Doce me faces voluntarem tuam quia Deus meus es tu

Wednesday, December 01, 2004
It's Christmastime again and the weather is finally starting to chill in Alabama. I'm broken out the Christmas music, as well. Perhaps I'll detail my own loves in that area, but for now I'll clue in to the brilliance that is Vince Guaraldi's soundtrack to the Charlie Brown Christmas special. Simply fantastic.

I took up the issue of conservative evangelical leadership yesterday, but David Brooks beat me to the point in Sunday's New York Times (link forthcoming). Brooks brought up the work of John Stott as being influential on evangelicals. This is indeed true, but the confusion over Brooks' piece exposes the central problem within the political circles of the conservative evangelical movement. For starters, Mark D. Roberts details his own encounter with Stott many years ago. Later this morning, however, Andrew Sullivan was questiong Stott's real influence. Things get more interesting when Sullivan posts a letter from a reader educated in a conservative evangelical environment who notes the vast influence of Stott's work.

All of this talk exposes the real dichotomy within the movement. The Jerry Falwells and Pat Robertsons tend to get all of the airtime, while men like John Stott (whose work, I must admit, I have not read) and Al Mohler simply do not gather as much attention. The problem here should be obvious; Falwell has become something of a caricature in the mind of the public, while Stott, Mohler, J.P. Moreland and countless others can go toe to toe with any left-leaning intellectual. The word "intellectual" also creates a problem, because Falwell, Robertson and even James Dobson simply are not intellectual powerhouses. Sullivan's reader notes that while he read the work C.S. Lewis, John Piper, R.C. Sproul (dude must be Reformed) and others in college, he never read anything by Robertson. That's because Robertson has never written anything worth reading.

The problem, then, is two-fold. On the one hand, the media is more than happy to allow Jerry Falwell to argue with Al Sharpton or for James Dobson to argue with Ali Wentworth's husband on that Sunday morning show he was given. On the other, when was the last time a serious intellectual conservative evangelical openly criticized Robertson? I fully believe that Falwell and Dobson mean well, but calling Pat Leahy a "God's people-hater" doesn't strike me as a brilliant tactical move. We can give the blogosphere all the credit in the world for bringing down Trent Lott and Dan Rather, but disgruntled Christian bloggers won't amount to much. Not yet anyway, when your average evangelical voter doesn't find anything wrong with Falwell's methods. Deep down, I suspect that men like Richard Land, who appeared on that fateful episode of Meet the Press with Falwell, don't care for their colleagues approach. If leaders like Land and Mohler desire that conservative evangelicals remain an effective part of the American political landscape, it's time to respectfully deal with the old, ineffective leadership. Young Christian voters may respond to George W. Bush or even Sean Hannity and Ann Coulter. I believe they would respond to a young, fresh evangelical voice. For better or worse, that voice does not belong to Pat Robertson. It does not belong to Jerry Falwell or even James Dobson.

I think Sullivan's reader is on the right track in demonstrating the influence of Stott among Christian intellectuals. While I have not read his work myself, I am willing to believe the reader. Yet the truth is that the grassroots Christian voter is more in tune with Falwell than Stott, with Roberston than Land. This is why change must come at the grassroots if it is to come at all. The influence of the Moral Majority has been squandered; it's time for new voices to be heard.
6:52 PM :: ::
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