Mark I. Pinsky: Who speaks for America’s evangelicals?

Posted by Kendall Harmon

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.

Filed under: * Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesEvangelicals

Posted August 6, 2007 at 4:19 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. bob carlton wrote:

it’s fascinating to me that it seems that we are long past 1 leader (ala Graham or Falwell) speaking for all of us ‘gelies

August 6, 7:26 pm | [comment link]
2. Harvey wrote:

The qualifications noted in US law for a person running for the Office of US President, unless they have changed, are simple.  1) A free-born [not naturalized] citizen of the US and 2) at least 35 years of age.  No religious requirements are stated. (unless of course, the candidate is a member of a deadly murderous cult)

August 6, 7:52 pm | [comment link]
3. Words Matter wrote:

First, candidates in pulpits isn’t new. Do I remember Jimmy Carter at First Baptist,Dallas in 1976? How many black churches have hosted politicians, mostly Democrats?

Second, it’s becoming more clear that Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson were more visible with the media than effective with large swaths of the evangelical electorate.

Third, I never found James Dobson “strident”, but maybe that’s just me.

August 6, 9:23 pm | [comment link]
4. Summersnow wrote:

Trust me, Hybels does not want the position.

August 7, 9:26 am | [comment link]
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