Get Me a Manifesto

My friend Kullervo pretty much called me out on email over a specific issue.  I had neglected a major news story and had not yet added my 2 cents to the blogging ether about it.  Last week, the Evangelical world was a buzz over the release of something called “The Evangelical Manifesto“.

The Manifesto was an attempt by a number of Evangelical scholars and theologians to gain a stronger hand in defining to the world what defines and what doesn’t define an Evangelical.  Perhaps their most controversial point is that Evangelicalism is not a political movement to be used by the Right or the Left.

The Manifesto discusses a number of issues, but the language on politics was not overlooked by the mainstream media.  Most of the news stories focus specifically on what it says about politics.  But secular media are not the only ones discussing the politics of Evangelicalism.

The Manifesto is missing the signatures of a number of Evangelical leaders.  Not surprisingly, these same leaders are the ones who are most involved in American politics.  They critique the Manifesto as being a tool of liberal secularism and worry that it will only encourage Evangelicals to stop voting.

I read through the Manifesto and found it to be quite excellent.  Probably one of the best things to come out of the Evangelical world in quite some time.  It is both well written and deeply thought through.  I think it accurately defines who Evangelicals are and how Evangelicalism fits into the scope of history.  After finishing my read of it, I immediately added my signature to it. Later when I investigated the signatures, it was no surprise to me that the Evangelical leaders I most respect added their names and those I least respect are absent.

If you would like to understand more about Evangelicalism, I whole heartedly encourage you to read the Evangelical Manifesto.


4 thoughts on “Get Me a Manifesto

  1. “There are grave dangers in identity politics, but we insist that we ourselves, and not scholars, the press, or public opinion, have the right to say who we understand ourselves to be. We are who we say we are, and we resist all attempts to explain us in terms of our “true” motives and our “real” agenda.”

    I sympathize. But this appears to be a problem evangelicals have in common with Mormons. Neither of us is allowed to define ourselves to society and both of us are viewed with suspicion.

    And admittedly, both of us have some serious identity disconnects. With evangelicals, it’s hard to say that those who have signed the manifesto are really the majority of evangelicals. Given the lack of an established hierarchy, it’s really hard for any element of evangelicals to come out and “define” what the movement is or is not.

    With Mormons, we have an established hierarchy, but that hierarchy is afflicted with an institutional impulse to soft-pedal or ignore doctrinal distinctives.

    Thus, critics of both our religious traditions actually seem to have at least a couple good points when they try to assert that we cannot be entrusted with our own identities.

    So there you have it. Evangelical identity is questioned because it is organizationally schizophrenic. Mormon identity is questioned because we seem to suffer from institutional amnesia. In both cases, the patient is judged mentally incompetent to make legally binding decisions.

  2. good thoughts. i found myself in agreement with it, too.

    and i’m enjoying reading the various opinions here and there around the web. i had some hesitations and misgivings before reading the document, but i’m actually quite impressed and invigorated after taking in the whole of what it addresses.

    one of the things i like is that the authors have chosen not to list creationism and inerrancy as non-negotiables. for the first, there’s very little biblical justification anymore behind whatever the latest flavor of anti-natural-selection dessert is being served up; for the latter, somehow we can admit that we can’t prove the existence of God, but goshdarnit we have a golden egg this unprovable God laid right here. still, some people hold to these positions; so be it. there’s simply too much of a tendency to add items to the ever-increasing laundry list of ideas and doctrines to which we have to pledge allegiance before we’re allowed into the room marked “Christian.”

    nothing’s going to please everybody, and there are a few things i object to. for instance, i don’t agree with this statement: We Evangelicals should be defined theologically, and not politically, socially, or culturally. Jesus’ message uses “action” verbs: teach them to DO as I have commanded you, LOVE God and LOVE your neighbor, by this will all men know … if you LOVE one another. any theology that defines us must have feet.

    i did, however, like these words: We are also troubled by the fact that the advance of globalization and the emergence of a global public square finds no matching vision of how we are to live freely, justly, and peacefully with our deepest differences on the global stage. somehow, we’ve got to figure out how we’re going to peacefully share the same bathroom over the next few decades in our ever-shrinking world.

    one interesting thing: maybe i missed it, but there doesn’t seem to be a great emphasis on evangelism in this Evangelical Manifesto. do you think that was intentional? i didn’t see a single chick tract referenced in the bibliography…

    more than anything, i find myself motivated and energized by the very positive nature of the piece – that it isn’t yet another “here’s everything we’re against” rant but an effort to make the gospel again a message of good news. imagine that – the gospel being good news. American Christianity has lost this defining characteristic that once served it well.

    perhaps one unintended benefit of the proposal is a clear opportunity to take this EM (Evangelical Manifesto) and align it with the other EM (Emergent Manifesto) and finally have all our EM & EMs in a row without demonizing the other side.

    one can only hope…

    mike rucker
    fairburn, georgia, usa

  3. What comes around goes around-are you familiar with Francis Schaeffer’s “A Christian Manifesto”?
    It was published in the 80’s-and was in response to the “Communist Manifesto” and “The Humanist Manifesto”
    He was a brilliant man (his scholarship spanned theolgy, philosophy, history, sociology and the arts) and founder of the L’Abri Christian communities
    Schaeffer talks about how humanism changes the 23rd Psalm by degrees:
    They began: I am the shepherd
    Then-Sheep are my shepherd
    Then-Everything is my shepherd
    Finally-Nothing is my shepherd

  4. I found it interesting that the section of the manifesto about faith in the public square is very similar to what Mitt Romney said in his speech on the issue earlier in this presidential campaign.

    I also thought that many of manifesto’s criticisms of evangelicalism today were right on target. (Saying this doesn’t mean I wouldn’t similarly criticize the LDS church in some areas.)

    While I disagree with much of the theology of the manifesto, I find a lot to appreciate in the spirit in which it was written.

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