Beneath the evangelical power crust, a lot of stuff is bubbling
The evangelical world is often portrayed as a monolithic force, but it is actually a very diverse and complex grouping of Christians who range politically all over the map. It is true that a majority of evangelicals voted for Bush in the last election, but it is important to be aware that a growing number of evangelicals are criticizing the Christian Right. Among these critics are Jim Wallis, Ron Sider, Tony Campolo and Brian McLaren
. Another emerging young voice is Donald Miller.
Donald Miller is not really a member of the Christian Left, but his general approach to Christianity is a refreshing and sharp challenge to the Christian Right. Miller's growing popularity among young people is a sign that young evangelicals are restless and not always in agreement with the voices of the older Christian Right leaders.
Below are quotes from two interviews and one article that will give a taste of how Miller responds to the Christian Right.
From The Door interview:
DOOR: Explain your summer living as a Navy Seal for Jesus.
MILLER: It's a part of my biography that I'm not exactly proud of but I was a fundamentalist at one point in my life, where I worked at a their camp in Colorado. It was miserable. We fasted, prayed, memorized a bunch of scripture, fasted, and did all of that to make ourselves great Christians in order to redeem ourselves rather than trusting in the grace and mercy of God. We thought we were in training for some sort of holy war. Of course we weren't going to be violent about anything, but we definitely looked at it that way in terms of being kind of militant Christians. [ ]
DOOR: What do you say to those who are turned off by Christianity because they equate Jesus as being a card-carrying member of the Republican Party and Pat Robertson's best friend?
MILLER: I would start by apologizing that these people have misrepresented Christ on numerous fronts.
From an interview in Christianity Today:
You've said that the church "uses love as a commodity." What do you mean?
We sometimes take a Darwinian approach with love--if we are against somebody's ideas, we starve them out. If we disagree with somebody's political ideas, or sexual identity, we just don't "pay" them. We refuse to "condone the behavior" by offering any love.
This approach has created a Christian culture that is completely unaware what the greater culture thinks of us. We don't interact with people who don't validate our ideas. There is nothing revolutionary here. This mindset is hardly a breath of fresh air to a world that uses the exact same kinds of techniques.
What's the alternative?
The opposite is biblical love, which loves even enemies, loves unconditionally, and loves liberally. Loving selectively is worldly; giving it freely is miraculous.
From an article in Willamette Week: [The first paragraph gives a feel for the unusual content of Miller's books, including "Blue Like Jazz", that has sold over 150,000 copies]
One passage of Blue Like Jazz recounts a scuffle with Portland cops at anti-Bush protests. Many of the conversations in his books take place over beers at the Horse Brass Pub. He describes watching penguins screw in wildlife documentaries as a spiritually enlightening experience. He recounts how, as an angsty Houston adolescent, he once renounced God while listening to the Smiths' song "That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore" and vandalizing a carwash. His first book was about taking off from Texas in a VW bus and ending up in a hippie encampment in the Oregon woods with a bunch of guys who were, as he says now, "brushing their teeth with beer." [ ]
Miller was once an enthusiastic Young Republican who forged credentials just so he could hang out inside the 1992 GOP convention in Houston. Now he's a Green-turned-Democrat with a link to MoveOn.org on his website. [ ]
Miller says the fate of his mom's Enron-based 401(k) played a role in his political conversion. "She's lost 95 percent of her retirement, she's working two jobs, and Bush is denying he's friends with Ken Lay," he says. "And I'm like, you really don't care about us, do you?" [ ]
Most people who love Don Miller seem to be more conventional Christians who feel cast adrift in the conservative megachurch world. "I think most of my readers are disenfranchised evangelicals," Miller says. "They've been going to church and voting Republican all their lives, but it's not working for them anymore."
"Beneath the evangelical power crust, a lot of stuff is bubbling," says Jess Bielman, the campus ministry director at Warner Pacific College, a tiny Bible school on Mount Tabor where many students read Miller. "Miller taps right into that. [ ]
From the outside, evangelical Christianity looks like a right-wing monolith right now: bolstering Bush, crushing gay marriage, waging abortion jihad, saving America's children from SpongeBob SquarePants.
Miller's success is evidence something else is afoot. Locally, the author is part of a loose network of evangelical thinkers who are trying, as another says, "to talk about faith without sounding like assholes." In Portland and nationally, a new breed of churches often labeled "emergent" is carving out an alternative to the suburban megachurch. [ ]
"What Miller says about Christian conservatives," says Michael Spencer, a Kentucky pastor and popular Christian blogger, "will just peel the hair off those of us who voted for Bush."