Hodges: Christian right must soften its tone, widen its agenda
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

In the election aftermath, many conservative evangelicals are being forced into introspection.

The results confirmed that our country has experienced a paradigm shift. Culturally, we are becoming more diverse, with the number of minorities steadily rising.

Ideologically, the nation is embracing more liberal views — voters in four states backed ballot measures that favor same-sex marriage. Compare that to 2008, when such initiatives lost across the board.

Conservative evangelicals have to change if we intend to remain influential in the public arena. Changing our core values is not the solution. Christians derive their values from immutable biblical principles. But some shifting is necessary.

First, the tone of our discourse must change. It is expected that we will disagree at times with elected officials, but there is no place for intolerance and the divisive language that have dominated our politics in the past decade. It is possible to disagree with the policy and still respect the politician. It is also not enough for Christians to refrain from hateful rhetoric, we should vehemently oppose it.

Second, the Christian right must expand its agenda. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Jim Daly, the head of Focus on the Family, noted that evangelicals have made a mistake by marching lockstep with the Republican Party. Neither party has all the answers.

Our focus has almost entirely been on opposing abortion and gay marriage. We have neglected issues such as poverty, health care and immigration reform, which arguably have just as much biblical support as the agendas we oppose. After all, the scriptures command us to exhibit love and compassion and to care for the less fortunate.

The elections are behind us. We may have deep disagreements with the winning candidates, but, as Christians, we have a responsibility to pray for our nation and our elected officials. Any Christian who spews hate and promotes discord is violating biblical precepts.

The Apostle Paul exhorted Christians in Rome to "be subject to the governing authorities" and reminded them that "whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted." Paul was in no way suggesting that government officials are acting on God's behalf or even that we are to obey the authorities blindly. Rather, Paul is appealing to Christians to respect those whom God has allowed to govern and strive to live peaceably under the elected establishment.

Evangelicals, conservative or otherwise, must heed these words and help our country move forward.

Contact Corey J. Hodges, pastor of New Pilgrim Baptist Church, at coreyjhodges@comcast.net.