Sunday, August 17, 2008

What do you think? Leading the new evangelical voter...

The headlines today are of McCain and Obama with Rick Warren at Saddleback in Orange County. I'm looking for opinion on the statement made below that jumped off the page at me.

The quotation below comes from this article.

'Rick Warren is at the forefront of a kind of younger generation of evangelical Protestant leaders who want to have a Christian public presence in the culture, but who are less tied to the Republican politics of their predecessors,' said Andrew Walsh, the associate director of the Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life at Trinity College, in Hartford. 'They're values-oriented guys, but less convinced that either their own principles or the best politics lies in a total commitment to the Republican Party.'

No doubt that younger evangelical voter is less Republican and more 'values-oriented.' I am (registered Independent). And I find this to be the general pulse of my generation and younger.

But is Rick Warren at the 'forefront'? Does my generation and younger look to him as a leader in this? Or is he more akin to our parents' generation?

What do you think?


Dale Fincher said...

Ryan George made this comment over on the facebook syndicate of this blog:

"I haven't watched the Forum footage yet. I've never read a single Warren book. I'm not sure I've ever heard him speak. He seems to me, from the press clippings, like a neo-Dobson but without the Fallwell-esque partisanship.

I'm not sure my age bracket values Warren's political involvement more than John Stewart's satire and sarcasm. We are the generation that likes to think we think for ourselves more than any other.

One of my closest friends is a newly-converted atheist. He was a Republican up until a few years ago. Due to the conservative party's claim to represent God-backed morality, he grew a disdain for them that carries now over into his believer world view. His pending vote for Obama is almost a protest against heavy-handed Christianity--even though he is now a fireball for God and an evangelistic machine on the personal level.

For me, personally, I've abandoned the idea that the government can or should legislate morality. That's the church's cultural role. So, I don't expect my values to be represented in Washington or Richmond. As a small business owner, I vote for capitalism and minimal (by comparison) government. I end up back at the same candidate but for different reasons--and definitely not because anybody told me to."

Emily said...

I mean...the man has a goatee and wears hawaiian shirts, I wouldn't say that he represents my particular generation. =) I definitely see him as a progressive (relatively speaking) leader of my parents' generation. He's leading lots of people, probably mostly people their age, in a similar direction that our younger generation is going, but I certainly wouldn't say that he's my go-to leader. And still I would imagine that he might be several steps behind in terms of still being tied-up with the Christian Right, but maybe I'm just making assumptions.

Dale Fincher said...


What do you mean when you say 'legislate morality'? I hear the rhetoric a lot, but I can't help but think that if there's anything a law is supposed to do, it is supposed to give us moral boundaries to keep us from trampling on ourselves and others. Murdering is a moral issue, but that's also why we have laws about it...

Maybe you can help me see what you mean.


Emily, your description of Warren's wardrobe reminds me of a Calvary Church model... at least it's very Southern California. I've never really related to that style myself.

I think you are right in the appeal to or parents' generation. What concerns me about mega-churches like his (and others) is that it generally does not attract thoughtful creatives, from what I can tell. Rather, I find it largely a spiritual social engineering, the kind that candidates like. That language may be too harsh, so I mean it in a mild way.

bpiflier said...

Good question! I guess I get as guilty of clich├ęs as the fundamentalists I criticize.

I don't think a secular entity can bring life to the human moral condition. The New Testament says the Law brings death (different law, I know, but same idea).

There is a societal morality; and government--to some varying extents--can control the outward morality, the behavior (if not the heart). In a representative government where majority (whether actual or vocal) determines the makeup of government, the government will hold no higher moral compass than the cultural consensus.

So, our US government can reflect our morals; but it's highly unlikely to coerce those morals in either direction. If it lowers its cultural standards (as in Roe v Wade), it doesn't lower the morals of those who believe more strictly. A stricter government might gain conformity, but I'm no sold on the idea that it can change true morality. The Prohibition is a great example of this.

The Amish, the fundamentalists, the Bill Gothard wing of Christianity . . . they continue to hold their beliefs--as does everyone in between them and hedonists.

So, to affect the culture of the government and the culture at large, you have to interact with the populace first. This strategy, as currently evidenced in the Ukraine, has seen hoards of evangelical believers move into government roles. As their hearts change, so do their laws.

The government is not without hope. I believe we should be politically engaged. But our motives behind it must not rest on implanting our moral code on the culture. That's just a soft-edged rebadging of the Crusades, Islamic terrorism, the Dark Ages, and state religions.

Lin said...

"What concerns me about mega-churches like his (and others) is that it generally does not attract thoughtful creatives, from what I can tell. Rather, I find it largely a spiritual social engineering, the kind that candidates like. That language may be too harsh, so I mean it in a mild way."

Since I attended one for 16 years, I can tell you that your description is spot on. But I would add another: Great business contacts.

Yes, I am cynical about mega churches. :o)

Dale Fincher said...

Lin, I totally believe there are great business contacts in that setting... a lot of successful businessmen I know do tend to enjoy that kind of pizzazzy, happenin' environment. And those are the same ones non-profits target for donations with their spreadsheets of effectiveness. What is sad to me is that many businessmen look at non-profits like businesses... they want to see the bottom line of success, not understanding that the spiritual life doesn't work in numbers. Many do not have spiritual vision, but they do know how to crunch numbers. So they end up giving to relief organizations where they can see numbers and call it a success. I'm all for helping these organizations, but there are many creative start-ups that could use money, who don't play the pizzazz game...

Lo, I'm tipping my hand too much. I grieve for the modern church.

Thanks for your input!