Scandalous Evangelicals—I.E. All of Us
A year after the presidential election, people are still scratching their heads. All year, there has been a great deal of dumping on conservative evangelicals for their support of Donald Trump without asking the deeper questions. In this piece, theologian/ethicist John Stackhouse reminds us that evangelical support for Trump is not all that surprising given evangelical priorities over the past many elections. His keenest insight is evangelical support of apolitical mediating institutions to deal with most of their social concerns.
He also reminds us that evangelicals are no more politically opportunistic than liberal agnostics (to take one opposite group). During Bill Clinton's sexual shenanigans, a number of his supporters also conveniently looked the other way. It's just what partisans do during tense political times. We're all weak in that department, I'm afraid. The other "evangelical scandal" is how so many of the devout who say they are pro-life could support a candidate who is openly contemptuous of the unborn, the most consistently marginalized of people groups (to the tune of nearly a million killed a year).
That last sentence will elicit a few emails, I know. But what is fair for the goose is fair for the gander. Let's face it, in our morally compromised world, we sometimes have to vote for a candidate of questionable character, like one with disturbing personal morals or one who promotes murderous public policy. May we evangelicals, of all people, not leave the voting booth saying, "Thank you, Lord, that I did not vote like those other evangelicals," but instead say, "Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner."
Some of our divides are more subtle but also more powerful, as suggested by Emile Doak in his profile of photojournalist Chris Arnade. Arnade's work has helped him see the divide between America's "Front Row" and "Back Row." The Front Row is composed of educated elites of both political parties and is shaped by, among other things, a unified view of success:
The one approved path to success, according to the Front Row, is "leave your town, your family, and get credentials." American perceptions of success are driven by material, quantifiable metrics: graduate degrees, networking connections, investments, GDP, economic growth, and the like.
Arnade's work focuses on the Back Row, people like Rosa in East Los Angeles:
Despite her desire to travel, her post-high school plans are to attend East LA Community College because, according to her, she "can't leave." Rosa is her mother's translator, and the value that she places on "being there" for her non-English-speaking mother exceeds her desire to travel and attain the credentials that the Front Row values.
Doak then asks a pertinent question:
Is one who struggles through college in a far-off city, accumulating staggering debt in the process, really more successful than one who forgoes school to instead support a family and community that desperately needs him?
Many of us—and I do include myself—have been oblivious to how easily we've been co-opted by the Front Row view of success. We not only encourage our children to leave home, we actually pay schools who think their primary job is to get our children to question every value we've raised them with. Along the way, we and our children are left with tens of thousands of dollars in debt, living far apart geographically if not also politically, philosophically, and sometimes religiously. But at least they have good jobs! Shouldn't we Christians be asking ourselves: Is this really what it means to raise children "in the nurture and admonition of the Lord" (Eph. 6:4, KJV)?
Speaking of raising and educating kids: Apparently, one way to improve their minds is by not letting them take notes on their laptops in class.
No More Car Payments!
Good news for some, but bad news for car lovers. According to Bob Lutz, former vice chairman and head of product development at General Motors, vehicles will no longer be owned—or driven—by humans within 15 to 20 years. He believes we're living at the end of the automobile era.
Grace and peace,
Friday, December 1, 2017
The Front Row's Questionable Values
P.S. Note the second installment of my series on evangelical essentials: The Jesusy Movement.