The Evangelical “Center”

I have been reading several books this summer, one is David Gushee’s Great Book, The Future of American Politics: The Public Witness of the Evangelical Center.

David Gushee, author of, Kingdom Ethics -a book that has been transformational in my young Christian life – argues that there is a rising Evangelical Center (which I would say that I am apart of ) that is gaining strength in para-church organizations, churches, politics etc.

I have recently realized how stuck I feel, in not only he Christian political world, but in the Christian social/moral world as well. The recent emergence of the evangelical left has, in some ways given me great joy, but their position – or lack of – on some issues and their occasional usage of patchwork Biblical truth makes me cringe. It seems to embody much of what I didn’t like from the evangelical right, although focusing and ignoring different issues.

Several organizations and leaders such as Jim Wallis & Sojourners, Tony Campolo & Evangelical Association for the Promotion of Education, Call to Renewal and even Brian McLearn (to name a few) have influenced Christian life. But honestly, so has James Dobson & Focus on the Family, Tony Perkins/(Family Research Council) and Jerry Falwell & Thomas Road Baptist Church (mostly because I grew up in Lynchburg and much of my discipleship was through Thomas Road Baptist Church & its ministries). I am not making a claim that these influences have been good or bad, but rather that this is the reality of who I am. Galvanizing towards either the Evangelical left or the Evangelical right feels dishonest and inauthentic. I, almost, equally have qualms with both sides and rejoice with both sides.

After reading the Gushee’s book I realized that there are a host of other organizations and leaders that have influenced me and that have been resonated with me on a deeper level than either those of the Evangelical right or left; David Gushee, Ron Sider & Evangelicals for Social Action , John Perkins & Christian Community Development Corporation (CCDA), Noel Castanolles & CCDA, the Evangelical Environment Network, the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, Tony Evans, Christianity Today, and World Vision. I will say part of this realization is because Gushee is arguing for the presence of an Evangelical Center so he makes sure that the evidence is there. But apart from that, I realize that throughout my life these organizations and leaders have represented more of my own heart and mind than those on the left or right.

I would advise anyone, interested in how Christianity and and American political system works together, to read this book. Gushee starts by affirming the need of Christians to be involved in the public and political sphere and then defines the Evangelical right, left and center. The rest of the book (which is where I am) is focused on the beliefs of the Evangelical center (Toture and Human Rights, Marriage and the Law, Creation Care and the Climate Change B

I welcome and embrace the emergence of an Evangelical Center that shares no party loyalty and that focuses on a variety of social and moral issues. For me, it seems the most correct and most Biblical approach to the involvement with Christians in politics and society. However, I am realistic enough to realize that often groups galvanize towards the extremes. Does anyone one believe that an Evangelical Center can have longevity and if so how do you believe that will be accomplished? Also, I wonder what those in the Evangelical Right and Left think about this new center, do they dismiss it, embrace it? Do they try to annex some the evangelical center into their own camp? There are a vastness of questions and contemplations that are relevant.

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Also, it is worth it to check out this C.S. Monitor article about the book. The article influes a 15 minute interview with Gushee in which he gives elaboration and backround for his book as well as an explination of the classification of the Evangelical Center (he also makes some great comment about the current Presidential election).

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