Sunday, September 13, 2009

Not As Easy As Evangelical = Conservative.

I'm as guilty as anyone of tossing around slippery terms to define religious groups that challenge, oppose or condone particular policies at issue in my discussions. Over at KillingtheBuddha, my other sometime home, a discussion, initiated by John D. Boy's Icons of the New Evangelicalism, has sprung up about the future power of American evangelicals. Responds Boy to a commenter who takes issue with his use of terms and analysis of the current vibrancy of evangelicalism:

When informed opinions about the future of evangelicalism in the United States so clearly diverge—with some arguing it is inevitably on the decline and others seeing it firmly established in the halls of power—that’s a pretty sure sign that change is underway somewhere beneath the surface, making itself felt through “a great variety of morbid symptoms.” The question is, what kinds of changes in the general orientation of evangelicalism can we expect? Against the general linear, left-right mappings of these changes, I wanted to give room in my thinking and writing on this issue to the unexpected: People like my friend, an evangelical minister and socialist, who preaches about Jesus, the Bible and Judith Butler, prays for the end of corporate domination, and risks imprisonment at antiwar marches. Or another friend who rejects secular music but speaks about blockbusters more than about being born again. Or the girl I know who is crazy about the Holy Spirit but still has time to worry about how her tattoos impact her sex life. We know anecdotally and from opinion polls that the story is not as easy as evangelical = conservative.

And in this vein, where we fail at our conversations about religion, amongst ourselves, in the media, and in politics, is often with the definitions. Because I am many times writing about the pro-choice issue of assisted suicide, it is assumed that I am an athiest or someone opposed to religion. Nothing of the sort. My grandparents were Mennonites; I went through catechism in college. I love faith and religion as much as I fear them.

Putting ideologies and loyalties into silos just isn't a viable approach to religion, particularly, as Frank Schaeffer notes in my prior post, we wish to understand the political climate enough to regulate how religion is used as a tool by those with nefarious motivations. If you agree with even a shred of this, spend some more time at KillingtheBuddha where their manifesto includes, “a religion magazine for people made anxious by churches, people embarrassed to be caught in the ’spirituality’ section of a bookstore, people both hostile and drawn to talk of God."



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