July/August 2008 Church & State | People & Events

An evangelical author has called on his coreligionists to reconsider the value of linking faith and politics and questioned the leadership of figures like James Dobson and Jerry Falwell.

Sigmund Brouwer, an author of Christian fiction, wrote in The Christian Post recently that the approach favored by Religious Right leaders may not be the best.

“Are evangelical Americans, then, expected to be a faceless army, led by generals like Falwell?” asked Brouwer. “Am I a bad Christian to question this assumption before we recruit the next generation?”

He continued, “In answer, I would suggest that the gospel accounts predominately show Jesus as a teacher, not a leader. He questioned religious ideas. He accepted questions about his ideas. We see him engaged in frequent and often good-humored debate, not frequently giving orders.

“As for politics, he insisted that he was concerned about the kingdom of heaven, not earth, and pointedly refused to lead his people against their overlords,” wrote Brouwer. “Yet in rejecting the leadership mantle offered to him, Jesus showed a great understanding of politics. Especially when it comes to faith.”

Brouwer asserted that Jesus “did not invoke his Father’s name to impose moral imperatives on the secular society around him – Greeks and Romans who lived far more hedonistically and with far less regard for human life than today’s ‘Hollywood.’ Unlike Christian boycotters, Jesus did not expect a secular world to live by biblical standards.”

Jesus, Brouwer asserted, changed society by affecting individuals, not by attempting to control the government, writing that he “rejected the power of the sword for the powerlessness and suffering and sacrifice of the cross.”

Brouwer took pains to assert that he believes Christians should vote and be active in civic life.

“But marching beneath a Christian banner,” he continued, “begins to set up an exclusionary group – ‘either you’re Christian and you’re on our side, or you oppose us, thus you can’t be a Christian’ – with results readily seen in the polarization of American politics. There are liberal Christians who want to help the poor and fight for justice.”

Brouwer’s column, appearing in a conservative forum, is certain to extend the argument over the wisdom of evangelical political involvement. While few evangelicals call for a complete disengagement from politics, some have lately been asking if the movement is not too closely tied to the Republican Party.

Polls shows that many evangelicals remain concerned about issues like legal abortion and same-sex marriage, but some younger evangelicals are pushing for a broader agenda that would also include care for the poor and opposition to global warming.

Old-guard Religious Right leaders like Dobson tend to dismiss these concerns. Dobson’s Focus on the Family, for example, frequently asserts that global warming is a myth.