Zack Exley’s Alternet article “What Lessons Can Progressives Learn from Evangelicals?” (also posted at In These Times) provides an interesting update on the growth of the progressive evangelicals and insights about how they may influence evangelical Christians as a whole. Exley notes, for example:
…this movement is still barely aware of its own existence, and has not chosen a label for itself. George Barna, who studies trends among Christians for clients such as the Billy Graham Evangelical Association and Focus on the Family, calls it simply “The Revolution” and its adherents “Revolutionaries.”
“The media are oblivious to it,” Barna wrote in his 2006 book Revolution: Finding Vibrant Faith Beyond the Walls of the Sanctuary. “Scholars are clueless about it. The government caught a glimpse of it in the 2004 presidential election but has mostly misinterpreted its nature and motivations.” According to his research, there are more than 20 million Revolutionaries in America, differentiated from mainstream evangelicals by a greater likelihood of serving their community and the poor and oppressed within it…
Credible statistics are scarce. Generally evangelical progressives agree more with Democrats about most economic and social justice issues, but a sizeable portion may prefer the GOP’s positions on abortion and gay rights. And there is also a struggle going on for the soul of the evangelical movement between “prosperity Gospel” advocates and “Social Gospel” adherents. The article suggests that the trendline may be in the Dems’ favor.
But the real benefit of evangelical progressives to Dems may be less how they vote as a sub-group and more about how they influence the much larger constituency of evangelical Christians. If, for example, they generate more discussion about the economics of Jesus among mainstream evangelicals, it could lead to substantial party-switching among evangelicals favoring Dems. In any event, there is more of interest in Exley’s article and the comments that follow it, and it is recommended to Dems interested in building support among religious communities.