Where Is the Conservative Evangelical Voice in Today’s Cultural Tsunami?
By Rev Thomas Littleton
You may not self-identify as an evangelical or even be a fan of the Reagan Revolution revivalists, but if you are a conservative in America you are a stakeholder with those who stand against the progressive tidal wave sweeping our nation.
In the past, evangelicals have been at least a predictable part of the base. This is no longer the case. Now greatly divided and hosting a variety of scripted talking points, the former powerhouse of the “Moral Majority” style conservatism is sending forth an uncertain sound to its constituents.
Once highly visible and vocal representatives carried the torch into the mainstream media and cultural debate like warriors in the arena of Rome. These gladiators of the Faith may not have all been void of egos and self-interest, but they were outspoken with clarity. We would have a very difficult time today pointing out even one such champion as D James Kennedy of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) or Jerry Falwell of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). Perhaps many even on the conservative side will say “Good riddance” but let me sound a word caution before any celebration on the right.
First, let us consider what has replaced the once clarion call rallying the faithful to be heard in the forum and at the polls. Those voices have been replaced by echoes.
Change You Will Find Disturbing
The conservative Christian denominations are re-branding and their political rhetoric is softening in the name of Christian love and social justice. Today the mantra most often heard is, “We want to be known for what we are FOR, NOT what we are AGAINST.” Born out of the “compassionate conservatism” of the Bush era is a new evangelical tune. It may market nicely and keep the proverbial heat off the backs of evangelical leaders, but this presents a problem however given the timing of this new détente and the business with which the conservative evangelical community is now occupying itself.
Having adopted the new mantra amid the hot bed of progressive activism means that evangelicals have allowed themselves to be emotionally blackmailed into not openly opposing anything. No issue is more telling than the redefinition of marriage and the broader conservative Christian community’s virtual nonresponse or to the sweeping LGBT agenda being forced upon us all. So, if the Evangelicals are NOT engaging the war being waged against them, and they have instead crafted a unified policy of non-engagement, then the question begs: who gave the non-marching orders? What is being done instead? And, of course, the big one….WHY?
The New Talking Points
I am a very conservative SBC minister and have not been the most politically engaged, yet I could not help but notice the sudden change in our own in-house talking points in 2013. The SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission announced a leadership change and with it came sweeping new disengagement. Many understood it to be the sounding of retreat, if not full surrender to a “lost culture war.” Russell Moore – long time seminary professor at the flagship SBC institution Southern Seminary – took the reins of the ERLC and declared an end to hostilities between the LGBT community and the SBC. Given the coming tsunami of gay marriage and transgender access rights, the timing of this retreat was something between a tactical error and outright sabotage of the conservative evangelical base.
Perhaps this just what you get when you send an academic into the gladiators arena? Of note should be Moore’s replacement for engagement in the political arena. Moore began to sound the Social Justice mantra of leftist Christianity known as Communitarianism. Instead of being culture warriors we are now to be bleeding hearts for helping the poor and downtrodden of society and – guess who our partners are to be in fulfilling this not so great commission? Answer – the LGBT powerhouses of the Human Rights Campaign and the ARCUS Foundation to name a couple. And whose money will these new “partners” be spending? Yours and mine. Absurd? Impossible? Never? Take a deep breath and read on.
New Partners and Their Talking Points
The Faith Based Neighborhood Partnerships (FBNP) under the Obama administration has created a host of odd bedfellows pursuing federal, local and private grant money for “the common good”. These programs began under the Bush administration, but were reformed under Obama and (unequally) yoked together in the President’s Inaugural Advisory Board was the SBC Executive Committee’s Frank Page and activist organization heads of the HRC and ARCUS (Islamist) along with the usual suspects of the left. The result is a misfit strategy for the conservative evangelical camp who are actually undergoing a revival of conservative theology while at the same time becoming more socially progressive. The end product is a sort of spiritual bipolar disorder which defies common sense. Interestingly, the FBNP reforms went beyond assembling the eclectic group of partners to actually establishing a Faith Based Department within every federal agency. Here are just a few of the things which prove problematic for conservative evangelicals in these partnerships:
- The reforms call for OVERSIGHT by the funding agency and the recipient is viewed as a government contractor.
- The sweeping LGBT non-discrimination order of President Obama did not include the needed Religious Exemption clause sought by Rick Warren and other SBC pastors signed on to the programs. HRC and ARCUS spend millions fighting such exemptions.
- The Reforms actually forbid any faith based religious activity, such as Bible studies, prayer, or passing out religious materials/instruction while administering the programs. The evangelicals market these programs as ministry but “ministry” is forbidden.
- The end game for the administration is control. The flood of tax money poured into the programs actually goes away in time leaving only the private funding from foundations and corporations, and of course the church’s resources are exploited and its mission redefined under federal government control. Also the clever coordination of dance “partners” with the evangelicals have given unprecedented leverage for the LGBT activists to force their agenda on and into the heart of the evangelical camp. This effort is complete with tool kits, like communist training manuals scripted to enlighten the poor conservative believers into changing their minds on homosexuality and helping “conflict them” if they do not. Here is the ARCUS Foundation funded tool kit. Human Rights Campaign has its own version called a Christian Conversation Guide. The unwitting target of this persuasive effort would never suspect he or she is being manipulated by the well trained LGBT activists.