The Times and Evangelicals

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There they go again. Sunday's New York Times featured yet another installment in its continuing saga about the "evangelical crackup." Like previous reports, it was a case, not of news, but of wishful thinking.

This episode told Times's readers about how Governor Mike Huckabee's candidacy is supposedly creating a split between young evangelicals and the "old guard." According to writer David Kirkpatrick, they are drawn to Huckabee because he believes "in a Christian obligation to care for prenatal 'life' and also education, health care, jobs and other aspects of 'life.'"

The Times quotes a scholar at the Pew Forum who argues that this "new agenda" combining "cultural conservatism with an economic and foreign affairs populism" might "undermine the existing Christian conservative political leaders and their organizations." Well, if that were so, I guess the result would be the long-awaited, devoutly wished-for, "evangelical crackup."

But as I said, this is not the first time the Times has predicted such a "crackup." Back in October, the same David Kirkpatrick pronounced the evangelical movement dead because its leaders were split on candidates. In the same edition, Frank Rich said that Inauguration Day would be Armageddon for the "ayatollahs of the American right."

Only a year ago the Times told readers that the issue of global warming had split evangelicals between conservatives and liberals. It was a manufactured story, based on the fact that some leaders did not sign one particular statement. The Times did not bother to ask us why not. But all evangelicals are concerned with the environment.

And the Times supposes the evangelical movement is doomed because younger evangelicals are enthusiastic about Huckabee? That's funny, because I thought young, enthusiastic voters would be a sign of vitality, not rigor mortis. Besides, how dead is the movement that keeps scaring these columnists into writing article after article?

As I wrote in my book God and Government, Christian leaders should not make partisan endorsements. Neither should the evangelical movement be in the hip-pocket of any political party. Instead, as good citizens, Christians bring righteousness and justice to bear on public life while never allowing ourselves to become a special-interest group.

Thus, the fact that some evangelicals support one candidate and others support another is an encouraging sign that we are not monolithic, led by a few partisans. This is not a sign of a "crackup"; it is a sign of health.

What's more, saying that Governor Huckabee's concern for the poor is something "new" for evangelicals is laughable. What does the Times think that Prison Fellowship has been doing for the last 32 years working with the poorest of the poor in prison? Or World Vision in feeding the hungry, or rescue missions in the inner-city taking care of the homeless? From fighting slavery in Sudan, to ending sexual trafficking, to bringing relief to AIDS victims in Africa, evangelicals have been at the forefront of virtually every major human-rights movement in the past decade.

No, what the Times sees as a sign of "crackup" is actually a sign of strength—the kind of strength that probably causes the journalistic "old guard" to gnash their teeth and rend their garments.

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From BreakPoint®, January 15, 2008, Copyright 2008, Prison Fellowship Ministries. Reprinted with the permission of Prison Fellowship Ministries. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or distributed without the express written permission of Prison Fellowship Ministries. "BreakPoint®" and "Prison Fellowship Ministries®" are registered trademarks of Prison Fellowship