An Open Letter to Evangelicals
The election results are a big smack upside the head to American evangelicals--a firm rebuke. Don't explain them away or blame them on gays, the media and godless liberals. Yes, Ted Haggard had something to do with it. Maybe a lot to do with it. Most of all, he exposed our disgusting arrogance. And that's OK. Let it launch some serious soul-searching in our midst. Bible Girl is here to help you through:
The American public is sympathetic to your values. But they're also finely attuned to any evidence of arrogance and hypocrisy, which they'll always reject.
Americans despise hypocrites. Ted Haggard, a Pentecostal who'd been outspoken against gay marriage, is now the premier symbol of our messed-up priorities. The good thing is that his actions after the hypocrisy was exposed point the way to a solution: humility, genuine repentance from sin and the need for accountability among evangelical leaders.
You've lost the high moral ground on gay marriage and other issues. Take this opportunity to clean your own house.
Sexual sins other than homosexuality are widely tolerated among evangelicals. Prominent leaders divorce and remarry with no career consequences, and preachers "confess" sexual failings but never show any evidence of true repentance. (Haggard is the remarkable exception.) A truly repentant individual desires only to get right with God. He relinquishes all "rights" and claims to position or status. Follow the example of Haggard's church and demand true repentance.
Turn your ear to the concerns of minority evangelicals, who have a different perspective on moral issues than you do. Give them a voice in your circles.
Black and Hispanic evangelicals--and there are millions of them--are with you on gay marriage and abortion. But they see other moral issues of equal importance: racism and prejudice; economic disparities; our treatment of immigrants. They'd like to see you apply your passion--your sense of Christian truth and justice--to those issues as well. Listen to them and try to get an understanding. Confront your own prejudice and deal with it for what it is: the sin of hatred. Accept that minority evangelicals generally view "compassionate conservatism" as a fraud. Many see President Bush as a decent man, but they believe Republicans as a whole have little concern for those on society's margins.
Acknowledge what President Bush has done well in the eyes of most Americans--taking a stand against genocide in the Sudan; providing an unprecedented level of financial assistance in the fight against AIDS in Africa--and expand on that. Put your compassion on the ground.
It will speak louder than any moral crusade directed at people who don't embrace your beliefs anyway.
Bind together on issues, not parties. Political parties always let us down.
Oh, it's probably pointless, but I had to say that. Morally conservative kinda-sorta Democrats like me get lonely sometimes.
In humility, and with an understanding of the reality of sin, adopt models of church governance that hold immoral leaders accountable.
Pentecostals in particular hold to crazy-quilt patterns of governance that allow immoral leaders to remain in the pulpit. Some go so far as to say, "It's the message, not the messenger"--a perversion of Scripture if ever there was one. Know that the leader's sexual sin--particularly when it's kept hidden--plants seeds of immorality in the congregation. We look away, but the world sees it and calls it hypocrisy.
When a leader does fall, remember that his family falls with him. When there is true repentance, demonstrate Christian charity by providing a safe place--including financial provision--where fallen leaders who've dedicated years of service to the church can be restored alongside their families.
Stop persecuting gays outside the church and address the crisis of men and women in your own midst who struggle silently with same-sex attraction.
The vast majority feel like they have no one to turn to. They've noticed that you don't place equal emphasis on other sexual sins that are prevalent in the church, such as adultery and the use of pornography. They're hoping for someone to stand up who not only holds firmly to the truth of Scripture that homosexual relationships are sinful but understands their brokenness and can address it in its spiritual, physical and psychological dimensions. They're also looking for a true demonstration of supernatural power--Christians who believe in the power of the Word of God and have the faith to access it. An intellectual approach to the truth of Scripture might persuade someone that he's sinned, but it won't free him from the brokenness of sin.
Shut up and pray more.
Enough said. --Julie Lyons