It must be the week for stories about how evangelical Christians are turning their backs on Republican politics. Laurie Goodstein's New York Times piece on Gregory Boyd is still rockin' the charts, even driving Boyd's book from #32,738 to #54 on Amazon. Darrel Rowland had an interesting piece in The Columbus Dispatch a few days ago about Ohio megachurches that avoid political activity. Ohio is in the midst of an interesting gubernatorial campaign, with the Democrats having their best chance in years. I think this has something to do with a series of corruption scandals involving Republicans. Heck, the current Republican governor was convicted of some crimes (his approval rating bottomed out at 6.5 percent in late 2005!) yet refuses to step down. Anyway, the Democratic candidate is doing pretty well in a rather Republican state. Rowland talked to pastors at three megachurches to learn more about how they handle political activity:
As political activity exploded among religious conservatives in recent years, a certain profile of a politically active church emerged:
Evangelical Christian. A growing megachurch, defined as more than 2,000 in attendance. Predominantly white. Loose or no denominational ties. Often located in suburbia, not far from an outerbelt.
Such churches and affiliated groups are under the microscope these days for their role in picking a president and possibly Ohio's next governor.
What's often lost is the fact that many evangelical Christians are uncomfortable with the increasing intermingling of religion and politics. In reality, a majority even of those churches that fit "the profile" intentionally remain on the political sidelines.
I wonder whether these stories represent an actual change of thought among megachurch pastors or whether this divide has always existed. I really don't know. It would be nice to get a bit of perspective in future stories. I figure there will be future stories because reporters all over the country will probably write local versions of this and Goodstein's story, giving the impression that this is a huge trend. And it may be, I don't know. Is there any way to substantiate political activity among evangelicals and whether it's on the decline? Anyway, here's more from Rowland's interviews with the pastors:
[Rich] Nathan, 50, pastor of the Vineyard since 1987, said, "We think the Gospel has political implications, but it's not partisan. And we don't think that either the Republicans or the Democrats have the sole possession of the implications of the Gospel."
[Jim] Leffel, 48, who has been with Xenos [Christian Fellowship] for 16 years, said, "We're very concerned that the white evangelical church in America is almost becoming . . . guilty of adding to the Gospel itself through social identity, namely (the) political right for the most part." . . .
"We never want to communicate to somebody that comes here that they've got to go through two conversions in order to come to Christ," [Nathan] said. "We don't want to have somebody believe that first I must be converted politically from wherever I'm coming from politically, in order to then come through that to Christ."
Photo via Lukewho on Flickr.