Let me challenge one point. You define evangelicals as “that elite subgroup that goes to church at least once a week.” That may be true, but I don’t think that classifies as an elite subgroup.
Virtually all surveys show that 30 percent to 40 percent of Americans go to church once a week. There are a lot of evangelicals out there even if, as you point out, they lead lives that are virtually indistinguishable from other Americans when it comes to divorce, abortion, and the like. I’ve argued that part of the reason for that is the political obsession of many evangelical leaders, which has in turn seduced so many evangelicals. It is that obsession and seduction that is so beautifully and horribly laid out in God’s Harvard.As you recounted over and over, there was no differentiation between Jesus and politics. There was the absolute understanding that to serve Jesus meant to grasp power and manipulate the political system for God’s gain. Sadly, this isn’t anything new. It is precisely the sort of thing that Jesus came to defeat.
About halfway through the book, something struck me. Not a single student quoted Jesus’ sayings to you in justifying their politics. Their justification came from Old Testament admonitions about power. They didn’t quote Jesus—at least as related in the book.
Why? It is because it would be impossible to quote Jesus urging young Christian men and women to tackle the political battlefield as if going unto war. It is because Jesus’ commands have everything to do with sacrificially loving others and nothing to do with influencing the makeup of the U.S. Supreme Court.
I am not saying that Christians shouldn’t have a political voice. They should. But they should do it as citizens with opinions in public policy and not as “Christians” presuming they have Jesus’ answer to problems—because on virtually every position, they do not. It is perfectly possible to be a Bible-believing, Jesus-loving, born-again Christian and have different perspectives on everything from abortion to Iraq. And that perspective is what is missing from Patrick Henry.
You may be absolutely right that these kids will be a “delta force” for Christian politics for years to come. But I hope you’re not.
My evidence is circumstantial. I look at the surprising popularity of a theologian like N.T. Wright, a former Canon theologian at Westminster Abbey and Bishop of Durham (Church of England), who is the author of weighty tomes that challenge modern evangelical thought. Then there is Greg Boyd, author of The Myth of a Christian Nationand megachurch pastor who argues that Christians should not turn the mission field of politics into a battlefield. There are young women like Dr. Jen Halverson, who is giving up lucrative comfort here in the United States to serve in countries like Haiti.
And since it does seem clear from your book that these Patrick Henry students are kids who genuinely seek to serve Jesus, I am hopeful that in their walk with Him, they will come to know these evangelical counterweights and become different people.
Is it possible, however, that the one person who might change their view on Jesus and politics is the person they most adore: George W. Bush? Do you think that they might see the failure of their pastor in chief as a cautionary lesson?
And what do you think they will do with all of those evangelicals who are working for Sen. Obama or Sen. Clinton or Sen. Edwards? Will they see them—and their well-articulated Christian testimonies—as frauds? Or will it challenge them?
You know my hope.