Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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January 6, 2006
By: Amy Sullivan

WHO SPEAKS FOR EVANGELICALS?....Atrios wants to know who, if not Pat Robertston or Jerry Falwell, should be thought of as a spokesperson for evangelicals, or at least someone evangelicals themselves think of as a leader. It's a good question, and one that I wish more tv bookers would ask.

I need the caveat, of course, that the evangelical community (and even the conservative evangelical community) is very diverse and doesn't have one acknowledged leader. But given that, there are a few different groups of people who should be (and sometimes are) featured as evangelical voices. For religious leaders, there are Ted Haggard of New Life Church and the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), Rick Warren of Saddleback Church, Brian McLaren of Cedar Ridge Church, Joel Osteen of Lakewood Church, Rod Parsley of World Harvest Church, and Franklin Graham (Billy's son). Political voices include Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention, Richard Cizik of NAE, Joseph Loconte of the Heritage Foundation, and Michael Cromartie of the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

And then, of course, there are your white liberal evangelicals (Jim Wallis, Ron Sider, Tony Campolo) and your black evangelicals (Herb Lusk, TD Jakes).

As for Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, their heyday was twenty years ago; the only reason they're still booked as talking heads is that most producers don't know these two men no longer have any power. But more than that, they're just not representative of today's evangelicals. Robertson is a Pentecostal and Falwell is a fundamentalist, and while you could broadly say that most Pentecostals and fundamentalists are evangelicals, not all evangelicals are Pentecostals or fundamentalists. That's why some of the more extreme theological statements you hear from those two (God let 9/11 happen because of gays and women and the ACLU) aren't shared by a lot of evangelicals. That's not to say that many evangelicals (and some of the names I mentioned) don't hold intolerant, troubling views. But when we criticize them, we should be able to distinguish between widely-held beliefs and the wacked-out positions of a couple of has-beens.

UPDATE: Whoops...managed to leave the granddaddy of them all--Dr. Dobson--off my list.

Amy Sullivan 11:04 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (96)

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As for Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, their heyday was twenty years ago

Robertson claims his 700 Club gets a million viewers daily. not a lot, compared to Oprah's 7 million, or Rush's 10+ million. but then again, Chris Matthews is typically below 300,000 daily. while he's not the King Of All Media, Pat's still a bit of a playa.

Posted by: cleek on January 6, 2006 at 11:07 AM | PERMALINK

The evangelical movement would be greatly served by publicly distancing itself from these nutjobs, would it not?

Posted by: Chocolate Thunder on January 6, 2006 at 11:07 AM | PERMALINK

> Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, their heyday was
> twenty years ago; the only reason they're still
> booked as talking heads is that most producers
> don't know these two men no longer have any power.

Oh really?

> But more than that, they're just not
> representative of today's evangelicals.

Really oh really?

Current events, including the election of 2004 and the structure of the Bush Administration, would seem to contradict your statements.

Cranky

Posted by: Cranky Observer on January 6, 2006 at 11:08 AM | PERMALINK

I'm still waiting to hear Robertson explain why God was punishing those 12 coal miners and the 11 soldiers killed in Iraq yesterday. For that matter, why did God kill Reagan a few years ago? And are we supposed to believe that God will never punish Pat Robertson in a similar way?

Posted by: Oregonian on January 6, 2006 at 11:12 AM | PERMALINK

Cranky,

Robertson doesn't run the Christian Coalition anymore, Falwell wasn't involved with the campaign. There's no question EVANGELICALS had a role in Bush's reelection, but you can't jump from that to saying that Pat and Jerry are typical and powerful evangelicals.

Posted by: Bubba on January 6, 2006 at 11:14 AM | PERMALINK

I think Jimmy Carter vs Pat Robertson is close enough.

Posted by: Gary Sugar on January 6, 2006 at 11:17 AM | PERMALINK

One other thing that would be nice is if the media noticed that not all Christians are conservative. It would be nice to hear from Dr. James Forbes of Riverside Church in New York more often, or John Thomas of the United Church of Christ. These men lead huge congregations, and their beliefs are totally unlike those of Falwell and Robertson.

Posted by: Boots Day on January 6, 2006 at 11:23 AM | PERMALINK

I have one: Brent Walker, of the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs. He'd be a great resource for reporters who seem to call Barry Lynn out of habit.

Posted by: Scott Martin on January 6, 2006 at 11:24 AM | PERMALINK

I am not religious at all myself, but Joel Osteen comes across as an extremely kind person. But I think he swears off getting involved in talking about political issues. Perhaps there is a connection there...

Posted by: Jesse on January 6, 2006 at 11:25 AM | PERMALINK

Um, George Barna?

As a sort of quasi-semi-evangelical with emergent leanings, I'm really hard pressed to see either Robertson or Falwell as evangelicals. I don't think Falwell is truly fundamentalist either, not of the Bob Jones ilk.

But the fact that we're even talking about this suggests that the community of Jesus-followers has lost its way. More and more are talking about a new reformation. But Christ, honestly, who wants to go through all that stake-burning again?

Posted by: Phil on January 6, 2006 at 11:25 AM | PERMALINK

Amy,

A mind is a terrible thing to waste.

Posted by: jerry on January 6, 2006 at 11:26 AM | PERMALINK

weasely answer - name one leader who's more prominent than robertson and falwell, who clearly is a more reasonable representative spokesperson AS AN INDIVIDUAL than either of those two. Or admit that those are the best individuals to select as representative.

Posted by: matt on January 6, 2006 at 11:27 AM | PERMALINK

Part of the problem is that most evangelical denominations are completely decentralized (for theological reasons -- i.e. see Baptists)...thus, they don't have leaders per se. I guess whoever gets on tv (which many eschew) and develops some sort of following becomes an "evangelical leader" for media purposes.

Tim LaHaye is someone somewhat loony but with far more influence than Robertson or Falwell today.

