New generation of Evangelicals smarter than the last

Or so the NY Times would have you believe. The article published online today, “Emphasis Shifts for New Breed of Evangelicals,” should be entitled “Emphasis Seems to Shift.”

The article points out that compared to the “old guard” of the so-called “religious right,” the younger generation of Evangelical leaders, including folks like Rick Warren and Bill Hybels, is more likely to be vocal about things like AIDS in Africa, world poverty, and global warming. And unlike their predecessors—the Billy Grahams, Pat Robertsons, and Jerry Falwells—this new group is less likely to speak out about things like abortion and same-sex marriage.

But don’t be fooled: even though Evangelicals are doing the “right” thing by speaking out against global warming, they are still committed to a conservative position on abortion and marriage. Don’t expect their vote, Mr. Giuliani (the authors say twice). But also take note that these younger Evangelicals, while less overtly politically activist than their forebears, nevertheless demonstrate more political savvy in that they don’t shout from the rooftops their opposition to the liberal agenda (they just vote), even as they go about exerting influence on the public through non-political means. By cozying up to “liberal” issues like fighting AIDS in Africa, and fighting global warming, the theory seems to suggest, these new Evangelicals are potentially more dangerous politically than those of the past. The old were black & white; the new are wolves in sheep’s clothing.

The article is fair, I think, for the most part; but is also definitely a subtle dig against the old Evangelical leaders, whom to hate passionately is, I’m sure, a condition of employment at the Times. The use of this quotation from Charles Colson helps: “What’s happening today is the evangelical movement is growing up.” I don’t suspect Colson meant this as an insult, but you can be sure it will be read that way by liberals who dream of a day when to be Christian means to vote like American Episcopalians.

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