One of the more vivid memories I have upon exiting broad secularism and entering the funda-evangelical world in the early 1990s was attending a small Bible study in the little IFCA church. Like many former evangelicals will attest, not much happened in the way of actual Bible study. There were plenty of Bibles in hand, to be sure, and they were cracked open before every attendant. But discussion was more along the lines of glorified socializing. There was plenty of sentimentality about the inerrancy of the Bible, but a tutored understanding what it said was another matter. And the better part of one session was spent on the politics of abortion, initiated by one bleary-eyed young man who informed us of his eighty-fourth letter to the Editor on the evils of legalized abortion. High fives and “amens” all around.
The reason I recall this so vividly is that it was becoming increasingly clear to me that I had backed my way into a tradition that really did seem to think that Christian faith implied very particular politics. Whatever else having faith in the risen Christ meant it also included, evidently, a very explicit and pointed political opposition to certain legal decisions that transpired in the early 1970s. Being rather politically agnostic on this score, this apparent baptizing of politics struck me as very odd to say the least. Why were the liberal mainliners off the reservation and squarely in social gospel no-man’s-land for linking up Christian faith to particular politics while the fundamentalists were perfectly in line for doing the same thing? To the extent that both could be understood as being under the broad American evangelical rubric, it may be that this was a case of evangelicals fighting over whose politics get heaven’s nod. Jerry Falwell meets MLK. In other words, socio-political gospel is fine so long as it is the correct one.
Be that as it may, the ethos of the political gospel of the pro-life movement that has been uncritically embraced—even within otherwise conservative Reformed churches—seems to have waned in recent years amongst the evangelicals. One still hears from time to time something of it, yet not with the sort of fervor one used to. But rightist social gospelers, take heart. For Ray Comfort has recently picked up on the signature politics and has, without the star power help of Kirk Cameron this go around, cobbled together what giddy evangelicals like John Piper are giving their “unflinching, joyful, trembling Yes” to. (Is there no end to affect rolling down like a mighty river?) In typical Comfort style, it amounts to the man-on-the-street rapid firing questions designed to lead respondents to desired conclusions and for a two-fold effect: make them look like dim-witted and hell-bound sloths and Comfort look like a rock star.
At the risk of being politically incorrect, I do have some rhetorical questions of my own for Comfort and any who inclined to give two thumbs up to the curiously dubbed “award-winning documentary.” Is it really wise to appeal to the collective fear and loathing of 21st century Americans to win an argument and look totally awesome? Is it prudent or reckless to draw parallels between the policies of mid-20th century Germany and the jurisprudence of late-20th centuryAmerica? Can you concede that such incendiary suggestions bear at least some responsibility for zealots gunning down doctors? Can you see how some might think your emotional and sensational arguments actually serve to undermine a more serious and sober effort to aid our weaker and defenseless neighbors?