Posted by: Nathan on January 6, 2006 at 11:27 AM | PERMALINK

...and just as Democrats (or Republicans) speak out when one of their number takes a lunatic, bigoted or otherwise unconscionable position and take their errant compatriot to task, so should evangelicals. But I haven't noticed such, though I don't pay much attention to the ilk. Anyone else seen/heard Pat and Jerry called to account by their brethren?

Posted by: Stewart Dean on January 6, 2006 at 11:28 AM | PERMALINK

Interesting question, since we get constant posts from bigots like Daniel Pipes asking, "Why don't ordinary Muslims condemn [insert quote lunatic cleric or politician]?"

Pat Robertson is among the worst that evangelical Christianity has to offer, and when he says this, or that 911 is punishment for not persecuting gays, all we here is crickets chirping.

Therefore, by the standards of Daniel Pipes, we have proved that Evangelical Christians support the idea that 911 was the fault of toleration of gays, and Ariel Sharon's stroke was retribution from God.

Posted by: Matthew Saroff on January 6, 2006 at 11:32 AM | PERMALINK

Of course, the Grahams are the obvious choice. as an institution Wheaton comes to mind.
Christianity Today is easily the most influential evangelical magazine.

But with hundreds of evangelical sects and denominations you simply can't treat evangelicals as a monolithic mass with leaders or "representatives"...

Posted by: Nathan on January 6, 2006 at 11:32 AM | PERMALINK

Of course, the Grahams are the obvious choice. as an institution Wheaton comes to mind.
Christianity Today is easily the most influential evangelical magazine.

But with hundreds of evangelical sects and denominations you simply can't treat evangelicals as a monolithic mass with leaders or "representatives"...

Posted by: Nathan on January 6, 2006 at 11:32 AM | PERMALINK

The Democrats should do their utmost to link Robertson to Dobson, et al. and today's Republican party; and force the latter to forcefully and repeatedly disavow him...or better, try to weasel out of doing so.

Corruption, Incompetence, Religious Extremism

Posted by: Wombat on January 6, 2006 at 11:33 AM | PERMALINK

Stewart Dean, Matthew Saroff:

I have seen Falwell and Robertson criticized by evangelicals. Just because it isn't covered in the media doesn't mean it didn't happen.

Posted by: Nathan on January 6, 2006 at 11:34 AM | PERMALINK

TV, radio, and print corporate agents "made" Wildmon, Fallwell, and Robertson because 1) they don't understand Christianity outside of the public sphere or below the headlines and 2) to trivilaize and dismiss the real "movement" people. The same techniques are used to marginalize gays and femminists. Gay events are "illustrated" by transsexuals and cross-dressers. The womens movement by "bra burners" and man-haters. Sweet, dismissive boxes in whch real people's meaning and beliefs can be hidden, obscured, and infantilized. It's not just all about money. It's also about framing the issues and keeping the issues trapped into the mainsream frames. It's infrastructural bigotry. It also encourages diviseness within movements that quiets them. And then of course, the real hard questions are never examined. .

Posted by: kck on January 6, 2006 at 11:36 AM | PERMALINK

Amy,

Multiple voices make a noise but not a message. And noise does not make a good sound bite. If evangelicals, as a group, do not believe that Jerry and Pat represent their views then is it not their responsibility to take the microphone away?

It is obvious why the media goes to these two characters time and time again. What is confusing is why a collective group (Evangelical Christians) can not coalesce around a simple message that can be trusted in the voices of a few worthy messangers.

Posted by: Jim on January 6, 2006 at 11:37 AM | PERMALINK

I think the media keeps going to Robertson because they know they can count on him comming off with more of his outlandish statements. Like Sharon incuring Gods' wrath. HAHAHAHA A million laughs. Well he's entertaining at least.
I believe in God but I distance myself from those nutjobs as far as I can. They don't speak for me.

Posted by: Lurker42 on January 6, 2006 at 11:38 AM | PERMALINK

Leadership in America is defined by face time to a national audience on TV. All of the 'religious' leaders mentioned are mostly local in their influence, with the exception of Franklin 'Billy's Boy' Graham and the nationaly televised Rod Parsley, who scares me silly. Ted Haggard and Rick Warren have considerable popular power to leverage, but it remains to be seen if they can achieve national recognition as leaders of the competitive and popular political evangelical faction of conservative politics.

Posted by: Powerpuff on January 6, 2006 at 11:40 AM | PERMALINK

So, you're saying there are religious folk who are *not* wacked-out? Interesting....

Posted by: elfranko on January 6, 2006 at 11:46 AM | PERMALINK

History has enough empirical data to support the proposition that it is in the nature of religion, not just Christianity but any religion, that mad men and charlatans will use it for nefarious ends, and a large and significant fraction of the populace will willing follow them.

That's the main issue, but Amy refuses to address it directly. She does not even skirt the issue.

Posted by: lib on January 6, 2006 at 11:49 AM | PERMALINK

Tim LaHaye is someone somewhat loony but with far more influence than Robertson or Falwell today.

That adverb in front of "loony" was very generous of you.

Posted by: Bob on January 6, 2006 at 11:51 AM | PERMALINK

What lib said. Religion, by its very nature, is the metaphysics of "what is in it for me?" See afterlife/living eternally, relief of your guilty conscience, etc., etc.

Posted by: elfranko on January 6, 2006 at 11:52 AM | PERMALINK

"So, you're saying there are religious folk who are *not* wacked-out? Interesting...."
Posted by: elfranko on January 6, 2006 at 11:46 AM

Well I'm more spiritual than religous. Even though I believe, I keep sight of the fact that I may be wrong. Because of that I am able to respect other peoples beliefs. One of the aspects of organised christianity that I believe is wrong is the premise that you have to shove your beliefs down everybodys' throat.

