Global evangelicals and politics

In Christianity Today, Mark Noll writes about “an extraordinarily valuable book series titled Evangelical Christianity and Democracy in the Global South (5 stars), which includes volumes on Latin America (Paul Freston, ed.), Africa (Terence O. Ranger, ed.), and Asia (forthcoming, David Halloran Lumsdaine, ed.). . . . scholarly teams were commissioned to produce studies that examine the diverse ways the world’s newer evangelical communities relate to currents of political democracy.

. . . These impressive case studies point to several general realities. First, local cultures and local history matter. There is no one-size-fits-all political impact when evangelical movements grow; a great deal depends, for example, on whether the local context has been dominated by a powerful Catholic church and a strongly anti-clerical government (Mexico) or a national hero with strong Christian connections who becomes a tyrant (Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe).

Second, to say that some group is “evangelical” tells us almost nothing about its approach to politics. Rather, what makes the difference politically is the kind of evangelicalism present, the approaches to Scripture and holiness evangelicals promote, and the particular challenges facing evangelical movements. Tensions with expanding Islam in northern Nigeria, for example, make for challenges very different from the need to maneuver between right-wing death squads and Communist insurgents in Nicaragua.

Third, vibrant experiences of conversion and thrilling instances of direct divine assistance do not by themselves make for political wisdom. The burgeoning of evangelical movements around the world is a recent development of supreme importance for the kingdom of God. But it also spotlights a pressing need for education, wisdom, depth, balance, and discretion. For an evangelical politics in the majority world to reflect the innocence of doves and the wisdom of serpents (instead of the reverse) will take considerable work.

Read Noll’s full summary.

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