On Sunday mornings, it’s now commonplace to see presidential candidates in church pulpits or pews, proclaiming their faith and ”” not coincidentally ”” jockeying furiously (but piously) for crucial “values voters.”
So, with so much at stake, now might be a good time to ask, “Who speaks for America’s evangelicals?”
Will it continue to be bombastic, GOP-leaning, Southern preachers, such as the late Jerry Falwell, and strident, hard-line broadcasters such as Pat Robertson and Focus on the Family’s James Dobson? I don’t think so. From my neighborhood in the suburban Sunbelt, it is clear that a subtle, incremental but nonetheless tectonic shift is underway. And this is more than what Freud called “the narcissism of small differences.”
The emerging face and voice of American evangelicalism is that of a pragmatic, politically sophisticated, pastor of a middle class megachurch. A younger generation of ministers such as Rick Warren, author of The Purpose-Driven Life; Bill Hybels, of the pioneering Willow Creek Community Church outside Chicago; T.D. Jakes, the African-American pastor of The Potter’s House in Dallas, as well as a music and movie producer; and Frank Page, the re-elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Or, this younger generation might be personified by someone like Joel Hunter, of Northland Church, just outside Orlando. The amiable Midwesterner, who opposes the death penalty, looks like Johnny Carson and sounds like Gene Hackman. He’s a regular reader of such periodicals as The Economist, Foreign Affairs and Harvard Business Review.
Read it all.