Posted by: Lurker42 on January 6, 2006 at 11:55 AM | PERMALINK

An awful lot of people in the US lay claim to being Christians who aren't Christians at all, a damn shame for the genuine articles. But even the best among Christians are also to blame not distancing themselves from the corrupt.

A mind and a soul are indeed terrible things to waste. There's a good deal to be said for seculars who (I was just reading some background stats at a Pew survey) are the most highly educated group, the best informed and among the most socially responsible. In other words, they resemble Christians more than "Christians" do.

Posted by: PW on January 6, 2006 at 11:57 AM | PERMALINK

Jim:

evangelicals simply don't coalesce the way you seem to think they do.

ok, a quick definition of "evangelical"...someone who believes in the resurrection as literal historical fact, Jesus' death as some sort of personal atonement for sin, universal human depravity, faith as the sole or primary soteriological basis, some sort of eschaton (this ranges widely from the rapture folks to traditional covenant theology), and generally in some sort of Scriptural "inerrancy" or at least reliability.....

its purely a theological definition. beginning in the 1970's evangelicals in the U.S. have tended to become politically conservative (although certainly not always)

Posted by: Nathan on January 6, 2006 at 11:58 AM | PERMALINK

Did anyone see the Harpers' article about Ted Haggard? He had what I call 'prayer gangs' go to targetted businesses and residences to stand outside day and night 'praying' for either their subservience to Priest Ted or to flee the community and leave the vacant property for his church or cronies. Combining religion with the shake down rackets is genius, and has allowed this man to become a major political influence in Colorado Springs.

Posted by: Hostile on January 6, 2006 at 11:58 AM | PERMALINK

I am surprised that Dobson didn't make Amy's list of evangelical voices.

Seems to me Haggard is both a religious and political voice. Although perhaps not known on a national level, I believe he has considerable access to the white house. Haggard has said he will consider a run for Joel Hefley's seat in the US House if Hefley retires.

Posted by: TeachPeace on January 6, 2006 at 12:00 PM | PERMALINK

People used to say the same thing about Marxism: it's not the ideology that's the problem but the dictators like Stalin and Mao who are giving it a bad name.

Any theory or ideology is only as good as it can be practiced. And in the practice of every religion you find mad men like Robertson and Falwell and Jim Jones who have a large number of followers. Any reasonable person who studies this even for a second would come to the conlusion that the best course of action is to abandon this sort of nonsense.

Posted by: lib on January 6, 2006 at 12:01 PM | PERMALINK

lib:

Jim Jones was never an evangelical or a fundamentalist. cheez.

Posted by: Nathan on January 6, 2006 at 12:04 PM | PERMALINK

Jim Jones was head of a religious group.

Posted by: lib on January 6, 2006 at 12:05 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, Hostile, I was just about to post a link to the Harper's article on Haggard. What with all the stuff about warring with literal demons and having people pray witches out of the city, I'm not sure Haggard is a good example of a non-wacked-out evangelical.

Posted by: KCinDC on January 6, 2006 at 12:09 PM | PERMALINK

Amy, why exactly are you doing the Republican's work for them here?

If most people outside the evangelical community want to associate the evangelicals with nutjobs like Robertson and Falwell, why should we be the ones to insist on putting a stop to it?

How many people on the Right are going to rush to make the case that, say, Michael Moore doesn't represent the contituencies of the Democratic Party?

Sometimes Democrats are such goody two shoes that even I almost want them to fail. Except for the inconvenient fact that I'm a Democrat myself.

Posted by: frankly0 on January 6, 2006 at 12:14 PM | PERMALINK

lib: so was Khomeni. Jim Jones is relevant to a discussion of evangelical leaders how?

frankly0: you might want to deal with the fact that there are millions of Democrats who are evangelicals.

Posted by: Nathan on January 6, 2006 at 12:19 PM | PERMALINK

I hear that Lonnie Latham of the Southern Baptist Convention is particularly good at "pastoring."

One heck of an orator.

Posted by: Roger Ailes on January 6, 2006 at 12:28 PM | PERMALINK

Nathan

Either you did not read my post fully, or willfully ignored what it said.

Posted by: lib on January 6, 2006 at 12:29 PM | PERMALINK

I guess it is a function of religious personalities that they quite naturally look for leaders to represent and speak for them.

God forbid the flock members that should think and speak for themselves.

That's a dangerous path for sure.

I mean...

If god had meant for the true believers and the faithful to speak for themselves... he wouldn't have created so many priests, and religious bigots, and pages and pages of gibberish bound up in leather.

Now would He of?


Posted by: koreyel on January 6, 2006 at 12:31 PM | PERMALINK

Good comment KCK. Prejudicial stereotypes are the result of what? intellectual laziness and faulty logic, fear and loathing, ignorance, etc. But, in the end, they aren't true and aren't helpful. Here is one: Pat Robertson is a Christian. Pat Robertson is an intolerant, raving, lunatic. Therefore: Christians tend to be intolerant, raving, lunatics. Naturally it follows that Christians are responsible for everything that comes out of Pat Robertson's mouth and gets covered by the media.
No matter how untrue and illogical once established a stereotype is difficult to overcome. Just a random thought- could the fact the media regularly goes to Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell to speak for Christians contribute to the perception of bias? Pat Robertson speaks only for himself. No one elected him spokesman for Christians. No one hired him to that post. Yet,much of the media goes there again and again because they can count on a controversial opinion and apparently they can count on plenty of people who are only too willing to fall into the trap of thinking he speaks for Christians because he claims to do so.
My guess is that even if every so-called Christian or evangelcal leader in the country denounced Pat Robertson that he would still get plenty of air time because the media loves the controversy and we love to have our prejudices reinforced.

Posted by: Ed on January 6, 2006 at 12:33 PM | PERMALINK

One of the aspects of organised christianity that I believe is wrong is the premise that you have to shove your beliefs down everybodys' throat.

