Evangelical engagement in U.S. politics has ebbed and flowed through the years, especially rising to prominence in the 1970s and 1980s with the growing concern about protecting human life and strengthening families. Since then, the evangelical agenda has broadened and evangelical engagement in social justice issues has blossomed. But with disillusionment in the political process on the increase, what will become of evangelical engagement in the future?
While many acknowledged current frustrations, most evangelical leaders expect the level of political engagement among evangelicals to increase, according to the May Evangelical Leaders Survey. The poll asked, “What do you expect the level of political engagement among evangelicals will be in the next 10 years?” While 18 percent said political engagement among evangelicals will go down and 25 percent said it will stay the same, 57 percent believe that evangelicals will be more engaged in politics in 10 years than they are today.
“Evangelicals aren’t going away. The issues that motivated us to engage in politics in the past will keep and inspire engagement in the future,” said Leith Anderson, President of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE).
Marriage, sanctity of life, poverty and religious freedom top the list of issues that evangelical leaders say will elicit increased responsiveness in the political arena. Jo Anne Lyon, General Superintendent of The Wesleyan Church, predicted that issues of religious freedom, in particular, will become more alarming, and she prays that evangelicals will “handle these times with grace, truth and love.”
Joel Hunter, Senior Pastor of Northland Church, said, “New generations will demand practical and cultural engagement of all sorts to apply spiritual teaching. They will not be as attracted toward mere ‘in house’ church activities. Included in community service will be political advocacy, especially for the vulnerable.”
Anderson said, “Evangelicals take the Bible seriously, and as such, they will be faithful to follow God’s call to love their neighbors as themselves. Many realize that calling involves caring about what happens in the political realm.”
The Evangelical Leaders Survey is a monthly poll of the Board of Directors of the National Association of Evangelicals. They include the CEOs of denominations and representatives of a broad array of evangelical organizations including missions, universities, publishers and churches.