I have been observing the discussions in the public square, as well as the events occurring, and it has become my opinion that the Christian Right has reached its zenith, and from here on out its influence will wane.  It will soon become a page in history.  There will, of course, always be those who hold conservative views, and they will rise to power again someday, but it will look different than today's Christian Right, simply as a result of the passing of time and changing of circumstances.

The reason for my prediction is not because of the rise in noise coming from the secularists.  Today, the secularists are becoming outright evangelistic in their fervor to eradicate religion.  Writers such as Sam Harris (The End Of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason  and Letters To A Christian Nation ), Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion ), Daniel Dennett (Breaking The Spell ) claim not only that God does not exist, but that religion is pernicious and must be eradicated.  Rosie O'Donnell is hardly the only person, famous or not, who has declared "radical Christianity" to be just as dangerous as radical Islam ; there is a rising belief that even evangelical Christians are to be feared for the harm they will cause to society.


These people who are elevating reason to the level of a deity are not the ones who are going to bring about the demise of the Christian Right.  While there may be a short rise in power of the secularists, I do not believe they will last long either.  These people are modernists, but we are now in the postmodern age.  Modernists are so yesterday.  Modernists believe reason will help us attain all knowledge.  Most of these come from older generations.  The postmodernists believe that you can never really know truth for sure, that everything is filtered by experience and belief (see Wikipedia  for more explanation).  Postmodernists understand the limits of reason.

The ones who I believe are going to be the key figures in dismantling the Christian Right's reign of power are going to be the Christian Left, assisted by the centrists in evangelicalism.  The Christian Left has had enough of the Christian Right's distortion of the gospel and have awakened from their slumber to fight back.  Those in the evangelical center, while they may not be as crusading as the Left, will tend to go along with them and distance themselves from the Right.

One evidence of the rise of the Christian Left as well as the centrists in challenging the Christian Right are the number of books coming out in this regard.  Here are just a few of those:

The Myth Of A Christian Nation: How The Quest For Political Power Is Destroying The Church  
by Gregory Boyd

Thy Kingdom Come: How The Religious Right Distorts The Faith And Threatens America: An Evangelical's Lament 
by Randall Balmer

Jesus Rode A Donkey: Why Republicans Don't Have The Corner On Christ  
by Linda Seger

Red And Blue God, Black And Blue Church: Eyewitness Accounts Of How American Churches Are Hijacking Jesus, Bagging The Beattitudes, and Worshipping The Almighty Dollar  
by Becky Garrison (editor at The Wittenburg Door, a satirical Christian magazine)

God's Politics: Why The Right Gets It Wrong And The Left Doesn't Get It  
by Jim Wallis (editor of Sojourners magazine)

Religion Gone Bad: The Hidden Dangers Of The Christian Right  
by Mel White (ghostwriter for Billy Graham, Jerry Falwell, D. James Kennedy, Ollie North, and Pat Robertson)

Why The Christian Right Is Wrong: A Minister's Manifesto For Taking Back Your Faith, Your Flag, Your Future  
by Robin Meyers

What's Wrong With The Christian Right  
by Jan G. Linn

Big Christianity: What's Right With The Religious Left  
by Jan G. Linn

Middle Church: Reclaiming The Moral Values Of The Faithful Majority From The Religious Right  
by Bob Edgar

Why do I say the popularity of such books being published is evidence?  Partly it's simple economics: publishers are not going to put forth the money to publish books on a topic unless they believe it's going to sell.  They're merely taking a temperature of the culture and supplying it with reading material that fits its current interest.

I see similar sentiments in the blogging world.  I see the changes happening in churches.  From different directions, I see a growing dissatisfaction with the Christian Right, particularly in attitude, but also in message.

The Distorted Gospel Of The Christian Right

Let me now begin the heart of my discussion by focusing in on the message.  People are beginning to become uncomfortable with what they are seeing as the dominant message getting out to the general American culture from Christians.  It is a severe distortion of the gospel.  The message going out to the culture from Christendom, currently dominated by the Christian Right, is threefold:

1) Homosexuals are a threat to the family and society and their progressive power in changing laws must be stopped.
2) Abortion is murder and must be stopped.
3) Evolution is wrong (some even say evil) and must be stopped.

Think now about the four presentations in the Bible of Jesus, the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.  Homosexuality, abortion, and science are not mentioned in any of the gospels.  Not even mentioned.  They are not even mentioned by Jesus, yet these three topics are just about all the society in general hears from Christians.  Thus, society is receiving a distorted message of the gospel.

