Evangelical Leader Irritated by Stereotypes in Post-Election

November 18, 2008

richard-mouw-fuller-seminary-president.jpgA prominent evangelical from Fuller Theological Seminary in Southern California is irritated for being stereotyped by the national media since the election of Democrat Barack Obama as U.S. president.

“[Lisa] Miller [of Newsweek] seems to think that the election
returns have reminded us all of something that had been forgotten by
many in the media – that we white Evangelicals are not the only
significant religious presence in American life. I follow the media
quite carefully, and had not noticed that we evangelical types were
being treated as if we were the only game in town,” said Richard J.
Mouw, president of Fuller.

In Miller’s “A Post-Evangelical America,” published days after
the presidential election, she outlines how Obama shed light on the
diverse religious groups that helped him on the path toward his victory
on Nov. 4.

“As an evangelical I hadn’t realized that I had been ‘post-ed’
as a result of the Obama victory,” Mouw said in a commentary in
Washington Post and Newsweek’s “On Faith” forum.

White evangelicals put George W. Bush in the White House and
have been the go-to religious group for the media, dominating headlines
over other faith groups. But this election season, Miller points to the
millions of other religious voters who flexed their muscles this
election season, supporting Obama and making their own headlines.

Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners and a progressive
evangelical, commented to The San Francisco Chronicle: “Black and
Latino Christians led the surge this time. They were engaged by the
Obama campaign, and they were in alliance with a whole new generation
of the faithful, of young believers – evangelical, Catholic, mainline
Protestant, Muslim, Jewish – who joined together with different people
of faith and color. Around 30 percent of young evangelical voters came
out for Obama. That’s very significant.”

Mouw said he was further irritated by a column in The New York
Times that praised the Americans who made Obama the country’s first
black president but painted a grim picture of those who supported gay
marriage bans in several states. “We have to continue to combat those
horrible folks in California and elsewhere who, having been duped by
the Bush administration’s ‘demagogic exploitation of homophobia,’
supported the ban on same-sex marriages,” Mouw paraphrased from the

This is not a time to “ridicule” those who hold conservative
values or to silence them in the public debates, Mouw stressed, but it
is a time to realize that evangelicals are not monolithic and occupy
different places on the political spectrum.

And some, including those who did not vote for Obama, he said,
are also celebrating the election of America’s first black president.

“If there is a lesson to be learned about evangelicalism these
days, it is not that we have been banned from the public square because
of the Obama election, but that we are not as easily stereotyped as the
Lisa Miller and others want to think,” Mouw stated.

“We have come to an evangelical faith as people from a variety
of backgrounds, experiences, and economic levels,” he continued. “We
represent every ‘tribe and tongue.'”

Stereotypes of evangelicals have come as the movement has continuously defended life and traditional family values.

While Wallis believes the “values” issues during this election season were overtaken by a broader agenda of poverty,
the environment, the economy and the war in Iraq, many evangelicals
have not re-prioritized and still view life as the most important
issue, even if that means being a single-issue voter.

Geoff Surratt, a pastor at Seacoast Church in Mt. Pleasant,
S.C., isn’t a fan of single-issue voters and is “frustrated” that the
one issue of abortion
has to determine his vote every four years. But even after decades of
choosing the pro-life candidate and still not seeing Roe v. Wade
overturned, he says he hasn’t abandoned the cause.

Before the election he stated that he would go to the booth and “pull the lever for the pro-lifer.”

“He may or may not be the best man for the job, but for single
issue voters that’s not the point,” he stated in his blog. “Maybe this
time it will turn out differently. Maybe this time he will change
things. Maybe this time my vote will save an unborn baby’s life. I have
to try.”

Post-election polls showed evangelicals voted overwhelmingly
for McCain (73 percent, according to The Pew Forum), as they did for
George W. Bush in 2004 (79 percent).

“Despite some evangelical leaders’ attempts to shift attention
from traditional social issues to what they term a ‘broadening agenda,’
we are not seeing a significant difference in evangelical support
between polling in the 2004 election and polling for the 2008
election,” said James Tonkowich, president of The Institute on Religion
and Democracy.

Mouw acknowledged that many evangelicals, including himself,
are concerned about abortion and family issues with the election of a
pro-choice candidate who opposes a constitutional ban on gay marriage
but says the faith group spreads its care and concern over many other

“While the liberal commentators stereotype us as single-issue
theocrats, the young people from Mars Hill Bible Church in Michigan are
in Rwanda working on clean-water projects, the Saddleback folks are
addressing issues of HIV/AIDS, inner-city rescue missions are preparing
beds and meals for the homeless, and our Fuller Seminary students are
advocating for a ‘greener’ campus,” Mouw stated. “And there are many
more stories to tell about peacemaking, economic empowerment, and
efforts to liberate the victims of the sexual slave trade.”

Mouw, who describes himself as an evangelical who doesn’t
always get very high marks from the Religious Right for the stands he
takes but still shares some of their views on some key issues of public
policy, hopes this election will drive more dialogue and bring an end
to stereotypes.

“In my prayers I am asking the Almighty to enable us,
evangelicals included, to engage in the kind of probing national
dialogue that will set aside the polarizations and incivilities that
continue to plague us,” he stated.

Source: Christian Post

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