If someone says “evangelical Christian” and “political party” in the same sentence, which party comes to mind?
No one who follows national politics could deny that white evangelicals by and large see themselves, and are seen by politicians, pundits, political operatives, and the public in general, as being effectively married to the Republican Party. When evangelical leaders comment on the GOP, they are apt speak of “we” and “us.”
I think that it is a grave disservice to the cause of Christ that in the public mind Christians are now almost universally seen as an integral part of the “base” of one party. Does it have to be said that God is neither a Republican nor a Democrat?
Yet we live in a day when many pastors so much identify “Christian” with “politically conservative” that they endorse conservative politicians, invite them to speak in their pulpits, and feel no qualms about instructing their congregations that they should vote for conservative candidates.
By creating the impression that the Republicans are the “Christian” party, the evangelical establishment brings upon Christianity responsibility for all the shenanigans (voter suppression attempts, pandering to racial resentment, etc.) that party and its politicians may choose to engage in.
Moreover, is that kind of heavily partisan political involvement even an appropriate role for people identified in the public mind as primarily representing the cause of Christ?
Many evangelicals believe that Christian leaders are called to speak prophetically to the nation and its leaders. For example, Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, has said that evangelical leaders, as embodied in the National Association of Evangelicals, should serve “as a prophetic witness for life, family, religious liberty, stewardship and justice.”
But you simply cannot with credibility mix the prophetic with the political. In our society today, no one listens to evangelical leaders as speaking prophetically because they are so identified with one political party they are dismissed as just another special interest group trying to get their guy elected. In effect, they have chosen being political over being prophetic.
The issue is not whether Christians as individuals have the right to affiliate with and advocate for a particular party. Of course they do. The real question concerns those who claim the title of Christian leader, and who present themselves not only as speaking for the evangelical church as a whole, but by implication, for God Himself. Is it appropriate for such high profile individuals, in their role as Christian leaders, to present evangelical Christianity to the public mind as an appendage of a particular political party, be it Republican or Democratic?
I think not.