Every president and vice president of the United States has claimed Christian faith. All but two have been Protestants (President John Kennedy and Vice President Joe Biden are the Catholic exceptions). Some have been deeply devout, and some have been nominal believers.

Not all our politicians, however, are Christians. Congressman Keith Ellison of Minnesota’s 5th District was born, raised and educated as a Roman Catholic and is the brother of a Baptist pastor, but he converted to Islam and was sworn in as a Congressman with his hand on a copy of the Qu’ran once owned by Thomas Jefferson. Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii is Buddhist, and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, also of Hawaii, is Hindu. For the first time in American history, none of the justices on the U.S. Supreme Court are Protestants. (They are all Catholic or Jewish.)

While the Constitution prohibits government establishment of religion and protects citizens’ free exercise of religion, we have a long history of conflating faith and politics. And, evangelicals have a mixed record of political engagement. Our evangelical predecessors led the abolition movement against slavery and the temperance movement against alcohol. For a time, we distanced ourselves from politics and focused on evangelism. Then the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling to legalize abortion gradually drew many evangelicals back into political activism.

There is so much diversity among evangelicals that examples of political advocacy can be found for almost every policy. We’ve been Republicans, Democrats, Independents, Segregationists, Integrationists, economic liberals, economic conservatives, military hawks, pacifists and much more. Many of us have been shocked and embarrassed by the words and behavior of those who claim to be evangelicals. And, many of us have been thrilled and proud of our evangelical brothers and sisters in the political world.

This issue of Evangelicals reaches into today’s political world with history, theology and practical advice. Most important to remember is that evangelicals are primarily people of faith not primarily people of politics. What makes us evangelicals is that we take the Bible seriously and believe in Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord. On the Bible and Jesus we all agree. On politics … not so much.

Articles in this Issue

October 10, 2016

Deployed to the World

Steve West

September 19, 2016

Evangelicals and Politics

Amy Black

September 19, 2016

Taking the Hate Out

Ron Sider

September 26, 2016

Humpty Dumpty Politics

Leith Anderson