Evangelicals and the redemptive symmetry of immigration reform

24 May

Evangelicals and evangelicalism are most commonly associated now with the “red” and “right” ends of the U.S. political spectrum.

It has not always been so. It is not even entirely so now.

Historian Randall Balmer reminds us of such things in this post at The Christian Century:

Evangelicals and the redemptive symmetry of immigration reform | The Christian Century.

This portion of the post is the most central, historically speaking:

Evangelicals in the 19th and early 20th centuries crowded toward the left of the spectrum. They worked for the abolition of slavery, equal rights for women and the formation of public schools. Evangelicals opposed dueling as barbaric, marched in the vanguard of peace crusades and advocated for labor rights. Many prominent evangelicals, from Charles Grandison Finney to William Jennings Bryan, excoriated the ravages of unbridled capitalism.

The aberration in evangelical political behavior emerged with the rise of the Religious Right in the late 1970s. In their quest for political influence, leaders like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson cast their lot with Ronald Reagan to defeat Jimmy Carter, a fellow evangelical. Over the ensuing decades, the Religious Right marched in lockstep with the Republicans and became the party’s core constituency. Politically conservative evangelicals supported massive increases in military spending, for example, while opposing equal rights for women—positions utterly at odds with their evangelical precursors. Opposition to abortion and to same-sex marriage became their signature concerns.

Beginning with the 2008 election, however, a younger generation of evangelicals began to discern a much broader spectrum of “moral issues,” including war, poverty and the environment. The evangelical groundswell for immigration reform suggests a maturing of these concerns.

There are local signs of this “evangelical groundswell” amidst this deeply “red” part of the upper prairie-plains. You can infer this from Harold Heie’s Respectful Conversation project, based in Orange City, IA but encompassing evangelicals around the U.S.


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