It's not that anything about God or Christian living not found in the gospels is irrelevant.  I believe, as do many evangelicals, that the whole Bible is the whole word of God; the whole Bible is his message to us.  But when God came to Earth in the form of a human, and spent just three years revealing to us what was most important to him, it was not homosexuality, abortion, or science.  It was not even morality.

When Jesus got up in the synagogue and announced the beginning of his ministry (Luke 4:16-20), he did not say this:  "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has chosen me to clean up this immoral land, to proclaim that holiness and righteousness will rule, and to take back Israel for GOD!"  By the message projected from the Christian Right into the culture, you would think this is what Jesus said.

But instead, he announced that this was what his ministry was about:  "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has chosen me to bring good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free the oppressed and announce that the time has come when the Lord will save his people."

This is what I mean when I say the Christian Right has distorted the gospel.  Here is Jesus himself, the Son of God, stating what his mission on Earth is.  There is nothing in there about cleaning up immorality.  There is nothing in there about establishing a theocracy, even in a country that was historically theocratic.  Many people expected that when he said he had come to save his people, that he was going to establish a theocratic rule, but he made it clear that that was not was he was about.   The Kingdom of God was not about bringing to pass a society ruled by morality; the Kingdom of God was about bringing liberty and healing.

Look at the gospels.  Thumb through your Bible and review all the headings in all four gospels, remembering what's under each heading as you go through.  How many of these passages are about morality?  The only extensive passage on morality from Jesus is found in Matthew, in the Sermon on the Mount.  Mark and John don't even record this sermon, and Luke's version doesn't even include all those prickly, difficult passages Matthew has like "if you are even angry with your brother, you are guilty of murder," or "if you even lust after a woman, you are guilty of adultery."  These four gospel writers took what they believed to be the essence of Jesus's teachings and actions during his ministry, and only one of them included any extensive teaching on morality.  28 chapters in Matthew, 16 chapters in Mark, 24 chapters in Luke, and 21 chapters in John -- a total of 89 chapters in the gospels, and only two or three of the chapters cover specific moral instruction, in regard to the type of morality at the forefront of the Christian Right's focus.  When the Christian Right bangs their drum so loudly about homosexuality, abortion, and evolution, the message getting to the culture from Christians has no similarity to the message of Jesus.

This is what the Christian Left and even the centrists are beginning to rise up and defend.  They are rising up to defend the message of Jesus, whose message has been made unrecognizable by the Christian Right. Jesus did not crusade for morality; he sought to let people know that God wants to bring us healing, both physical and mental/emotional.  

I do not want to paint the picture of Jesus The Wimp that some liberals make him out to be, where he is nothing but a cute little teddy bear who just wants to make you feel good with his mushy love.  Even outside of Matthew 5-7, Jesus had some hard words to say.  But most of the hard words to his potential followers were that they needed to give up everything to follow him.  Jesus The Wimp just says, "Aw, now you do whatever you feel like, and just come to me when you need to feel better."  Jesus of the Gospels says we must count the cost and give up our lives to follow him.  John reports Jesus as saying, "If you love me, you will obey my commandments."  But the key here is that Jesus doesn't dwell on what the commandments are.  The message found all throughout the gospels is, "Follow me."  Follow me.  Not "Obey this list of moral rules."

Loss Of Direction:  Tickets To Heaven and Sin Management

Dallas Willard, in his book The Divine Conspiracy , points out two major problems found among evangelical Christians today.  One is the "ticket to heaven" mentality, that "getting saved" is merely about getting a ticket to heaven.  Often accompanying this mentality is the mindset described by the cliché, "So heavenly minded that you're no earthly good."  It's the rapture-bound mindset, that Jesus is going to come any minute, so I'm just waiting around for the Gospel Train To Heaven to arrive.  It's the frame of mind that "Now that I have my ticket to heaven, all I have to do is wait until Jesus comes or I die, and my real life begins.  Life here doesn't matter much.  I'm just supposed to get as many people as I can to also get their tickets to heaven."  If you look carefully at the gospels, this mindset does not fit into that story.

