Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Cal Thomas: Missing the Mark

Ed has recently written a critique of Cal Thomas' recent column in which Thomas basically told conservative evangelicals to "chill out" in the politics department.

Ed had some good points. I'd like to add my own.

First, Thomas says, "Social movements that relied mainly on political power to enforce a conservative moral code weren't anywhere near as successful as those that focus on changing hearts."

I don't see why it has to be either/or. Why not both/and?

Secondly, he says, "Thirty years of trying to use government to stop abortion, preserve opposite-sex marriage, improve television and movie content and transform culture into the conservative evangelical image has failed."

Failed? Says who? No doubt, conservatives haven't seen as much progress as we'd like (sometimes, that was because we gave up too early and/or let up at key points in the game...but I digress.), but progress has been made. For example, pro-life policies in legislation has curbed abortion and made it easier to pass further pro-life legislation (see Joseph Wright's response here and New's counter to that rebuttal here.)

Third, Thomas states, "Does the secular left, when it holds power, persuade conservatives to live by their standards? Of course they do not. Why, then, would conservative evangelicals expect people who do not share their worldview and view of God to accept their beliefs when they control government?"

This is kinda simple minded. I teach for a living, and I see the effect of liberal policies and teaching on the young every day. There is a reason why Obie Baracked the vote amongst the whipper-snappers.

Also, Thomas had better thank his lucky stars that evangelicals have been politically active in the past. From William Wilberforce, to countless American slave abolitionists to Martin Luther King, Jr, many, many advances in both politics and society have been made by politically active evangelicals. I doubt he would poo-poo evangelical political engagement if the issue was, say, slavery, or desegregation.

It's popular and easy to wave his hand at conservative politics now.

I like Cal Thomas...I really do. He points to a legitimate frustration, and perhaps there are a few nuggets of wisdom we evangelicals can get from his column. It's a helpful reminder, for instance, that we ought not put our ultimate hope in politics. Jesus saves, Newt doesn't. But overall, I think he missed the mark on this one.

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