Evangelicals & the Republican Party

In American Apocalypse, Matthew Avery Sutton gives an account of the gradual alliance of American evangelical Christians with the Republican Party. An excerpt:

As fundamentalists reacted to labor unrest and the communist menace, they evolved from occasional critics of monopolistic corporations into apologists for free market capitalism. For Billy Sunday, securing the nation’s Christian foundations meant a return to small government and laissez-faire economics. “There are two schools of thought in our land,” he preached. “One is that each individual man and woman shall have his or her right to determine what shall be your happiness. . . . There is the other school where the individual effort, my friends, and initiative is controlled by the State or by force.” He made clear that Jesus was no parlor pink. “No man, he preached, “who thinks as Jesus thought can ever be a socialist. No man who thinks as Karl Marx thought can ever be a Christian.”

Sunday’s perspective mirrored that of the majority of fundamentalists in the 1920’s. While earlier generations of premillennialists had little interest in defending the rich and powerful, the Red Scare put the fear of a communist revolution into the souls of fundamentalists. They no longer stood apart from labor-capital conflicts as neutral voices calling for workplace justice but instead became mouthpieces for the wealthy. Amid the shifting social mores that left few traditional customs untouched, fundamentalists sought less conflict, more stability, fewer questions, and more certainty. Nor were they the only Americans to move to the right in the post-World War I years. Their political evolution represented widespread changes under way in the United States as Progressivism died a slow death, changes the Republican Party began to masterfully exploit (pp. 189-90).

It seems to me that the church is a political entity that is loyal to the Lord Christ alone and stands apart from all other political entities. How might the political evolution of evangelicals be understood in biblical and theological terms? What are the dangers of an uncritical alliance of the church with any earthly cause?

3 thoughts on “Evangelicals & the Republican Party

  1. verbity

    I sort of agree with your post. But, as with all things….it’s not that simple.. Sutton is lumping social concerns and political concerns into one. From a political point of view, Jesus was neutral. America wasn’t even a sparkle in Jesus’ eye, obviously, during his ministry. The only commentary on rule was that people should follow his father’s (there’s other commentary but that was the really important stuff). From a social view point….Jesus was a socialist. Feeding 5,000….sharing stuff…that’s nothing but socialist. Gather money from everyone and spread it around so all can continue ministry….socialist at heart. Maybe not political socialism but idealistic socialism. Every week we tithe so that our church’s can run and we all do it willing, it’s God’s commandment. We don’t give it a thought…we give so a single cause, God’s cause can continue to flourish…..no biggie. Socialism is fine as long as the cause is a good cause as in church’s where there is a board which is chosen by the church members to handle fiscal affairs. same difference. I think Evangelicals would like to lump things into left and right and Capitalist and Socialist etc but I really don’t think it’s that simple.

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