The second problem Dallas Willard finds is that evangelical Christians tend to focus on "sin management" rather than on following Jesus.  Since they see Christianity as a list of rules to abide by, their focus is on keeping the rules.  Now, if you ask just about any evangelical, they will tell you that you can't earn your salvation, that it's not what you do that gets you to heaven, but rather it's Christ's death on the cross that provides forgiveness for sins and enables entrance into heaven.   But this is partly the problem.  The focus is on "getting to heaven."  So, once you get your ticket (accept Christ's forgiveness), you're basically just hanging around until Christ comes, and meanwhile you want to be sure you don't screw up too bad and lose your salvation (Calvinists don't have this problem, I presume?).  At any rate, the focus of the typical evangelical is to do the right things: on the positive side, go to church, read the Bible, and say your prayers (and for the highly evangelical, try to convert others to Christianity); on the negative side, avoid sin.  Dallas Willard explains, in detail that I can't get into here, how misguided this approach is.  But once again, when you carefully review the gospels, "sin management" is foreign to them.

I am not saying that morality is unimportant.  God gives us moral direction for our benefit, not only to help us keep from making a mess of our lives and of those around us, but also in order to see him -- without holiness, no one can see the Lord.  But the process of getting there is not by attempted adherence to a moral code.  Jesus made the concept of the process simple: "Follow me."  Dallas Willard goes into depth as to what that means, to be an apprentice of Jesus.  The way this is practiced in the church I attend (a Vineyard congregation) is that all we do is to lead each other into a closer walk with Jesus, and we let Jesus take care of whatever junk is in your life that needs to be removed.  While points of morality are mentioned from time to time in the course of sermons or Bible studies or discussions, the focus is on relationship with Jesus, for if you are following him, he will shape you into his image.

Look at the Lord's Prayer.  Point #1: Recognizing God's holiness.  Point #2: Wanting God's kingdom to prevail on Earth.  Point #3: Acknowledging dependence on God for sustenance.  Point #4: Asking to be forgiven and to forgive.  Point #5: I'll use the Good News Translation here, "Do not bring us to hard testing."  Keep us away from evil.    So yes, we are not to treat sin as unimportant, but notice it's last in a list of five things (if you count the added portion, it's really just a recap of point #1).  Second on the list is desiring God's kingdom to spread on Earth.  And what is his kingdom?  That's shown all through the gospels, announced by Jesus in Luke 4.  And it is not focused on bringing about morality.

I believe that the Christian Left is being raised up by God himself to protect his message to humans in America (the focus of my discussion, not that those outside of America are unimportant, but simply because America is where I live and where the Christian Right is strongest).  Just as he raised up Protestants in the 16th century to counteract the way the Catholic Church had gotten out of whack, so today he is raising up the Christian Left to counteract the distortions of the Christian Right.

Hostile Messages From Christendom

Earlier in this essay I pointed out the three main topics in the Christian Right's messages to society.  All of them are hostile messages to the receivers, generating the sentiment among them that Christians are hateful, judgmental people.  Some in the Christian Right wear this as a badge of honor, citing Jesus's note that, "The world hates me because I tell it that its ways are bad," and such verbal persecution from the society is merely proof that they are right.  While I certainly don't endorse accommodation to the culture to appease them, I think Christians need to be more sensitive to how they present themselves to the culture at large.


Let me first tackle the issue of homosexuality.  This is clearly going to be at the forefront of national debate for the foreseeable future.  So how should Christians react to this?  The far Christian Left sees homosexuality as the secular culture does, that it is an inborn trait that cannot be changed; thus, the just response is love and acceptance not only of the people but of their lifestyle (at least monogamous homosexual couples).  The evangelical Christian Left seems uncertain about how to approach the whole issue, but what they are clear on is that harping about homosexuality being the ruination of the family and society is clearly not the correct approach.  The Christian Right views homosexuality as a moral issue that will shake the foundations of civilized society.  It is commonly pointed out that in history, whenever a society accepted homosexuality, the civilization was in decline and eventually collapsed (either quickly or gradually).  While most in the Christian Right recognize that people don't just wake up one day and choose to be gay, some on the far Right seem to think it's purely a moral issue of choice and nothing else.

I have sympathy for the intensity of the Christian Right's crusade against changing laws regarding homosexuality, because in large part they are reacting to bullying by the homosexual activists.  When the homosexual activists don't get their way using democratic methods, then they try to get their way using the courts, where democracy is increasingly becoming bulldozed over.  Even some of the laws passed using legislatures have been bullying laws, such as in California where they want to require schools to teach acceptance of homosexuality.  When a group repeatedly uses such bullying tactics, it is no wonder there is a reaction against it.

