Nicholas Kristof: Evangelicals a Liberal Can Love

At a New York or Los Angeles cocktail party, few would dare make a pejorative comment about Barack Obama’s race or Hillary Clinton’s sex. Yet it would be easy to get away with deriding Mike Huckabee’s religious faith.

Liberals believe deeply in tolerance and over the last century have led the battles against prejudices of all kinds, but we have a blind spot about Christian evangelicals. They constitute one of the few minorities that, on the American coasts or university campuses, it remains fashionable to mock.

Scorning people for their faith is intrinsically repugnant, and in this case it also betrays a profound misunderstanding of how far evangelicals have moved over the last decade. Today, conservative Christian churches do superb work on poverty, AIDS, sex trafficking, climate change, prison abuses, malaria and genocide in Darfur.

Bleeding-heart liberals could accomplish far more if they reached out to build common cause with bleeding-heart conservatives. And the Democratic presidential candidate (particularly if it’s Mr. Obama, to whom evangelicals have been startlingly receptive) has a real chance this year of winning large numbers of evangelical voters.

Read it all.


Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Evangelicals, Other Churches, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, US Presidential Election 2008

8 comments on “Nicholas Kristof: Evangelicals a Liberal Can Love

  1. William P. Sulik says:

    It’s interesting that he still feels compelled to deride Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell.

  2. Dave C. says:

    [blockquote]Scorning people for their faith is intrinsically repugnant, and in this case it also betrays a profound misunderstanding of how far evangelicals have moved over the last decade. Today, conservative Christian churches do superb work on poverty, AIDS, sex trafficking, climate change, prison abuses, malaria and genocide in Darfur.[/blockquote]
    This, and the point William makes in post #1, pretty much undermines any claim to tolerance that Kristof has. Kristof is tolerant of evangelicals, that is, the ones that share his perspective on what is important and who hold the correct view on issues. He also seems a bit confused as well, I’ve never known a time when conservative evangelicals were not concerned with poverty, and feeding, clothing, finding shelter for the poor–it’s just that the overall approach might have been different. And I believe it was President Bush at the forefront of pushing for attention to the genocide in Darfur, with mostly liberals dragging their feet on the issue.

  3. Dave C. says:

    Btw, a look at some of the posted responses to Kristof’s editorial at his NYT blog, indicates he isn’t getting very far with his audience. I read most of the first 100 responses, and almost nobody agrees with him: most make wild claims about what motivates evangelicals (turning the US into a theocracy, rewriting the Constitution, etc.) and therefore evangelicals aren’t worthy of tolerance. The level of ignorance, bigotry, and intolerance exhibited in these posts by the mostly self-declared liberal readership is breathtaking.

  4. Dave C. says:

    I went back and re-read many of the first 100 posts responding to Kristof’s editorial, and realize that I grossly overstated the responses. I apologize for this. There were far more (though still a decided minority) who agreed with his views than my claim of “almost nobody agrees with him.” Still, it is amazing to see the mischaracterization of evangelicals and their motives in the most negative rants.

  5. Bill Matz says:

    While any positive mention of Christians by NYT columnists is welcome (especially the open admission of discrimination), this column really exemplifies “damned by faint praise”. Kristof seems to think that Christian concern for the environment and poverty is recent. I would direct him to the remarkable success of largely-Christia efforts against HIV in Uganda as just one example. And his trivializing of the moral and social consequences of the bathhouses reflects his own prejudices.

  6. Chris says:

    “Liberals believe deeply in tolerance……”

    no reason to delve any further into this pap (more examples of liberal intolerance than you can shake a stick at:

  7. RichardKew says:

    The other week I was given “Faith in the Halls of Power” by D. Michael Lindsay to review for a journal. I am toward the end of the book and am going to highly recommend it in my review because it is as thorough analysis of the breadth, depth, variety, pervasiveness, etc., of evangelical Christians in the USA.

    Lindsay teaches at Rice and has done in-depth interviews a wide range of figures from the left to the right of the evangelical movements in America, and then has sought to synthesize the results. One thing that is blatantly obvious is that it is impossible to generalize about evangelicals. Another is that evangelicals have made interesting alliances (with Roman Catholics, for example), and the movements are being led and shaped by intelligent indidivuals who have the sense of urgency that comes from Gospel obedience and who think strategically so they can bear fruit.

    What is also clear is that the leadership of American evangelicalism, the sort of folks that Nicholas Kristof writes about, are not necessarily where the mid-American mainstream is. But then, that re-makes my earlier point for me, you can no more generalize about evangelicals than you can about Democrats, Republicans, men, or women.

  8. New Reformation Advocate says:

    Like Richard Kew, let me recommend a fine book that is relevant to this column. Philip Jenkins, the famous Prof. of History and Religion at Penn State (and an ex-RC Episcoplain highly sympathetic to Anglicanism in the Global South) wrote an eye-opening book a few years ago called, “The New Anti-Catholicism,” with the important subtitle, “The Last Acceptable Prejudice.” It’s particularly good in documenting and exposing the widespread hostility against Catholicism in the mass media.

    But the same would apply almost as well to conservative evangelical Protestantism. I agree with those above who note the irony that the only evanglicals (or Catholics) that Kristof praises are those who are active in ministries of social justice or compassion. Still, even the beginnings of self-criticism are to be welcomed here.

    I’m afraid that in this election year, there is likely to be a big backlash against “the Religious Right,” which is blamed for supporting President Bush and some of his highly controversial stances, especially the bungled Iraq War and his favoring of business interests over environmental ones. We’ll see if other journalists pick up on this kind of mild and belated recogition that our elite universities and the mass media are blatantly and unashamedly prejudiced against conservative Christians, whether Protestant or Catholic.

    David Handy+