Of course, you may be wrong.

. . . And stop shoving your belief down my throat!

Posted by: cornwallis on January 6, 2006 at 12:41 PM | PERMALINK

Amy,
How are Robertson and Falwell not representative of today's evangelicals, theologically, or politically, etc.?
I know, for example, that Rod Parsley is more likely to growl and bellow like a professional wrestler to his congregation that Falwell is, but I'm curious to know the other ways that the dinosaurs differ from the new wave.

Posted by: poop ruiz on January 6, 2006 at 12:46 PM | PERMALINK

Nathan: Tim LaHaye is someone somewhat loony...

Oh, bwa ha ha...I just couldn't get any farther than that...

Posted by: shortstop on January 6, 2006 at 12:47 PM | PERMALINK

Roger,

>I hear that Lonnie Latham of the Southern Baptist Convention is particularly good at "pastoring."

I hear he brings men to their knees.

Posted by: MJ Memphis on January 6, 2006 at 12:49 PM | PERMALINK

I do not think it makes sense to include Rod Parsely as a religious leader, unless you also count him as an activist. I think he is in the running to become the Falwell of his generation. Take it from a Columbus resident.

Posted by: Bill Gardner on January 6, 2006 at 12:53 PM | PERMALINK

lib:

I reread your post...I got it now...you're lumping all religious people together.

Posted by: Nathan on January 6, 2006 at 12:56 PM | PERMALINK

There he goes again:

On the January 5 edition of Christian Broadcasting Network's (CBN) The 700 Club, host Pat Robertson suggested that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's recent stroke was the result of Sharon's policy, which he claimed is "dividing God's land."

http://mediamatters.org/items/200601050004

Posted by: sadderbudwiser on January 6, 2006 at 1:04 PM | PERMALINK

What about the fat faced fuck John Hagee? I see him on TV spreading lots of hate and intolerance, I bet he feels slighted by Amy.

Posted by: Hostile on January 6, 2006 at 1:04 PM | PERMALINK

Sadderbudwiser, I remember that Mad Magazine back cover.

Posted by: Hostile on January 6, 2006 at 1:06 PM | PERMALINK

Ed,
Pat Robertson does not speak only for himself. He speaks for his audience, otherwise he would likely have none.

We know that Evangelicals are more likely than the rest of the population to vote for rightwing Republicans. I know that among the evangelicals on Amy's list, Rick Warren and Joel Osteen strike me as self-help snake oil salesman, Franklin Graham tried to shove missionaries into Iraq in the middle of the war (this is the same FG that called Islam a wicked religion), Rod Parsley is a raging demonic nutbag, and Joseph Loconte works for the Heritage Foundation.

Maybe the Evangelicals might receive a bit less hostility from the rest of us if fewer of its prominent representatives were charlatans trying to slip religion in through the back door, nutbags convinced God Almighty is their own personal hitman, politically calculating bigoted opportunists, unhinged screamers whose religion consists of whipping their congregation into a mass frenzy, or on Heritage foundation payroll.

Posted by: poop ruiz on January 6, 2006 at 1:07 PM | PERMALINK

poop ruiz:

other prominent evangelicals include Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and the late Carl Henry.

Posted by: Nathan on January 6, 2006 at 1:15 PM | PERMALINK

UPDATE: Whoops...managed to leave the granddaddy of them all--Dr. Dobson--off my list. Amy Sullivan

Huh? I'd never heard of Dobson until about two years ago. Robertson and Falwell have been in the public eye since before the Reagan administration.

The "granddaddy of them all" was/is Oral (ya, right) Roberts. Dobson is very much a Johnny-come- (not likely, that's probably his problem) lately.

Posted by: Jeff II on January 6, 2006 at 1:16 PM | PERMALINK

frankly0: you might want to deal with the fact that there are millions of Democrats who are evangelicals.

As everybody knows, or should know, about 80% of the white evangelical vote went Republican. If Democrats play up nutcases like Robertson and Falwell, and it happens to offend some evangelicals who vote Democratic, that's just fine, because the repulsiveness of Robertson and Falwell will drive vastly more votes into the Democratic side.

It happens that, amazingly enough, 13% of self-identified LIBERALS vote Republican. Does this stop the Republicans from explicitly bashing liberals as liberals? Of course not, because when they run the numbers, it is on net a gain.

And I'm hardly advocating that Democrats EXPLICITLY deride evangelicals, as Republicans do liberals. They simply need to refer to the Radical Religious Right, and point to Robertson and Falwell as examples. There's nothing in that that should trouble an evanglelical voting for a Democrat. The very few who might be offended just don't mean anything in the larger picture.

Posted by: frankly0 on January 6, 2006 at 1:16 PM | PERMALINK

Exit poll results from CNN, backing up my post.

Posted by: frankly0 on January 6, 2006 at 1:18 PM | PERMALINK

"Tim LaHaye is someone somewhat loony" - You have a gift for understatement, Nathan.

Posted by: chasmrich on January 6, 2006 at 1:19 PM | PERMALINK

chasmrich: I'm not much of vitrolic name-caller.

JeffII: Dobson has been huge since the 70's. He wrote a book called Dare to Discipline in the 70's which sold millions of copies -- mainly among evangelicals. His radio show, Focus on the Family, has had millions of listeners since the early 80's.

There are probably two reasons why you haven't heard of him until recently. one is that he didn't receive media attention until recently (the east-coast, secular MSM just didn't pay attention to evangelical culture until recently -- altering bestseller lists, etc.) and two, he generally stayed away from politics until recently.

Posted by: Nathan on January 6, 2006 at 1:30 PM | PERMALINK

I think an important point that needs to be re-emphasized is that evangelicalism is a very diverse and decentralzied movement. I doubt most ordinary evangelical church-goers have even heard of more than a few of the names on this list, much less think of them as their leaders.