The Christian Right Will Lose This War

Ultimately, though, the Christian Right is going to lose their war against homosexuality.  The first reason is that they have not found, and I doubt they will ever find, a logical reason to present in the public square against it.  "Because the Bible forbids it" does not hold water in a secular society.  In the abortion debate, it is clear that the child in the womb is truly a child; there is plenty of science--including the obvious ultrasounds--that show this, so the Christian Right has reason on their side.  But in the homosexuality debate, they have not been able to find a media-friendly, soundbite reason to oppose laws that treat homosexuality equal to heterosexuality, whereas the other side has their claim of "civil rights" and "equality."

The second reason I believe the Christian Right will not win their war against homosexuality is that they have no credibility.  The Christian Right claims that this is a moral issue, that the preservation of the family depends on it, but those claims ring very hollow in light of their actions.  Those in favor of laws claiming homosexuality to be equal to heterosexuality frequently point out the sorry state of marriage among the Christian Right.  This argument is rejected by the Christian Right as some kind of red herring, but I think it is perfectly valid.

It is well known that the divorce rate among evangelicals is about the same as it is in the culture at large.  There are different ways to divide up the statistics as to who counts as evangelicals and who doesn't; some ways will make the evangelical divorce rate higher than the society at large, others lower, but still the difference is minimal.  If marriage is so important to evangelicals, then why are they not addressing divorce?  They are not even addressing it among themselves, let alone in the culture at large through changes in the laws.

Think about this: We have divorce without cause as a standard law in this country.  Easy divorce is a serious societal problem.  Why are the Christians silent on this?  Why aren't they working hard to pass laws to get rid of no-fault divorce?  Apparently it's not important enough to them.

As to the addressing of divorce within the church, you get a kind of problem.  In the old days, and even today in some churches, there was such a strong moral code against divorce that if someone did divorce, they were socially blacklisted within the church, if not formally asked to leave.  Recognizing this was a problem, the church gradually changed its stance to one of acceptance of the divorced and working on healing for them.  

We are at a similar point now with homosexuality.  The noisy Christian Right has been so vigilant about denouncing the immorality of homosexuality that the "love the sinner, hate the sin" becomes impossible to conceptualize.  Anyone who is gay would feel very uncomfortable and unwelcome in most churches in the Christian Right, even if no one was unkind to them personally.  But there is a growing realization among Christians that this is not an approach that is consistent with the approach of the gospels.  The Christian Left and even the centrists are going to become louder in denouncing the Christian Right, and I believe they will be successful in backing them into a corner.

There is something else I want to bring up about the Christian Right's approach to opposing homosexuality.  They are largely silent on divorce, which they themselves are guilty of.  They are largely silent on the issue of cohabitation, particularly when it comes to lawmaking.  Those are moral issues based on conscious life choices, easily changeable decisions.  Homosexuality, even if it were a similar conscious life choice, would be on equal par to those two issues.  Why do those in the Christian Right put so much effort into only opposing homosexuality?

As I said above, I think it's largely a reaction to the bullying tactics of the homosexual activists.  But when I read people's comments on web discussion boards, blogs, and hear other things said or read other writings, I begin to sense that this is not just a reaction to bullying tactics.  I hate to use this term, but what I see too much of is homophobia.  I hate to use the term because it is so widely abused, tacking it onto anyone who happens to disagree with the homosexual activists' agenda, as if that were the only reason anyone would oppose their goals.  That is nonsense.  But there is an unpleasant whiff of this homophobic odor that emanates from too many of the statements coming from people opposing the homosexual activists' agenda.  And I can't help but think that given the comparative silence on divorce and cohabitation issues, that homophobia is a part of what drives the Christian Right to be so intense in their opposition to the homosexual activists' agenda.

In other words, the Christian Right is wrong in their approach to this whole situation, and I do not believe they will prevail.  We will have recognized homosexual couples, either as "civil unions" or as outright marriages.  I am not saying this is not harmful to society, but I am saying that an increasing number of Christians, including me, are not comfortable with the current approach, in the name of Christianity, of campaigning against the law changes of the homosexual activists as being the loudest message heard from Christians in the culture at large.


Another issue heard frequently coming from the Christian Right is the opposition to the teaching of evolution.  Personally, I think evolution is a lame theory that will be dropped by scientists the day they figure out some other scientific possibility for the origin and development of life that excludes a Creator.  Also, I find the shrill battle cry from the "evolution only" camp to sound more and more desperate, and less and less reasonable.  However, in a society that values science and reason  (though the value of both is declining), when Christians spend a major effort opposing evolution, particularly through politics, those in society outside of Christianity are getting a distorted message of Christ.  

