Note: This article originally published at ReligionDispatches.org. Click here to read the full article.
The forced resignation of National Association of Evangelicals’ (NAE) vice-president Richard Cizik over remarks supporting civil unions for gay and lesbian couples sent shockwaves through the evangelical world last week. Cizik’s abrupt ouster from the NAE after 28 years of service is one more sign of the struggle for the soul of an evolving American evangelicalism.
Recent public opinion data points to the need for the current leaders to rethink their certainty about what constitutes “evangelical values”—especially if they care about not alienating the next generation.
Rich Cizik has been no stranger to controversy during his long tenure at the NAE. In early 2007, a group of Christian Right leaders called for his resignation because they claimed his work to broaden the evangelical agenda to include the environment diluted an exclusive focus on opposing abortion and same-sex marriage. At that time, the NAE board responded by reaffirming its confidence in Cizik and its commitment to a broader “biblically balanced agenda.”
But this time, with Cizik publicly saying that his views had been shifting toward supporting civil unions, NAE president Leith Anderson asked for his resignation, declaring that “there was a loss of credibility for him clearly espousing our positions and values.” Other evangelical voices on the Christian Right were more forceful, asserting that Cizik himself had become un-evangelical. Tom Minnery of Focus on the Family declared, “He no longer represents the view of evangelicalism.” Charles Colson of the Prison Fellowship claimed that Cizik was “separating himself from the mainstream of evangelical belief and conviction.”
But as I have argued elsewhere, evangelicals are not monolithic, and the question of whether Cizik’s positions represent evangelical positions, values, views, or beliefs is an empirical one. A quick appraisal of four of Cizik’s alleged departures from the evangelical mainstream in light of the data shows him clearly within the mainstream on most questions, and on the more controversial question of civil unions, in sync with the majority of younger evangelicals.
Click here to read the full article at Religion Dispatches.org, which includes the data showing Cizik’s views in sync with mainstream evangelical opinion, especially younger evangelicals.