Saturday, July 17, 2010

Douglas Groothuis on the political rift within Evangelicalism

You can find it on Patheos here.  Professor Groothuis writes:
Between Christians "Right" and "Left," there is a widening gap both relationally and ideologically. Principled Christian conservatives -- who prize limited, Constitutional government, secure borders, individual liberty, the protection of unborn human life, the traditional family, and a strong national defense -- find it difficult to accept that fellow believers would vote for a man, Barack Obama, who denies all of these things and who promised to "fundamentally transform America." We conservatives want no such thing, but rather that America should live up to its founding ideals.
We are concerned that the Christian Left often accuses us of not caring for the poor simply because we do not view the state as the primary means for their empowerment. Rather, we favor a society of opportunity over a society of entitlement, massive civil government, and excessive regulation. We want to see the energies of the church, voluntary associations, and individuals let loose as opposed to constrained by a messianic state that views itself as the primary arbiter of wealth and opportunity. We know full well that the Bible speaks much of helping "the poor and the oppressed," but we are not convinced that left-wing programs best accomplish that task and benefit society as a whole.
Having been part of the evangelical Left for a few years as a young man -- reading Sojourners regularly, as well as books by Ron Sider, Jim Wallis, William Stringfellow, and others -- I now view that approach as na├»ve, unworkable, and ultimately detrimental to America. While no Christian should put a human ideology above the Kingdom of God or the Bible, I find a classically conservative approach to be more biblical as well as successful historically. Statism, in all its forms, is idolatry; it robs citizens of their freedoms and consolidates an unprincipled power for itself. I look to writers such as Edmund Burke, the American founders, and, more recently, William F. Buckley (Up From Liberalism), Richard John Neuhaus (The Naked Public Square), and Francis Schaeffer (A Christian Manifesto) for inspiration on political philosophy.
The causes of the political tensions between evangelicals are, to some degree, matters of misunderstanding. Some of the causes of tension are unavoidable, however, since conservatism and modern liberalism are two very different animals. For the sake of civility and Christian charity, each side needs to make the case biblically, historically, and empirically that its ideals should win the day.
There are several others who published essays in the discussion in which Professor Groothuis' essay appears. You can read them here


Doug Groothuis said...


Thank you for posting this.

Doug Groothuis

Francis J. Beckwith said...

You're welcome. I think your comments are right on.