About the only time I see evangelicals acting as a group (more or less) is when they feel threatened. Then the tendency is to rally around people like Robertson or Dobson because "the enemy of my enemy is my friend."

Evangelicals as a whole (with many exceptions) are pretty anti-intellectual and a lot of the threats that they perceive are pretty stupid. But then again, as many of the commenters on this post make clear, evangelical paranoia toward the political Left is justified in part by the reflexive, unnuanced anti-evangelical attitudes of the people who claim to speak for Liberalism and th Democratic Party.

Posted by: B on January 6, 2006 at 1:32 PM | PERMALINK

B. bingo. you said what I've been trying to say, but much more succintly. kudos.


frankly0 is sort of indicative of this. it never occurs to him that maybe the 2004 election results were an aberration (Clinton won white evangelicals in 1996) and maybe Democrats should be attempting to determine how to avoid white evangelicals voting en masse for Republicans.

Posted by: Nathan on January 6, 2006 at 1:36 PM | PERMALINK

Dobson is not ordained.

Dr Carl McIntyre of Collingswood, NJ had a daily radio program in the 60s - He would rant and rave about the Fairness Doctrine - claimed this kept him from growing in audience - Loved to bring Ian Paisley from Northern Ireland and they would both denounce the papacy.

He had split from the more orthodox church, either Presbyterian or Congrgational, and formed his own Conservative denomination.

Loved to listen to his rantings - Had a fellow on named "Amen Charlie" who would always say Amen after each of Carl's sentences. In the background, Mrs Mc would join in with a "Yeeesssss".

They have been looney for years.

Posted by: thethirdPaul on January 6, 2006 at 1:43 PM | PERMALINK

Can anyone provide any links to statements made by the individuals Amy (and others) mention that condemn the Robertson and Falwell ministries? Any speeches where the Evangelical leaders warn people that they are following a false interpretation of the Gospel when they follow these men?

Posted by: danno on January 6, 2006 at 1:49 PM | PERMALINK

(Clinton won white evangelicals in 1996) and maybe Democrats should be attempting to determine how to avoid white evangelicals voting en masse for Republicans. Posted by: Nathan

You and b., if that's his and/or her real name, are both all wet. Evangelicals are stupid and all intelligent people, including other Christians, have no use for them. Talk to Catholics, Episcopalians, Lutherans or even Methodists about Robertson & company. If anything, they are more disgusted by that ilk than we heathens because it tends to cast a dim light on all of Chistendom.

Clinton may have gotten some evangels to vote for him in 1996, but 2004 was the first year that people identifying themselves as conservative Christians/fundis/evangels even voted in that great of numbers, and that's supposedly only 6 million voters total. In otherwords, like the pro-Israel Likudnik neo-cons controlling much of the country's foreign policy, the fundis have acquired an influence well beyond their numbers.

Posted by: Jeff II on January 6, 2006 at 1:55 PM | PERMALINK

Nathan,

Isn't it simply amazing how Republicans are just full of wonderful advice about how we should never, ever, try to demonize them or their constituents?

I mean, heaven forfend that we should identify the Republican Party with religious nutcases like Robertson or Falwell or their ilk, even though when that happens, as it did in the Schiavo case, they lose approval numbers like nobody's business. We'd lose the election if THAT were to happen!

Save your "constructive advice" for someone who's dumb enough to follow it.

Posted by: frankly0 on January 6, 2006 at 1:55 PM | PERMALINK

Jeff II: wow. never occurred to you that many Lutherans, Methodists and even some Catholics are evangelicals. nope, guess it didn't. as for being "stupid" the stats on evangelicals and college education say otherwise.

frankly0: well, the Democrats have lost the presidency and both houses of Congress following your advice.

Posted by: Nathan on January 6, 2006 at 1:59 PM | PERMALINK

Osama bin Laden is as good a spokesman as anyone for the cause of psychotic murderous hatemongering armageddon-desiring religious extremists. I don't care if you call Him "Jehovah" or "Allah". It's not God they're worshipping.

Posted by: Osama_Been_Forgotten on January 6, 2006 at 2:06 PM | PERMALINK

Jeff II: wow. never occurred to you that many Lutherans, Methodists and even some Catholics are evangelicals. nope, guess it didn't. Posted by: Nathan

Nice attempt at a right wing misdirect there, Nate. You know perfectly well that, for example, the AELC (American Evangelical Lutheran Church) has absolutlely nothing in common with the mindless fundis following idiots like Dobson, Robertson and Falwell. That goes double for anti-Papist Catholics (yes there are such people).

Sonny boy, having grown up "in the church," attended and taught at Lutheran and Catholic universities, and with a fundi, non-denominational grandmother, I've forgotten more about Christianity in America than you'll ever understand.

Posted by: Jeff II on January 6, 2006 at 2:08 PM | PERMALINK

Conservative Lutherans (theologically-speaking, not necessarily politically) are evangelical, however, we are suspicious of anyone who says that God "told them something" or "revealed something to them" outside of scripture.

This means that Robertson, Falwell, Warren, and others too (in fact most) can't speak for conservative Lutherans.

Posted by: david on January 6, 2006 at 2:15 PM | PERMALINK

Jeff II: ah...your hatred is now explained.

if you'll notice, the topic is evangelicals, not the small subset of evangelicals known as fundamentalists. btw, most evangelical Lutherans are Missouri or Wisconsin Synod. (for those not familiar with the intricacies of American protestantism -- the Synod a Lutheran belongs to doesn't necessarily have anything to do with which state they reside in. the divisions are theological not geographical).

so, should we discuss George Marsden's writing on the history of American evangelicals? what about Mark Noll? with your purported background I'm sure you're familiar with the latest research.

Posted by: Nathan on January 6, 2006 at 2:16 PM | PERMALINK

david: yup. you'll also find that Baptists are generally similar. (remember that every Baptist church is independent and selects its own clergy...this even goes for the SBC).

