Copyright ©2008 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

This is Day to Day. I'm Madeleine Brand.

ALEX COHEN, host:

And I'm Alex Cohen. It's time to get politics out of faith. That's the message this morning from a perhaps unlikely source, a group of conservative Christians. This morning in Washington, D.C., they are releasing what they're calling an "Evangelical Manifesto." The document aims to reclaim the word "evangelical" in the name of religion.

The leaders say today's political culture wars have stripped the term of its older, more spiritual meaning. Richard Mouw is president of the Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California, and he's one of more than 80 Christian leaders who supports this manifesto. He joins us now. Welcome to the program.

Dr. RICHARD J. MOUW (President, Fuller Theological Seminary): Thank you, Alex. Great to be with you.

COHEN: If we could start off, if you could answer, what does the term "evangelical" mean to you, personally?

Dr. MOUW: It really centers on two very important things. One is a belief in the supreme authority of the Bible, and secondly, with a very central emphasis on Jesus Christ as the savior that God sent to deal with the problem of human sin.

COHEN: So what is this manifesto calling for?

Dr. MOUW: This manifesto says that we're concerned about the ways in which that label, "evangelical," has come to be associated with the religious right, so that there are many of us who really do want to claim that label because we believe "evangelical" means evangel, Gospel, Gospel people, and at the same time, we don't want to be identified with a narrowly defined political agenda.

COHEN: Why? What's been the effect of that, being associated with this particular political ideology?

Dr. MOUW: Well, it means that some of the things we care most about, and that is witnessing to our faith, people turn us off for. They enter into the conversation with stereotypes of us, because they assume that, you know, we all sound like Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson, and it keeps us from saying and doing the kinds of things that we identify with, the center of our faith.

COHEN: A number of prominent Christian leaders across the country are not among the list of those who've signed. What do you say to those who say they want to remain political?

Dr. MOUW: Well, I think that we have seen, in the last 30 years or so - you know, the evangelicals, really became prominent in American political life around 1980 with the formation of the Moral Majority, and I think that many of them have a vested interest in promoting and using their religious leadership to promote a certain kind of political agenda. And when there are those of us who want to say we claim the label, even though we don't necessarily identify with that political agenda, that ideology, this obviously will create some tension.

COHEN: There's been some talk of a bit of a rift between older conservative Christians who focus on issues like abortion, same-sex marriage, and younger ones who might be a bit more concerned about things like the environment. Do you think this manifesto will help seal that rift at all?

Dr. MOUW: I think that for many of us that is part of the motivation. There was a George Barna survey recently that reported that many younger Christians, including many younger evangelicals, see evangelicals as narrow-minded, bigoted and mean-spirited people. And I think that, you know, many of us care about providing an alternative evangelical identity that will allow those, that younger generation to continue to be concerned about some of the central issues of the faith without having to - in doing so, without having to identify with the religious right.

COHEN: Richard Mouw is president of the Fuller Theological Seminary. Thank you.

Dr. MOUW: Thank you.

Copyright © 2008 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.