The current young Earth creationist movement was started by Henry Morris in the early 1960s with his publication of the book The Genesis Flood .  Today, the Institute of Creation Research (ICR) is the leader in Young Earth Creationism (the world was created in six days).  This group is some of the most conservative among creationists, seeing the underlying reason for their existence as being the conversion of people to Christianity, through helping them realize that science supports creationism.   Yet even this group has decided that it is not effective to try to crusade to have laws changed for the teaching of creationism in schools.  They believe now that the best way is to simply educate through seminars and other means what they've discovered in science in regard to creationism.  In other words, instead of a combative approach, trying to change laws and challenge current laws in court, they are changing to a quiet educational approach.


Finally, the abortion issue.  The Bible doesn't use the term "abortion" anywhere, of course, and there are only a couple spots that address the issue in any form.  But I think the scientific knowledge we now have of what goes on in the womb makes abortion quite indefensible.  Still, there are those on the Christian Left who see this as a women's rights issue.  I think they will lose that battle eventually.  However, where they will lead, as in the homosexuality issue, is in the approach toward society, with a greater emphasis on caring for the terrified (or inconvenienced) mother and on making care of the born children, particularly to single mothers in poverty, a greater priority.


I will summarize my main points in conclusion.  The Christian Right has distorted the gospel of Jesus by emphasizing morality, particularly moral points not even mentioned in the gospels, so badly that the Christian Left and even the centrists can no longer keep quiet.  The Christian Left will rise in influence, reminding Christians that Jesus was about bringing healing and freedom to those he touches, rather than coming as a morality commando to take charge of the society and establish a theocracy.  The influence of the Christian Left will cause Christians as a whole to realize that we are to work to bring God's Kingdom to Earth, not a legal or moral kingdom, but a kingdom of his love and healing.  While Jesus commands us to follow him and by doing so we will obey his commandments, he will be the one to change individuals within, forming them into his image, rather than the morality police dictating rules from without.

I predict that homosexual couples will be recognized by law, either as civil unions or as marriage, and that the church will not reject them any more than they reject remarried divorced couples.  I predict that Christians will increasingly focus on social justice, including the environment, and that as the Christian Right wanes, these will become the major parts of the political debate.  

Speaking of politics, I think the Christian Right has reached their zenith in politics also.  David Kuo, in his book Tempting Faith: An Inside Story Of Political Seduction , shows the disdain the Republicans have had for the Christian Right, calling them "nuts."  The Christian Right has felt all along that the Republican Party was only using them and didn't really care about their agenda.  George W. Bush seemed like he was really one of them, and gave them the most hope.  I think George W. Bush is as close as they'll ever get to having someone do things for them.  David Kuo's book exposes what many suspected, and shows that once Bush is gone, it is unlikely someone else will rise soon whom the Christian Right will trust.  Add to that the scandals of late, the Christian Right will likely not vote, contributing to the demise of its influence in society.

I fully support the demise of the Christian Right, as it is in its present form.  I want to see the true message of the gospel to be what those in the culture at large hear, rather than the distortions of the gospel being broadcast throughout society today.


This was written October 29, 2006, for my blog. I have decided to reprint it here because I have since realized that my writing of this became a turning point for me.  I used to fully identify with the Christian Right, considering myself one of them.  As time passed after writing this essay, I began to realize that not only was it the starting point for me to disassociate with the Christian Right, but it was also a turning point for me in how I viewed the mission of the church in American society.  Because of that effect of this essay in my spiritual life, I thought it should be included here in Pondering God & Church.

Image by Ingrid Shafer 2005

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2008 Election Postscript:  The results of the 2008 election were completely opposite to my predictions listed above.  Every single pro-life issue was voted down.  South Dakotans voted down a proposal to outlaw abortion except in the case of rape and incest.  Colorado voters turned down a proposal to declare life at conception.  Worst of all, California voters rejected a proposal that would require parental consent for abortion.  This is the most disturbing to me, because abortion is no minor matter yet they want to say kids can do it without parental consent?  I don’t get it. 

Also on the pro-life front, Washington state voted to allow physician-assisted suicide, and Michigan voted to allow embryonic stem-cell research.  It was a crushing blow to the pro-life movement that every single pro-life proposal was voted down. 

Meanwhile, every state that had a proposal to ban gay marriage passed such proposals, even California!

So the 2008 elections went completely contrary to my predictions listed above.  Do I think my predictions are now bogus?  In the long run, no.  At least not my prediction about gay marriage; I still believe that will become accepted.  I am less certain about my pro-life predictions; I am mystified why all pro-life initiatives failed.