Jim Wallis to Religion Reporters: Stop Stereotyping Evangelicals

Jim Wallis, President of Sojourners, urged religion reporters to stop stereotyping evangelicals in an op-ed for The Huffington Post. A group of activists and bloggers responded with an open letter to Wallis claiming that his charge is “unfair and unsubstantiated.”

“Millions of evangelicals are neither conservative Republicans, part of the Religious Right, nor members of the tea party, and they don't believe that Christian 'Dominionists' or any other religious group, should take over America – despite what a rash of recent articles and commentaries have said,” Wallis wrote in his Sept. 29 editorial for The Huffington Post.

Some liberal news publications have tried to advance the notion that politically conservative Christians are influenced by “dominionist” theology which seeks to impose an Old Testament “theocracy” onto the American public. The charge has been widely rebuked by conservatives.

With Wallis' article, and a USA Today editorial by religion reporter Mark Pinsky, which Wallis cited in his article, voices from the left side of the political spectrum have now also debunked the claims.

A profile of presidential candidate Michele Bachmann by Ryan Lizza for The New Yorker brought the issue to the fore. In that article, Lizza erroneously attributes Christian Reconstructionsim, or what he calls “dominionism,” to influential evangelical theologian Francis Schaeffer.

As with many evangelicals of her generation, Bachmann was influenced by Shaeffer's work. Bachmann, by extension, must be a “dominionist,” Lizza concludes.

“We have the most theocratic Republican field in American history,” Michelle Goldberg wrote in an Aug. 24 column for The Daily Beast, a liberal website. Goldberg used Lizza's article to support her claims.

The belief that Christian Republican candidates are “closet theocrats” influenced by “reconstructionist” theology is common in the liberal blogosphere. Due to lack of empirical evidence or scholarly research on the topic, the mainstream press has largely ignored the claims.

“I'm as left wing a Democrat as they come, and I have lived among and reported on evangelicals for nearly 20 years. Let me tell you, this sensational, misleading mishegas [Yiddish for 'craziness'] has got to stop,” Pinsky wrote.

A group of liberal bloggers and activists have written an open letter to Wallis condemning his op-ed and his praise for Pinsky's words.

“You may recognize some of us as people who have written in recent years about such tendencies in modern Christian evangelicalism as dominionism, apocalyptic demonization, Christian Reconstructionism, and the New Apostolic Reformation. We see these forces as playing a significant role in our religious and political lives,” the letter states.

“These exclusionary Christian movements and tendencies are real, overlapping, and significant in evangelicalism specifically and in our political and electoral culture at large. We invite our readers to consider that there are aspects to these movements and tendencies that are profoundly problematic, and we invite you to consider that as well.”

Neither Lizza nor Goldberg signed the letter. At least three of the signers work for American's United for Separation of Church and State, which appears to be the main group behind the letter.

In a blog post introducing the letter, Rob Boston, Senior Policy Analyst for American's United, repeated the false claim that “Christian Reconstructionists like the late Rousas John Rushdoony laid the intellectual groundwork for today’s Religious Right.”

There has been no response from Wallis on the Sojourner's website. Wallis was traveling on Monday and unavailable to provide a response to The Christian Post.

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