Is there a shift in the Religious Right?
We’ve all heard the statistics about how 80 percent of white Evangelicals voted for Donald Trump. But what about those who didn’t? Are they jumping ship? Hunkering down? Speaking out? Certainly there are examples of all these responses but there are a number of white Evangelicals who are working increasingly harder to make it clear that they are not the ones who put Trump into office.
One such group, Red Letter Christians, is planning an event this spring to protest “toxic Evangelicalism.” The co-drector of the organization and well-known non-denominational leader, Shane Claiborne, said Evangelicals have lost their focus. And when that happens he acknowledges "we end up talking a lot about things Jesus didn’t talk about … and supporting things that are a direct contradiction to Matthew 25,” referring to Jesus’ call in Matthew to help the vulnerable.
A statement released about the event noted that "this ‘revival of Jesus and Justice’ will stand in stark contrast to the distorted Christian nationalism that many white evangelical leaders have become known for. … It is a gathering for people of faith or no faith who are curious about Jesus and troubled by the state of evangelicalism in America.”
Other organizations operating in the progressive Evangelical space include ReKnew, Convergence, MissioAlliance, and others. These outlets provide news, events, editorials, and resources to those who didn’t fall in the pro-trump Evangelical voting bloc. Often such organizations have amped up their voices since the election becoming more vocal on issues of immigration, health care, LGBTQ rights, etc.
At Westar, we have long been focused on finding the voice of Jesus in, among, and out of the poor and dispossessed. As this way of reading scripture continues to beomce more and more widely known — through the efforts of Westar and other like-minded organizations and scholars — we are venturing into a new climate of Biblical understanding. An insistence on religious literacy has implications for people of faith as well as the wider culture. Although some Evangelicals are resistant to this, we’re seeing that there are those within this movement who are critical of such resistance.
True, they are currently a minority, but — as the groups listed above indicate - a minority that feels they have no choice but to speak out, in whatever way they can. They may not incite a sea-change but perhaps they can shift perceptions and conversation amongst themselves, and in culture, even just a small amount.
As Westar embarked on a better understanding of the historical Jesus at a time when such ideas were met with resistance and outrage, religious culture often continues to hold onto certain “sacred cows,” even when there is no Biblical or cultural basis to do so. We must examine, challenge, and perhaps dismantle these ideals so that we can free the message of scripture to truly resonate for our time.