torture and the modern-day slave trade, not to gay marriage and abortion. Perusing through their values reveals that this group identifies “ministry to the poor” and “cross-cultural involvement” among their top eight concerns. According to one article, the NAE are also expressing a growing concern with global warming. Although not all evangelicals feel that the NAE presents rational standpoints on these issues, it is significant that evangelicals have shifted their focus, and it would be a mistake to predominantly associate them with the social issues that were prominent even just a few years ago in the 2004 elections.

1 comment:

John Galt said...

It's not even clear that evangelicals have "shifted" their focus. Charity, not hurting others, and cross-cultural involvment (the latter at least in the form of missionary work) have been a part of Christianity for quite some time. It seems fair to say that the media, "liberal dominated" or otherwise, tends to focus more on issues that many view as violation of basic rights. This somewhat motivates the question of whether a society can have good morals not grounded in religion. From our readings, I guess liberals would say "Yeah, duh" whereas consevratives would say "Sure, but given our history we only stand to lose by divorcing our national morals from religion too quickly."