The Changing Face of Christian Politics
In the closing days of 2013, Representative Steve King summed up the year in religion and politics well. After a year in which Christian leaders and organizations mobilized to pressure Congress on immigration reform, King was ready to take off his gloves: "We might lose [the immigration] debate in this country because of the sympathy factor, and it's also added to by a lot of Christian groups who misread the scripture, and I'm happy to take on that debate with any one of those folks."
As a frequent speaker at "values voter" conferences, King must have felt odd positioning himself in direct opposition to Christians. Then again, 2013 was a year defined by Christian leaders seeking to realign themselves politically to meet the challenges of a new century and changing culture.
Christian political engagement is changing in this country as believers seek to untangle their faith from the worldliness of partisan politics and ideology. The melding of Christianity and partisan politics has been 40 years in the making, but the costs of that entanglement have only become clear to Christians over the last decade.
In response to changing cultural mores in the 1960s and '70s, religious leaders like the Reverend Jerry Falwell—who had previously spurned partisan political engagement—called Christians to "stand for what is right" through the acquisition of political power. "In a nation of primarily Christians," they reasoned, "why are we struggling to influence our nation's policy decisions?" Soon, Christians became aligned in practice and perception with the Republican Party, pursuing almost exclusively a one-party strategy for political victory.