I was reading a blog post recently that was arguing that the white evangelical community is itself post-evangelical. Whereas previous generations of evangelicals looked to commitment to biblical authority and sharing the faith as identity markers, nowadays a number of white evangelicals look to partisan politics, namely, being a conservative Republican who opposes abortion and gay marriage.
I have to admit that I do get a bit tired of white evangelicals who assume that believing in Jesus and Christianity has to entail being a conservative Republican, just because of abortion and gay marriage. There are more issues out there than abortion and gay marriage, and so I believe that an evangelical Christian can legitimately arrive at the conclusion that the Democratic Party is more in line with the Bible and Jesus’ teachings. Politically-liberal evangelicals have concluded that political liberalism is kinder towards the poor, a prominent concern in the Bible and Jesus’ teachings.
I would not say that being a Christian has to entail being a political liberal, however. An evangelical Christian, who sincerely desires the good of people and of society, may legitimately conclude that political conservatism creates a more favorable climate for business and job-creation, and that commitment to and promotion of old-fashioned values (i.e., faith, abstinence outside of marriage, etc.) will help society and those within it.
For me, the key question is which has priority: faith or political orientation? Is one a Christian who happens to be a Republican or Democrat, or a Republican or Democrat who happens to be a Christian? In my teenage years, I was a Republican who happened to be a Christian. My enthusiasm was for Republican politics, and I saw Christianity as a part of that package. But Christianity at that time did not shape my life, my values, and how I treated people. It was when I committed to Christ that I began to prioritize those things. And, even after that, through all of my shifts in political ideology, I still have to face the question: Which is more important to me—-my partisan political affiliation, or my faith and the values that it teaches?
I cannot say that a lot of white evangelicals put their politics before their faith, for their faith is what shapes how they try to live and to treat people: with love and compassion. In my experience, many of them see their political affiliation as a part of their faith, but it is not the entirety of it. I have noticed my share of exceptions, though. It’s easy for even a sincere Christian (or anyone seeking to be kind to people) to be a jerk and to dehumanize others in acrimonious online political discussions!
I was thinking about this issue a while back, after Ann Coulter criticized sending Christian missionaries to Africa. I was wondering where white evangelicals’ allegiances would lie. Would they choose Ann Coulter, a conservative icon with whom many of them probably agree and root for when they see her on television? Or would they choose Jesus’ command to go forth into all the world to teach about Jesus? As far as I could tell, many of them chose the latter (see here, for example). And that did not surprise me that much. They love Jesus. They believe that Jesus, not Ann Coulter, was the one who died for them, saved them from their sins, and made them see after being blind. Their first commitment was to Jesus.