Pastore: A lot of the Evangelical Manifesto goes after fundamentalists and they refused to name names. I don’t know who they are talking about. My guess is they are talking about James Dobson and Tony Perkins and Chuck Colson and those of us that are on the political right who are taking the Christian worldview into the political realm, like with this gay marriage here in California. I don’t want to be passive about this. I don’t want marriage re-defined. I want Christians to vote and be involved and to express their worldview. I think this document undermines a lot of that. Am I right, wrong, indifferent, am I missing it?
Wright: No you’re not, you’re tapping into how the debate actually turned out, which was not how the Manifesto was intended. Let me back up two steps and remind you of a conversation we had about a Dr. Stephen Carter at Yale University. He wrote a book entitled “God’s Name in Vain.” In that book his thesis was that the African-American church in America had lost its prophetic voice in the culture by being too closely identified with the Democrat Party. He warned white Evangelicals (he himself is an African American) and said, “You have the same risk if you become too closely identified with the Republican Party. You could lose your prophetic voice in the culture.”
It was in that spirit that I saw those comments about how Christians should engage the culture. The Manifesto does not call for withdrawal from the culture; however, it’s pretty vague about how you should actually engage….
Where you have seen the debate go is exactly what has led me to have such dismay. I actually wrote to the membership of the National Religious Broadcasters and said I had serious concern about the way the Manifesto is being used to have some groups of Christians throwing stones at others. And, as you rightly said, the stones are being thrown at those who are particularly involved in cultural engagements. I think that is dead wrong, so I have stood up and said I do not support that effort, I will not stand with those Evangelicals that criticize those of us that are involved in engaging the culture. So, you’re right in saying that’s where the debate seems to have drifted. I don’t believe that’s where it was intended, and in some ways it was hijacked by some of the more liberal signers of the Manifesto. So, it’s been disappointing from that standpoint.
Pastore: Then you and I are on the same page….
My heart on this and I think the heart of so many people involved is that we do want to have the right voice to a culture. We want to represent the Gospel appropriately with the right texture, but we don’t want to compromise. And with less than half of Christians even registering to vote, there’s a disconnect. I want to prevent anything that would allow a person to embrace the position: “Hey, I’m spiritual, I’m not political.” I just believe that politics is theology applied. It’s how we love our neighbors as ourselves collectively. I just don’t want to see that diminished at all.
Wright: You’re exactly right—and sadly—to the extent that this Manifesto has some impact in reducing people’s willingness to engage the culture, and I mean that broadly—I mean for Christians to serve in medicine, education, business, government, politics, community service. To the extent that this leads to any pulling back from cultural engagement I think one day this Manifesto could be looked at as a tragedy. If it’s looked at rightly and in a balanced way and things are not read into it with someone’s agenda it still could be a positive thing. But I agree with you that we cannot let something like this sap the energy that it’s going to take to engage a culture drifting so badly away from truth.