Conservative Christian leaders who believe the word "evangelical" has lost its religious meaning plan to release a starkly self-critical document saying the movement has become too political and has diminished the Gospel through its approach to the culture wars.The Evangelical Manifesto, to be presented at the National Press Club, carries a lot of the mainstream voices that teeter between liberal and conservative politics -- a refreshing bit of news for a brand of Christianity that has become far too aligned with political power and the Republican Party.
The statement, called "An Evangelical Manifesto," condemns Christians on the right and left for "using faith" to express political views without regard to the truth of the Bible, according to a draft of the document obtained Friday by The Associated Press.
"That way faith loses its independence, Christians become `useful idiots' for one political party or another, and the Christian faith becomes an ideology," according to the draft.
The declaration, scheduled to be released Wednesday in Washington, encourages Christians to be politically engaged and uphold teachings such as traditional marriage. But the drafters say evangelicals have often expressed "truth without love," helping create a backlash against religion during a "generation of culture warring."
"All too often we have attacked the evils and injustices of others," they wrote, "while we have condoned our own sins." They argue, "we must reform our own behavior."
David Neff, the top editor at Christianity Today, to which I regularly contribute, told The Seeker that it was high time evangelicals reflected on what it has meant to be seen as a political bloc.
By clinging too tightly to the Bible as a political platform, Neff said, evangelical messengers often fail to reach the general public. Not only does biblical reasoning fail to persuade everyone in the public square, it also creates a backlash that damages how people perceive evangelical Christianity, he said.Remember, Christianity is a religion of cultural change, not political dealings.
"Faith is a very humble thing and ideology is a severe master," he said. "Faith is a humble trusting in God and a willingness to proceed not always knowing where we’re headed," he said, adding that ideology replaces a "confidence in God" with "confidence in a particular set of precepts."