This will be a relatively short post, even though it deals with James Davison Hunter’s chapter on the Christian Right. This is because the chapter is simply a broad overview of the Christian Right’s take on what has happened to America, and what they want to do about it. For the most part, I found Hunter’s summary of it to be pretty fair, at least as far as content goes. But as he put it in another respect, “the tone is as important as the content” (p. 112).
There is one important section where Hunter correctly identifies one of the chief problems with the Christian Right, which is its heavy reliance on political methods for achieving its desired ends. As I frequently say, politics is not our savior, while at the same time adding that politics will be saved. The key is worship and recovery of the gospel of grace. The need of the hour is reformation in the churches, which then flow out into the political realm. There really is neglect of this principle in the “save America” impulse among evangelical activists. That’s a fair cop.
But one area where the Christian Right is not confused is in the hostility that the secular mainstream displays toward them, and here is where Hunter doesn’t pass the tone test at all.
He starts to sing sharp and flat for a bit here. Instead of recognizing that evangelicals really are at the brunt of officially sanctioned and legally binding bigotries, Hunter says “there, there” and pats the back of our hand. He says that conservative Christians “turn to atrocity stories to capture the peril that Christians face” (p. 118, emphasis mine). Despite recent setbacks, Hunter says that the Christian Right is not going away because “the underlying myth that defines their identity, their goals, and their strategy of action has not changed” (p. 131). This chapter contains quite a bit of that kind of “we don’t really believe you” vibe. As a pastor who has had to deal with quite a few examples of this kind of thing — why would homophobia come up in custody battles in a divorce court? — I could cite a number of them. But then I would just be telling atrocity stories, making me a propagandist, I guess.
Hunter has clearly accepted the statist redefinition of what constitutes partisanship. “Call it what you will, the intent and net effect is partisan politics” (p. 124). But where did this overlap come from? Now that abortion-on-demand and homosexual marriage have been intruded into the public sphere, there is no way to not do what Lot did without being partisan. On these issues, faithful evangelical Christians are only partisan because of something that Hunter pointed out earlier — the politicization of everything, including the redefinition of sin and crime. But if we accept this reasoning, the flat rejection of Molech worship is no longer faithful and prophetic. You must be a Republican.