Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Narrowness Damns Conservative Evangelicals

When you stretch out your hands,
I will hide my eyes from you;
even though you make many prayers,
I will not listen;
your hands are full of blood.
Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;
remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes;
cease to do evil,
learn to do good;
seek justice,
rescue the oppressed,
defend the orphan,
plead for the widow.
- - Isaiah 1:15-16

Unfortunate events of the past week show that conservative evangelicals are just too narrow to take the prophet Isaiah seriously on the good things that divinity requires. Democratic Senator Barack Obama learned the hard way this week that the purity streak among conservative evangelicals runs so strong that they prohibit themselves from reaching out to anyone else with different views merely to aid the sick and the needy. A Florida pastor who opposed the death penalty and who, as president, wanted to move the Christian Coalition toward caring for the poor and the environment learned the same thing and then resigned from the ultraconservative group.

Aiding the sick and needy, caring for the poor and the outcast, regardless of who does it, is what the Christian scriptures require. Yet, in spite of hundreds of scripture passages that address concern for the least of these, conservative evangelicals selectively quote scriptures while broadly applying their selections to everyone else. WKRN's Jamey Tucker is a case in point. In a blog entry on inter-faith dialogue, Tucker opines:
For Christians, they believe Jesus is not only the Son of God but He is also the only way to heaven. And if that is not enough, they also believe Jesus (who is also God) instructs them to go tell others about the one true way to eternal life.
Tucker presumes to speak "for Christians" without regard to the fidelity of some Christians not like him to Jesus' teachings against war and other state-sponsored violence, against wealth, and on behalf of the poor and the oppressed (that is a lot of mainline Protestants, Catholics, and liberal Christians). He sets up the narrowest definition of what it means to be Christian, and with that a significant number of Christians are left out (I also skewer Tucker today at Free Tennessee for his holiday-double-standards).

The lesson for community leaders is that conservative evangelical Protestants are too narrow to consider even their own biblical mandates, if following such mandates transgresses extra-biblical boundaries that they themselves construct. Catholics find a way to work against capital punishment and war alongside those with whom they disagree on abortion. They teach us that in an imperfect world one never neglects an opportunity to redeem life where one can. All we learn from white evangelicals is how not to behave toward one another.

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