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Politics and CBF….some discussion prompters

Well today it’s New Hampshire’s turn to influence the political process. I’ve been watching the press coverage of this unusually long election season (I just got tired of trying to avoid it) and have noticed the usual things—the careful positioning and nuanced distinction on the issues, the unsubtle repetition of the candidates credentials, and carefully tailored images…..all the hallmarks of a national election.

One feature of this (and all) elections is the partitioning of the public into voting demographics. The assumption here is that if you are a woman, or a minority, or from a big city, or college educated, or from the west coast, or [fill in the blank] you are going to be more likely to vote for x-type candidate. Though I think we run into problems when we try to apply broad statistics to individual cases, I think this is helpful strategy. It helps candidates identify and motivate their core constituency, as well as those on whom their time and energy might be wasted.

In this election, as in 2004, I hear a great deal of talk about evangelical Christians as a demographic. This is particularly salient this year as one of the leading candidates is a former Baptist minister. Here is a theme I’ve noticed: evangelical voters are something for republican/conservative candidates to court and for democratic/liberal candidates to overcome.

As I consider CBF-as a collection of evangelical Christians-some questions have come to mind. I’d like to hear what people in the CBF community think so please respond/comment.

  1. Are Evangelicals really as politically uniform as the media tends to project? Have you heard any statistics or studies to back up your opinion?
  2. CBF is often accused of being a liberal organization. At the very least, we often have the tendency to identify ourselves as “not them.” If Southern Baptists and other evangelical groups are as uniform as people say, does that mean that Fellowship people are automatically the opposite. Or, to put it another way, are CBFers all Democrats? If they aren’t all Democrats, is that our public image-who do people say that we are?
  3. If you consider yourself an evangelical is your vote prescribed for you? If you go to a CBF church, or a dually aligned church, does your pastor or do the leaders in your church make strong or overt suggestions on how to vote?

I really am interested in what Fellowship people have to say about our make-up as well as out public image. Comment away….

2 thoughts on “Politics and CBF….some discussion prompters

  1. Good discussion prompts.

    Here’s my answers:

    1. No. But then again – how well does the media really understand religion especially trends in evangelical life.

    2. This question is problematic. First, CBF has been accused of being a theologically liberal organization not so much a politically liberal organization. To my knowledge, the CBF has taken few if any political stands on public policy issues. I think the CBF supports the bipartisan Farm Bill which has yet to be passed. This makes the CBF unlike other “evangelical” denominations/movements that take a stand on every political issue under the sun. So, I’m not sure your comparison really works. Those that dub the CBF as liberal on theology may assume they are liberal in their politics but I don’t think that’s a common claim (since there is little evidence to back it). The CBF as an organization just isn’t neck deep in politics unlike our Southern Baptist brethren. My hometown CBF church in south Georgia is 80-90% Republican. I think the folks in the pews of CBF churches are a mixed bunch politically.

    3. No and No. However, I like a courageous pastor who is willing to go against the tide and address social issues and public policy debates from the pulpit – a pastor willing to be prophetic without being partisan.

  2. Thanks for the reply bigdaddyweave.

    I think you are right to point out that my second question conflates political and theological positions. However, for many people –especially those in more politically active evangelical circles –these things are inseparable. Their version of theological conservatism leads inevitably to political conservatism.

    Assume, though, that all CBF chuches are theologically liberal–they aren’t but just play along. Does that mean they are not as involved in the public political process as our theologically conservative brothers and sisters? Or are Fellowship people and churches –whatever their political affiliation–just quieter and less visibly involved.

    I’d say that CBF churches come in all political and theological stripes. We are, after all, about autonomy of the local church and freedom of the individual conscience before God. I will say that CBF the organization has been pretty neutral on political issues. It has, however, had a relationship with Carter and, more recently, Clinton. Do you feel that for many detractors this might just go to confirm their preconceptions?

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