Those are the categories utilized by Michael Lindsay, assistant professor of sociology at Rice University, and author of Faith in the Halls of Power: How Evangelicals Joined the American Elite. When Lindsay spoke recently at the Pew Forum’s semi-annual Faith Angle Conference on religion, politics and public life, he used these categories to describe the division in the ranks of politically active American evangelicals.
Lindsay on Populists: “You see, populist evangelicals are what we oftentimes think about evangelicals. These are the folks who are culture warriors, who say that they want to take back the country for their faith. They see themselves as embattled against secular society. They are very much concerned that they are in a minority position, and they’ve got to somehow use very strong-arm tactics to win the day.”
Lindsay on Cosmopolitans: “They are less interested in taking back the country for their faith. They really are more interested in their faith being seen as authentic, reasonable, and winsome. So they still have an evangelistic impulse, but their whole modus operandi looks quite different. Because of that they have different ultimate goals of what they are actually trying to achieve. They want to have a seat at the table. They want to be seen as legitimate. They are concerned about what The New York Times or TIME magazine thinks about evangelicals because they [the cosmopolitan evangelicals] are concerned about cultural elites. They want legitimacy. Legitimacy is actually more important to them than necessarily taking back the country.”
Notable among the cosmopolitan group were Reformed Christians. Here’s what he said about them.
“There are some theologically literate cosmopolitan evangelicals, people who are able to articulate how their faith matters and drives them to particular positions, but the interesting thing about that is that almost all of them come from the Reformed tradition. The rise of Presbyterian kind of theology has been very interesting to observe. Abraham Kuyper has been one of the figures that is oftentimes cited among the people I interviewed.”
Then Lindsay mentions one significant Reformed theologian who is partly to be credited with the emergence of Reformed theology in the American evangelical community. David Wells. “I got in touch with a theologian named David Wells who has just written a book. I’ll promote his book since I don’t have one of my own. His book is The Courage to be Protestant: Truth Lovers, Marketers, and Emergents in the Postmodern World. And he has a different dichotomy of the outlook of the evangelical landscape.” So Lindsay explains Wells’ breakdown. But I don’t want to spoil it for you. I want you to go read the whole transcript. It will give you a good idea of what is going on among us voting evangelicals.
Normally, I don’t post on politics, but politics is only one factor. I’m interested in this also for the historical and theological associations. If you want my views on politics, you’ll have to email me or send me a message at my Facebook page.
Finally, there was another Reformed individual, who, in her vocation, is associated with all of this. The chief religion correspondent from FOXNews Channel, Lauren Green, happened to be in attendance at the conference and piped up with some questions when she heard her church referenced. That church would be Redeemer Presbyterian in New York City. I found that interesting. It’s nice to learn about the faith of the talking heads you listen to. So now Lauren is “outed” if you will as Reformed!