Posted by: Nathan on January 6, 2006 at 2:18 PM | PERMALINK

of course, even among the relatively small subset of evangelicals known as fundamentalists (a descriptor dating back to the Niagara Bible Conference of 1917 and which was once roughly coterminous with "evangelical"), John MacArthur is more influential today than Bob Jones III.

Posted by: Nathan on January 6, 2006 at 2:25 PM | PERMALINK

Evangelical, shmevangelical.

The MSM just wants good, red-meat, stir-it-up quotes, so it goes to the reliable sources, Falwell, Robertson, & Dobson. I don't care if they're evangelical, ordained, fundamentalists, or even really "Christian." They're flame-throwers and that's why the MSM goes to them.

Of COURSE the MSM isn't going to go to "reasonable" evangelicals. That's why you never hear from anyone in the Episcopal Church, unless it's on how they don't want gay or women priests/bishops.

This is the same tendancy that leads the MSM to tell you what someone said in the Washington Times, which is the house-organ of Rev. Sun Myung Moon. Or to tell you what Bill O'Leilly says. If it bleeds, it ledes.

Posted by: Cal Gal on January 6, 2006 at 2:25 PM | PERMALINK

if you'll notice, the topic is evangelicals, not the small subset of evangelicals known as fundamentalists. btw, most evangelical Lutherans are Missouri or Wisconsin Synod.

Where do you get this nonsense? Most Lutherans are sit on their hands "don't stare at those people, honey" Christians who keep to themselves. In America today, evangelical has come to mean pretty much the same thing as fundamentalist. Lutherans (and other mainline protestants) don't witness. Lutherans may be conservative but are not socially retarded. Lutherans don't set themselves apart from society at large. Lutherans aren't sitting around waiting for the end of the world. These are all things that characterize the "evangelical" followers of Dobson and company, and by all accounts are overwhelmingly supporters of Bush.

so, should we discuss George Marsden's writing on the history of American evangelicals? what about Mark Noll? Posted by: Nathan

No, because it is no more relevant than examining the current Republican administration in comparison to the party during the Eisenhower administration, except to show the contrast and how much the party has changed. Were not talking history and historical definitions. We are discussing the characteristics of contemporary American fundamentalist/evangelical Christianity.

Are you one of those people who also tries to win arguments by citing the historical, denotative meaning of a word rather than its contemporary use or connotation?

Posted by: Jeff II on January 6, 2006 at 2:37 PM | PERMALINK

Jeff II: Are you one of those people who also tries to win arguments by citing the historical, denotative meaning of a word rather than its contemporary use or connotation?

As a matter of fact, this a standard Nathan tactic when backed into a corner. When that fails to work, he simply claims victory and beats a hasty retreat to the jeers of the crowd.

Posted by: shortstop on January 6, 2006 at 2:49 PM | PERMALINK

I have to comment on the remarks by Jeff II and franklyo. It seems some on the left have a definition that "evangelical" includes the trait "stupidity." So, when Amy tries to point out that evangelical does not equal Robertson et al., she gets jumped on because, hey, we can't divorce "evangelical" from "stupid"! That would spoil our argument!

I am a Catholic married to an evangelical. I can tell that you that evangelical =/= bigoted, or stupid, or fundamentalist. My father-in-law is as rock-ribbed as Presbyterians get, and he's going to spontaneously combust one of these days as a result of his disgust at Bush and the Republicans!

Posted by: I never post on January 6, 2006 at 2:53 PM | PERMALINK

[i]why God was punishing those 12 coal miners [/i]

Here's why...

Posted by: Juanita de Talmas on January 6, 2006 at 2:57 PM | PERMALINK

I am a Catholic married to an evangelical. I can tell that you that evangelical =/= bigoted, or stupid, or fundamentalist. My father-in-law is as rock-ribbed as Presbyterians get, and he's going to spontaneously combust one of these days as a result of his disgust at Bush and the Republicans!
Posted by: I never post

You need to prove your point. What do you mean by evangelical? My guess is that it doesn't mean the same thing to you as it does to 99% of the right wing "Christians" who idenitfy themselves as evangelical and/or fundi.

For example if your husband is pro-abortion, he ain't evangelical as defined today. If your husband doesn't support the Bush administration, he's not an evangelical as defined today.

Posted by: Jeff II on January 6, 2006 at 3:06 PM | PERMALINK

Jeff II: I posted a theological definition of "evangelical" above. Do you dispute it?

The term "evangelical" basically began with the split by Fuller Seminary from fundamentalism per se in the 1950's/60's. The term was spurred on by the successes of Billy Graham and the late Carl Henry's founding of Christianity Today. Fundamentalists generally despise evangelicals as being "soft" and too willing to compromise.

That Jeff II is unfamiliar with the foregoing manifestly shows his ignorance or deliberate attempt to redefine terms to his satisfaction.

btw CalGal, there aren't too many, if any, Episcopalians who could be defined as "evangelicals". (for soteriological reasons).

if you want more on the history of evangelicalism (and fundamentalism) in America in the 20th century...George Marsden is the most eminent scholar in the field. Mark Noll at Wheaton is probably the primary academic expert on evangelicalism today.

Posted by: Nathan on January 6, 2006 at 3:07 PM | PERMALINK

In JeffII, I have found a soulmate.

Posted by: HumptyDumpty on January 6, 2006 at 3:08 PM | PERMALINK

Jeff II: there are a few pro-choice evangelicals. there are many liberal or Democrat evangelicals: Jim Wallis, Jimmy Carter, etc.

Does anyone really know how Billy Graham votes?

Posted by: Nathan on January 6, 2006 at 3:09 PM | PERMALINK

Jeff II asks, "What do you mean by evangelical?" I'd say, ask my in-laws! Evangelicals are who THEY say they are, not some passive-voice blob "as defined today."

