For its recent article Lift every voice [sic], The Economist polled those who call themselves “evangelical” in a nimble and probably well-advised move to avoid actually having to define the term themselves. In a predominantly political piece, we learn some things we already knew, like “fully 70% of white evangelicals consider themselves Republican.” Then we learn that the writer may not fully understand evangelicalism when we read of a “waning of evangelical institutional authority,” as if regard for institutional authority of the ecclesiastical kind ever was a feature of evangelicalism.
But the more striking observations were along racial lines, like “the word ‘evangelical’ tends to repel blacks, most of whom would describe themselves as ‘born again.'” The article proceeds to discuss Latino evangelicals, among whom
caring for the poor and “the stranger among us” are moral and religious issues, and collectively they trump similar issues, such as abortion and gay marriage . . . “We’re a pro-life community,” Mr. Salguero [head of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition] says, but when we talk about being pro-life, we’re also talking about quality of life, which includes quality of health care, standing against the death penalty, against torture, and against pre-emptive war.”
To point out the obvious, what’s said in the pulpit shouldn’t divide races. But it sure seems like the social and political cohesion among white evangelicals is more primary than than any theological bonds, and perhaps that’s true for blacks and Latinos as well. I know it sounds kooky, but, in search of a remedy, maybe evangelical churches could actually concentrate on things like theology and expository preaching. Now stop me before I go off the deep end and recommend a confession of faith.