Tuesday, December 23, 2008

"Whole Bird Christianity"

An interesting piece by E.J. Dionne about how the face of evangelicalism is changing from single issues and theological purity to a more integrated engagement with the world. He uses Rick Warren and the inaugural as the spring board.

Mr. Warren wouldn't back down and offered ABC News a delightful explanation for his political apostasy. "I'm a pastor, not a politician," he said. "People always say, 'Rick, are you right wing or left wing?' I say 'I'm for the whole bird.' "

Many liberals hope -- and a lot of conservative fear -- that the rise of "whole bird" Christianity will break up right-wing dominance in the white evangelical community.

Mr. Obama never forgot what Mr. Warren did for him and brought the episode up last week in explaining why he had asked the pastor to pray at his inauguration. "A couple of years ago," Mr. Obama recalled, "I was invited to Rick Warren's church to speak, despite his awareness that I held views that were entirely contrary to his when it came to gay and lesbian rights, when it came to issues like abortion."

One need not be too pious about any of this. Both Mr. Warren and Mr. Obama are shrewd leaders who sense where the political winds are blowing.

Mr. Warren understands that a new generation of evangelicals has tired of an excessively partisan approach to religion. Evangelical Christianity's reach will be limited if the tradition is seen as little more than an extension of the politics of George Bush, Karl Rove and Sarah Palin.

An opening to Mr. Obama is the right move for this moment, and Mr. Warren appears to be genuinely interested in broadening evangelical Christianity's public agenda.


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