Roundup on faith and politics

Kathleen Parker assesses the crack-up of the Religious Right here. She seems to present two alternatives – the Religious Right’s failed and counterproductive strategies and “shrill and nagging” tone (as someone in the article put it) on the one hand – and a kind of personal-pietist withdrawal on the other, where faith is expressed in the home, not in public. Many of us think there’s a better third alternative.
John Meachum seems to make a similar assessment in response to the most recent American Religious Identification Survey. The Survey reports a ten-point drop since 1990 (from 86 to 76%) in people identifying as Christians, and a simultaneous doubling (from 8 to 15%) in “the number of Americans who claim no religious affiliation.” Like Parker, Meachum sees more Evangelicals retreating from politics in light of the dismal results of the Bush years …
Meachum and Parker may be right in their assessment (although again, I think there are better alternatives than bad public engagement and no public engagement), but I am concerned that some conservative Evangelicals and fundamentalists (the two are hard to separate at times) are going to go in another direction in the coming years. Some of us remember that groups of so-called Theonomists back in the 70’s and early 80’s were training people to use weapons in preparation for an armed revolution (using, of all things, Oliver Cromwell’s revolution as their model). Tutored and motivated by secular preachers like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Glenn Beck and their many religious counterparts, some conservative Evangelicals and fundamentalists, I fear, could be too easily whipped into a political frenzy leading to actual violence. A pastor I know recently heard a neighbor of his express the need for armed vigilante resistance to a nation that is going “socialist,” obviously echoing certain radio and TV talk show hosts. Other friends have told me of an increase in racist remarks among conservative friends. I hope that leaders among conservative Evangelicals will realize that they have a choice to make among three options – to fuel these extremist sparks into flame, to tacitly approve of them through silence, or to attempt to douse them fast.
On a more positive note, Becky Garrison interviews David Ramos, a leader in the Latino Leadership Circle, here and here. In my opinion, the LLC models the kind of integral mission that we need – not withdrawing into a privatized faith, and not playing political games using the debased tactics of politics either, but instead, bringing Jesus’ gospel of the reigning of God to bear on all levels of society.