Religion News Service recently heralded a “Call to pause: Evangelical women hit pause on the culture war,” referring to this document, and followed shortly by “Call to pause: Evangelical men join evangelical women in the call to hit pause on culture war.”
The whole thing is an instructive example of duplicity, as it is a culture war offensive disguised as a ceasefire. The white flag waves above, the troops advance below. Strategically speaking, it is clever; after all, it was Sun Tzu who said “All warfare is based on deception” (The Art of War, trans. Lionel Giles). Morally speaking, it is detestable; after all, it was God who said “Do not lie. Do not deceive one another” (Lev. 19:11, NIV).
But how do I justify calling these documents duplicitous? Consider first the source. This is, ostensibly, a call from within evangelicalism to back off on the culture wars. But the call is being promoted by RNS, which (in my opinion) may be fairly called a propaganda machine for the religious left. The call was initiated by Lisa Sharon Harper, formerly in leadership at Sojourners, an organization whose central identity has been liberal advocacy while claiming to be bipartisan (‘God is not a REPUBLICAN…or a democrat’). The nuanced, centrist evangelical credentials of this statement are suspect from the beginning.
Who are the “rising chorus of leading Evangelical women” and “strong core of leading Evangelical men” endorsing this document? An evangelical may be forgiven for not recognizing most of the names. But some of the most recognizable (to me, granted) are suggestive:
- Jen Hatmaker. Popular among evangelicals until she began voicing support for the new sexual revolution, claiming that same-sex relationships can be holy.
- Rachel Held Evans. Influential writer and progressive advocate who hung out for a long time on the evangelical left before finally joining the Episcopal Church.
- Several voices from Sojourners. Prominent among concerns about this organization may be mentioned their opposition to the doctrine of substitutionary atonement (i.e., the heart of the gospel). See here and here.
- Shane Claiborne. Activist who has done a lot of good, but not a man of good judgment; he recently endorsed Richard Rohr’s heretical book on the Trinity. Interested readers may see Fred Sanders’ brilliant critique here.
In other words, this is a statement from the far left of those who identify as evangelicals, and includes voices far enough to the left that they militate against Christian orthodoxy.
But what about the content of the statement? To be brief, it calls for 1) A pause to the culture war, 2) Fasting and challenging the culture war mindset, 3) Listening to people of color, 4) Action based on this prayer and reconsideration. There is much to be commended in this. It is good to pause and reflect. It is good to fast and pray, and to repent of attitudes that see others as enemies rather than as people who God loves. It is good to listen to minorities, whose perspectives have often been ignored. It is good to act on prayer and careful thought. All very good.
How then can I call it duplicitous? Because the first bullet point is not a call to pause at all. It is a call to “pause” by rejecting the appointment of a conservative supreme court justice to fill the vacancy left by Justice Kennedy and instead “calling our Senators to demand they replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy with a moderate independent Justice.” We ‘pause’ from the culture wars by ensuring that abortion legislation remains at status quo. The ‘pause’ is a demand for action of a ‘moderate’ kind—and ‘moderate’, in this sense, means effectively pro-Roe v. Wade.
So who is being called to ‘pause’ their efforts here? The religious left? The endorsers of this document and those who agree with them theologically and politically? No. They are not pausing, and this document itself constitutes an advance of their agenda. It is those who disagree with them who are being asked to pause. The culture war will most definitely continue, but will the conservatives kindly stop defending their position?
If there is a culture war—and the religious left certainly is waging one—then there is another term for a unilateral ‘pause’ from the other side. It is called surrender. That is the hardly disguised subtext of this document. On the surface we see a call to prayerful reflection, and this is indeed a very good idea. But the voice urging this call is Tokyo Rose.