My point is, who is doing the defining "as defined today?" If it's Jeff II (and franklyo and others) then a Christian who doesn't support Bush can't be an evangelical. Not so! There are lots of centrist and leftist evangelicals (they despise and ignore Robertson and co.), and they (and other left-leaning religious people) are repelled by the anti-religious bashing that sometimes occurs in comments on this blog (I don't refer to this thread specifically).

In short: I agree with Nathan. Apologies if this is a double post (my comments disappeared... and I never post, so I didn't know how to find 'em again).

Posted by: I never post on January 6, 2006 at 3:25 PM | PERMALINK

FYI:
The ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) is a relatively liberal denomination. They ordain women, and came very close to tacit approval of gay priests last year.

Missouri and Wisconsin Synod Lutherans are much more conservative; in fact, they do not allow ELCA Lutherans to take communion at their church.

Given the broad definition of "Evangelical", I'm not exactly sure what the word means anymore. Today's crop of wingnuts, the Pat Robertsons and James Dobsons of the world, in my mind, are better lablelled as "Fundamentalist" or "Radical" or "Militant" or "Christofascists". I particularly like the approach that the Saudi govt. has taken towards trying to differentiate mainstream Islam from their terrorists: they call them "Deviant Groups". I think that fits well. Bush, Dobson, Robertson, Santorum, Ratzinger (hell yes!) etc. belong to "Deviant Groups" of Christianity. They should be renounced, they do not speak for all Christians, and frankly, maybe even rounded up and tossed in with the other "Deviant Groups" in Guantanamo Bay. There is no difference. They are the same evil beast with two faces. They both want the same things: Destruction of modern, civilized humanity, armageddon, and strict theocratic rule. And in our zeal to preserve our freedom from Totalitarian Communism, we accidentally let these freaks gain control. They need to be stopped.

Posted by: Osama_Been_Forgotten on January 6, 2006 at 3:38 PM | PERMALINK

If Pat Robertson says it's God's punishment that Sharon is stricken and Rabin was assassinated, does that mean he is in effect endorsing an attack on any politicians who also supported the Gaza withdrawal? Isn't that in effect an incitement of terrorism?

Posted by: tim sparks on January 6, 2006 at 3:45 PM | PERMALINK

As a born again (yep, I had the experience which felt like I'd done one big giant bong hit), left/center Democrat, I absolutely love Joel Osteen of Lakewood Church and listen to him on many Sunday mornings.

I also saw him once on Larry King and he refused to delve into the "Jews are damned to hell" meme.

I also like to listen to Joyce Meyers, even though I don't agree with her "hell and fire" brand of evangelism. But the poor woman was molested by her dad and has the courage to speak about it.

Another televangelist I like is Creflo Dollar. Again, I don't agree with everything he says. But I love the energy that comes off one of his sermons.

As for Jim Wallis, I listen to him; agree with just about everything he says, but can't help but note that he lacks a little shit-kicking spirit to raise the hell it takes to bring the light to misguided Republicans and Democrats who think you have to be a nut wing to have a little spirit.

Posted by: Mimi Schaeffer on January 6, 2006 at 8:04 PM | PERMALINK

David:

Where exactly did Rick Warren say that God "told them something" or "revealed something to them" outside of Scripture?

Posted by: John on January 6, 2006 at 10:53 PM | PERMALINK

The definition for "evangelical" is in dispute both in public discourse and this blog.

Originally, this word referred to Christians who spread the Christian Gospel. By extension, those who promote their own faith, Christian or other. By extension, those who promote anything, such as the Apple Macintosh. However, of late, people are hijacking this term to refer to those who share fundamentalist Christian beliefs, whether they actively promote and spread those beliefs or not. Properly speaking, a Hassidic Jew who promotes Hassidic Judaism to others is a better example of an evangelist, and is more properly evangelical, than a fundamentalist Christian who does nothing at all to promote the faith. But many are now using this word in the new way.

Posted by: Joel Rubinstein on January 7, 2006 at 1:25 AM | PERMALINK

Matthew Saroff wrote: "we get constant posts from bigots like Daniel Pipes asking, 'Why don't ordinary Muslims condemn [insert quote lunatic cleric or politician]?'"

I was unaware that Daniel Pipes had constant posts to Political Animal, but anyway:

When is the last time a group of Jews hijacked a jet plane and flew it into an office building?

When is the last time a group of Catholics threw a wheelchair-bound passenger off the side of a cruise ship?

When is the last time a group of Mormons killed the members of an Olympic team?

When is the last time a Baptist blew himself up a pizzeria filled with people quietly going about their business?

When is the last time a Tibetan Buddhist blew up a bus filled with people, in a crowded city?

When is the last time an Anglican leader of one nation called for the complete elimination of another nation?

Most adherents of any of the world's religions are good people who would commit such evil acts. But, adherents of one of the world's religions have have done all of these things in our living memory. And certain adherents of that religion are using that religion as a source of inverted idealism to promote such acts.

I agree with Mr. Pipes. Islamic leaders, whether leaders in civic, religious, artistic, or cultural realms, should condemn such actions and make it clear that their religion really is a religion of peace.

Now if a Catholic individual were to go on a big crime spree, there would be no need for all good Catholics to condemn it. But, were he to commit these crimes with the claim that in doing so, he is living up to the highest ideals of his faith, then it's time for leaders to condemn it. And when crime-mongers sell the notions of paradise, martyrdom, 72 virgins, etc., recruiting young people in the prime of their lives for such suicide missions (that only delay whatever political goal they claim to pursue) it's time to speak out and say that this is NOT what our religion stands for.

And it is not bigoted to say so.

Posted by: Joel Rubinstein on January 7, 2006 at 1:40 AM | PERMALINK

Most evangelicals are proud they don't have a leader. This allows them to walk lock-step and pretend they aren't a majority.

