Right-Wingers Donâ€™t Represent All Christians
In the 2004 presidential election, Christian voters were almost exclusively identified by the media as Republicans. There was never any sort of in-depth analysis that differentiated the so-called Evangelicals from other people of faith. Even when the Republicans were routed in November 2006, the media speculated that Evangelicals must have stayed home-----Christians didnâ€™t stay at home; they were incorrectly identified as being staunchly Republican.
The mainstream media has done a poor job of differentiating Evangelical Christians from more mainstream Christians. This failure by the media to properly define the differences in people of the Christian faith has led to false perceptions by both Christians and non-Christians as it pertains to their political beliefs.
Merriam-Webster defines the word evangelical as:1: “of, relating to, or being in agreement with the Christian gospel, emphasizing salvation by faith in the atoning death of Jesus Christ through personal conversion.”
Merriam –Webster also defines a Christian as “one who professes belief in the teaching of Jesus Christ.” Therefore, by definition, an Evangelical Christian is a person that adheres to the teachings of Jesus Christ and has accepted Christ as their personal savior.
I have been around people that fit that description all of my life. In fact, I count myself among them. What’s strange to me is that I don’t recognize the rhetoric I hear from people that the mainstream media appoints as Evangelical Christian leaders. Their message is inconsistent with the teachings of the Jesus I know.
At one time the group we now know as Evangelicals were referred to as The Christian Right. That name seemed more appropriate since it identified their political aspirations. The brand of religion they subscribed to seemed to be front loaded with patriotism, as if God only extends his blessing to America and its allies. They also align themselves with conservative politicians. While I would never question their faith, I do question their political agenda. It’s their political agenda that concerns me when the mainstream media identifies them as Evangelical Christians or just Christians rather than The Christian Right.
The mislabeling of the Christian Right by the mainstream media creates a false perception that is twofold. When people like Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell are referred to as Christian leaders, the public perception is that they represent all Christians. When Robertson and Falwell use their pulpit to call for the murder of another country’s president –Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez-- support the oppressive minority ruled government of apartheid South Africa, or say that a town is headed for damnation because it approved intelligent design, it creates backlash against Christians. That backlash sometimes turns into Christian-bashing, even though many mainstream Christians are just as outraged.
When conservative Christian leaders get attacked for their outrageous views, people of faith hear the affront and confuse it as an assault on Christianity itself—sometimes it is. The galvanizing effect of these attacks is that in defense of their faith many Christians close ranks and start identifying themselves with more conservative Christian groups that really don’t represent their true beliefs.
Robertson, Falwell and Dr. James Dobson have used the scripture to become very powerful and rich men. Their wealth and influence has been enhanced by the millions of additional dollars funneled to them by Bush’s faith based initiatives. These men have created and funded their own special brand of American/Political Christianity.
The media has bestowed the power to win or lose elections in the hands of the Evangelicals and Evangelical leaders gladly languish in that perception. Candidates have now bought into the idea of Evangelicals as a power base and routinely seek to win their support.
In the 2004 presidential election, Christian voters were almost exclusively identified by the media as Republicans. There was never any sort of in-depth analysis that differentiated the so-called Evangelicals from other people of faith. Even when the Republicans were routed in November 2006, the media speculated that Evangelicals must have stayed home. A poll conducted by The Washington Post showed that 58% of people that attend church weekly voted for Bush in 2004. In 2006, only 44% of weekly church goers voted for the Republican candidates, 43% voted for Democrats. Christians didn’t stay at home; they were incorrectly identified as being staunchly Republican.
While the talking heads in the media would have us believe that people of faith vote Republican and non-believers vote Democrat, the issue is clearly far more complex and their faulty analysis leaves viewers with the wrong perception.
I never bought that line. I think there are millions of Christians that do not subscribe to the words of Robertson, Falwell and Dobson. I think the Jesus they worship is the same Jesus that I have a relationship with. The Jesus that is more concerned with saving the planet and its species from man’s destructive path than he is with condemning gays.
My Jesus would be in Darfur, saving his children from genocide instead of escalating an ungodly war. Lastly, the Jesus I know sees every life as precious. Whether you are an Iraqi mother, the parents of a fallen war veteran, or the president of the United States, we are all equal in his eyes. Christians understand that.
Stephens is a Black Star News contributing columnist.
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