Conservative evangelicals are in freak-out mode. The sky is falling. The sky is falling.
Dr. Albert Mohler of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary declared the 2012 election to be “an evangelical disaster.” Dr. Denny Burk, also of Mohler’s Southern Seminary, called last Tuesday night “a disaster for social conservative causes.”
However, Mohler & Burk are getting a little push back from fellow evangelical Matthew Anderson of the popular blog Mere Orthodoxy. Anderson is a younger conservative thinker who has demonstrated an ability to critique other conservatives. In his latest post titled “The Election Disaster? Social Conservatives and Hope,” Anderson wrote:
1) The willingness to dub this a “disaster” actually reinforces the identification of evangelical conservatives with Republicans in the public square, an identification that seems like is bad for everyone involved….
2) It actually may be a pretty unsophisticated analysis….While Mohler dubbed this election a “seismic moral shift in the culture,” that presupposes not much had gone on in America since in between the last election. And that this election happened out of nowhere. The reality is that this game has been afoot for a while, and taking one election and responding like this simply confirms for most people how out of touch conservative evangelicals actually are.
And here is Anderson’s prescription:
What conservatives need is someone who can speak with authority about conservatism, who understands it well enough that they can cheerfully and graciously interact with those who disagree with us and win them to our team….What people want is not handwringing when things don’t go “our way,” but hope. And a sober and serious assessment of how things look along with something like a strategy to turn them around that stays true to our principles. Or maybe I speak too broadly. So let me narrow the scope: that is what I want from an evangelical leadership, not the sort of handwringing that we are currently experiencing.
…In the suggestion that this election was a “disaster” for social conservatives lay the seeds of fear and the beginnings of a less-than-cheerful oppositionalism to the President’s policies for the next four years. But we as Christians are called to a politics of hope and that must frame our public discourse. Not the sort of sentimentalized bastardization of hope that attaches it to the rise and fall of political, social, or moral orders. But the hope that endures well beyond them, that cheerfully faces a world that is hardly to our liking and entrusts our children to the providential care of the loving and triumphal God.
Politically, there is likely very few areas of agreement between myself and Anderson. Yet, I can respect someone who calls out his side for sounding a bit silly. Unfortunately, both sides—left and right, Democrats and Republicans—have a penchant for overreaction.
Hyperbolic “chicken little” rhetoric harms the cause of civil discourse in the public square. And a lack of civility makes pursuing the common good rather difficult.
Take for example Denny Burk’s reply to Anderson in which he doubled-down and asserted that “America–with wide-eyed realism–reelected the most…anti-religious liberty candidate in American history.”
I realize it’s cool to say someone is the most something in American history. Such a comment—if meant to be taken seriously—reveals someone who would be well-served to take a Poli Sci or History course or two. Do conservatives like Burk have any inclination about the state of religious liberty in this nation prior to World War II? Sheesh.
Again, this type of rhetoric is not helpful. Kudos to Anderson for reflecting on the rhetoric of his conservative friends in the aftermath of last Tuesday.