Weird.

Posted by: Crissa on January 7, 2006 at 1:58 AM | PERMALINK

Joel -- Israel (not "Jews" as a group) has committed simply horrible crimes in the name of nationalism. In part because of the fear of being called bigots, many Americans have been silent about this -- indeed many Americans have been underinformed about this. But the bigotry is on the side of those who condone this violence and/or do what they can to justify it.

That "other side" in all cases of bigotry seems to possess a tremendous amount of willful blindness and arrogance. Because Israel has been our ally (read also our co-conspirator in many cases), we have a habit of shutting up about the serial criminality of the Israeli state. Not being God, I don't know which side has behaved more brutally, but I have a sense -- as many of us do -- that the Palestinians have suffered over the years at least as much as their enemies. The stupidity of the constant slaughter is incredible, but I find it hard to believe the Palestinians are the worst offenders because of just, well, being there.

Many evangelicals, with powerful blindness and arrogance, have decided the rest of us are going to hell. All religions seem to harbor a squad of nutcases who figure they have a right to condemn and/or slaughter and/or just sideline those who don't see eye to eye with them. I must have been about five when I figured out there was no relationship between God and religion.

Posted by: PW on January 7, 2006 at 9:50 AM | PERMALINK

I guess I qualify as an evangelical, as I participated in a two-week missionary effort in Mariupol, Ukraine, in 2003 (partly to give my rusty Russian language skills a workout.) I identify strongly with James Dobson, and cringe every time Pat Robertson opens his mouth.

Most of the people I fellowship with are not literalists, with regard to the Bible. I have seen everybody in an adult Sunday school class agree with the statement: "All of the Bible is true and some of it actually happened!"

I would say most of my denomination strongly oppose abortion and gay marriage. We generally believe in original sin, which as a practical matter translates to thinking that children are born blank slates and it is our preference to groom, indoctrinate, brainwash, and reinforce them to practice monogamous heterosexuality and nothing else. If the secular state ever requires us to hire flagrant practitioners and advocates of other philosophies for our most visible paid positions in the church, we will consider that the freedom to practice religion has been unacceptably assaulted in this nation.

In other words, anyone who watched Brokeback Mountain six times and wishes every confused teenager would see it can't work for our denomination, but they are welcome to come on Sunday and listen.

BTW, Israel did not bomb the Liberty to conceal war crimes against Egyptian POW's. They did it because the John Walker spy ring and the capture of the encrypting teletype machine on the Pueblo had enabled the Russians to read all data that the Liberty gathered and broadcast in real time. The U.S. Navy was stubbornly in denial on this point and only uncovered the Walker spy ring after pro-Israeli pressure in Washington forced them to it.

Posted by: Michael L. Cook on January 7, 2006 at 11:57 AM | PERMALINK

The question is not so much who is and who isn't an evangelical leader, but what will it take to get 'mainstream' evangelical leaders, and 'mainstream' GOP leaders, to repudiate nutjobs like Falwell and Robertson when they continually prove themselves to be nutcases.

For instance, Falwell and Robertson both are invited to White House prayer breakfasts, and while I don't know about Falwell, I'm sure that when Robertson calls the White House, his calls are returned by someone with real clout.

And these guys both have universities dedicated to raising the next generation of evangelicals. I'll believe Falwell and Robertson are no longer 'evangelical leaders' and members in good standing of the evangelical community when they have to close Liberty University and Regent University due to lack of tuition-paying students.

These guys are both part of the evangelical Establishment, and that's the reality of it.

As a lefty Christian, my feeling is that we ought to nail the GOP and the evangelical movement to the crazy things Falwell and Robertson say, until these guys are repudiated by both of those groups. As long as they're accepted as part of the family, they ought to pay the political price of accepting them as such.

Posted by: RT on January 7, 2006 at 12:10 PM | PERMALINK

I'm surprised nobody has mentioned David Bebbington, the noted sociologist, who has produced a highly respected definition of evangelicalism called 'the Bebbington Four': 1)the authority of the entire Bible, 2)the necessity of a conversion "born again" experience, 3)the belief that we are saved by the cross of Christ, not our good works, 4)active support of evangelism, sharing the faith with others. This definition, of course, includes most of the African-American church, much of the rising new Christian movements in the southern and eastern hemispheres, as well as the Southern Baptist convention, Pentacostals, and the 'evangelical' wings of every mainline Protestant church in America. In general, this 'Bebbington Four' produces people with more traditional views about personal ethics--sex, family, abortion, homosexuality, etc--but within this belief-set there is a huge range of possible views about the role of government, hence the truth that evangelicalism does not incline you necessarily to be a Republican or Democrat.

Posted by: Tim Keller on January 7, 2006 at 1:40 PM | PERMALINK

Someone asked for an Evangelical link that showed Evangelicals denouncing Robertson. I dare say Christianity Today has a harsher piece against Robertson than anything I've read in the MSM.

Of course, this is a curious debate. No one, not anyone, no where I've read has come out in support of Robertson. The debate is only about whether Robertson indeed leads Evangelicals, or speaks for them. On one side there are actual conservative Christians saying, "no, he doesn't speak for us." On the other side are those who say, "Yes, yes he does."

It's an odd thing in a debate that involves Fundamentalists, that it's not the Fundamentalists telling others not only what they should believe but what they do believe.

I guess once a straw man it built it is very inconvenient to have it shown for what it is. Of course, that's what Fundamentalists had to learn. And it seems that the Left, in this context, is now showing itself just as led by blind faith in their gods.

Here's the link.

Posted by: PaddyO on January 7, 2006 at 9:35 PM | PERMALINK

http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2005/134/33.0.html

Posted by: PaddyO on January 7, 2006 at 9:39 PM | PERMALINK

thnx 4 the link

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