Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Top 25 Evangelicals on Larry King Live

So, everyone knows about Time Magazine's the 25 Most Influential Evangelicals in America. Many bloggers have commented on the selections, including those that think the Left really does not get who is an Evangelical and who is not and those that are bothered that some people are on the list and others are not.

Surprisingly, it was a good list. I think the major magazines usually cover Christian issues very respectively and this was no exception. I was surprised, though, at the lack of Jim Wallis and Kirbyjon Caldwell in the issue.

Some have made exception to the fact that some on the list would not be considered Evangelical by a strict definition (by the way- who is the one that defines this? I believe each of us labels people by their own judgment since this is not a scientific definition). Some would say T. D. Jakes is not an evangelical, since he is Pentecostal and not understand that Richard John Neuhaus, while Catholic, is more Evangelical than most Evangelicals and incredibly influential within the movement, especially on cultural and moral issues (although more moderate, thankfully, than LaHaye or Barton) or Rick Santorum is as practical an evangelical as most Southern Baptists (talk to anyone in D.C. where he is part of Evangelical Bible studies, etc.)

If one is to have a strict view of what an "Evangelical" is, I would challenge the inclusion of Tim and Beverly LeHaye, Howard and Roberta Ahmanson and even Dobson, who are Fundamentalists, which is a little different from Evangelical. They have only taken on the term evangelical lately because of the connotations associated with fundamentalism. By co-opting this term they have moved it to the extreme right and made it synonymous with evangelical. Plus, LaHaye's end-times paranoia is not a historical element of evangelicalism, but of dispensational fundamentalism (it is no less un-orthodox and dangerous than anything Jakes says). If the tent is big enough for fundamentalists, it is big enough for the Catholics included and Pentacostals like Meyer, Strang and Jakes.

I am saddened by the influence of David Barton, someone with shoddy scholarship that does not deal with the facts of US history in his attempt to make this country "Christian" so we can get it back to its heritage. I am sure many in the south would agree with Barton on getting back to what the founding fathers wanted, especially women in their places and blacks in the field working. I am thankful thoughtful Evangelicals, such as Brian McLaren (wow, a friend of mine profiled in Time magazine) and Mark Noll are included, even elder statesmen such as J. I. Packer and Ralph Winter.

I mention this as introduction to last night's Larry King Live, which interviewed 5 of these Influential Evangelicals (props to Rudy C for the heads up). My scorecard is as follows...

Tim and Beverly LaHaye D- (Brought on to be controversial, Tim compared any interest in environmentalism to being pro-abortion. By asking serious questions, Larry King made both of them look foolish in their thoughts on homosexuals- and homophobic, not Biblical. All others walked a much more compassionate line. They think the pledge of allegiance is as important as Gay Marriage and Abortion. Lastly, Tim threw around his views on the End Times like they were the actual Gospel of Jesus Christ and 10 Commandments.)

Franklin Graham C (Compassionate things to say regarding disaster, homosexuality and those on the other side of the political fence, he stumbled when answering a question on the end times by sounding like he read LaHaye more than the Bible. He also showed why he is not his dad, by telling viewers he voted for Bush- which his daddy would never do. He was a little too soft on Bush and pro-war, but tempered all with his desire to share the plan of salvation- which at times seemed a little too much like a mantra than an invitation).

Brian McLaren B+ (Again, I remember why I am friends with this guy and trust him so much. He pointed out the importance of a holistic view of politics, mentioning the environment and the poor. He was tender to a homosexual caller and always started off with an agreement with something another interviewee said. He also pointed to our need to be a Christian conscious to the President instead of Kingmakers who expect power. He was a little too short and to the point- which is a good thing, but gave him less time than the others who rambled on and on).

T. D. Jakes A+ (That is right. He was the star of the night. He and Brian sounded like long lost brothers, agreeing on most issues. On homosexuality he pointed to the opportunity for all to be redeemed, in an eloquent manner. Regarding politics, he sided with no one and said Bush owes us nothing, but we owe him our prayers. He continually surprised me. I would take a "Pentecostal" like him as a representative of Evangelicals before Dobson, Falwell, LaHaye, Land and Robertson any day of the week).

I love TiVo, I got to record it while I was asleep and watch it this morning. Larry said he will be revisiting this topic often in the near future.


Rick said...

I too watched the Larry King interview. I agree with much of your conclusions. I too would have like to see Brian speak a bit more. The caller's respone that he seemed compassionate is what more folks ned to hear coming from the "conservative" church. I think CHristians are some times the church's worst enemies, especially those so intent on "defending" the gospel. The gospel doesn't need defended, it needs to be lived. AS far as theology is concerned, I suspect that most of those interviewed have "weak" theology in terms of the context and culture in which their theology developed.

NIce post! Thanks for getting my engine started. :)


Alex F said...

I basically agree with you Rick. I've honestly never heard of David Barton but the description in Time was scary. And I do hate to see Tim LaHaye held out the way that he is, though there's no denying the unfortunate fact that he is influential. And you're right about Neuhaus. I'm a bit surprised you weren't bothered as I was by the politicization evident in the list.

Anonymous said...

I watched Larry King the other night, too. You are spot on in your characterizations of the LaHaye's. They talk about compassion and love, but that is just a veil for the underlying belief that "we know what's best for you" and "we'll be nice to you if you come over to our side". I was angered by their consistent appropriation of the term "we" to ascribe their very narrow views to all evangelicals. Franklin was a shill for the four spiritual laws. Jeebus, if you asked him what his favorite restaurant is, he'd find a way to work in that we're all sinners. Such a narrow view of the gospel! Is it any wonder that compassion is optional, even held with disdain, in evangelical circles?

Zossima (