The Religious Left is successfully redefining what it means to be a conservative evangelical by misrepresenting what it means to be a conservative evangelical. In a recent conference call hosted by Faith in Public Life, one of the emerging voices of the Religious Left, Dr. Joel Hunter, said:
There’s also a change in the voices that are defining what is conservative now, and what is evangelical. In the past couple of decades you’ve had some very loud voices on both sides – hard right, hard left – and when those were the only choices, then of course many evangelicals are going to go with the hard right because, well, that’s kind of where we mostly are. Now there are many more voices that are expanding the agenda, and so those people that have always had kind of a holistic approach, rather than just a one or two issue approach, are now feeling permission and given permission to be more nuanced and more sophisticated in their approach, rather than just going in a very bifurcated system. And so, what you’re hearing now is that the old voices that appointed themselves as the definers of what was evangelical or what was conservative are not holding sway with the majority of evangelicals anymore.
By convincing America that conservative evangelicals are concerned only with two issues, stopping abortion and preserving traditional marriage, these new voices of evangelicalism are effectively making the case that conservative evangelicals ignore poverty, HIV/AIDS, and the environment. The history of evangelicalism tells a different story.
Evangelicals have set the standard throughout history for social action which continues into the present through numerous humanitarian relief organizations. The Association of Evangelical Relief and Development Organizations claim 64 such organizations as members, including World Vision, Compassion International, Samaritan’s Purse, and Mercy Ships.
One of the largest humanitarian relief organizations in the world is the Salvation Army. It defines its commitment to social services as “…an outward visible expression of the Army's strong religious principles.” Those social services include disaster relief, services for the aging, AIDS education, medical facilities, and shelters for battered women. The Salvation Army impacts 30 million people a year in the United States alone. The founder of the Salvation Army, William Booth, was a Methodist minister. On its website the Salvation Army defines itself as an “evangelical group.”
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