NPR Interview with Richard Mouw

Richard Mouw is on the steering committee that drafted “An Evangelical Manifesto.” Yesterday, NPR interviewed him about the “Manifesto,” and the audio is available here. Or you can listen to it below. The interview begins at 27:20.


I am not yet ready to post all of my reflections on the document, though I can tell you now that my review will be mixed. One of the reasons for my skepticism is confirmed in this interview. As everyone knows, leading evangelicals like James Dobson, Tony Perkins, Charles Colson, Albert Mohler, and others have not signed on to support the “Manifesto.” Mouw tells NPR that many of those who haven’t signed “have a vested interest in promoting and using their religious leadership to promote a certain kind of political agenda.” Is Mouw suggesting that the abstainers are abstaining because of some personal benefit that they derive from partisan politics? Does this suggest that the abstainers care more about their “vested interest” than about affirming the gospel?

Here’s a transcript of the relevant portion of the interview:

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

Mouw: Well, I think that we have seen in the last 30 years or so, you know, the evangelicals really became prominent 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 uh, when there are those of us who want to say that we claim the label even though we don’t necessarily identify with that political agenda, that ideology, this obviously will create some tension.

NPR: 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?

Mouw: I think that’s, for many of us, that’s 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 many of us care about providing an alternative evangelical identity that will allow those of 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.

Link to Audio: “‘Evangelical Manifesto’ Aims to Depoliticize Religion,” NPR: Day to Day (May 7, 2008).

9 Responses to NPR Interview with Richard Mouw

  1. Jim Skaggs May 8, 2008 at 3:50 pm #

    I’ve been disturbed by the apparent motivations of several of the authors of the “Manifesto,” as they have been interviewed [and by the identity of one or two of them], but it doesn’t seem to me that the actual content of the document is in any way offensive. It does recognize that there are many political issues Evangelicals should address beyond abortion and marriage, but that doesn’t necessarily denigrate those issues. It is essentially a truism.

    I look forward to what you have to say.

  2. Brett May 8, 2008 at 4:36 pm #

    “Is Mouw suggesting that the abstainers are abstaining because of some personal benefit that they derive from partisan politics? Does this suggest that the abstainers care more about their “vested interest” than about affirming the gospel?”

    Instead of putting it in question format, why don’t you just make a statement and say “This is what I believe.”?

    I, too, am looking forward to what you have to say.

  3. Mike May 8, 2008 at 8:53 pm #

    I happen to work for an organization that has a “vested interest” to abstain from signing this — but I got news for you… We were never asked. In fact when we inquired about draft language we were rebuffed. I also know that Dobson and the others mentioned were not asked either. I am still reading through it (I guess I am too busy with partisan politics to read it all in one day), but so far I don’t see anything offensive…… I am new to your blog — invited by a pastor friend to read your take. I agree with the other two posters — I’d love to hear your thoughts…

  4. Celucien Joseph May 8, 2008 at 10:16 pm #

    Is this thing ( “An Evangelical Manifesto” document)even necessary?

  5. Brett May 8, 2008 at 10:36 pm #

    If I were on the committee for this, I would certainly not want guys like Dobson, Land, Colson, and even Mohler to sign it either. These guys are the face of the evangelical right, and it is guys like these who it seems to be focused towards. Though, it is weird that Jim Wallis’ name is on there and he’s on the other end of the spectrum. I wouldn’t want his name on there as well.

    Reason being because they would just sign the dotted line and go back to doing whatever it is they do. There would be no change. They seem to be taking the approach of having guys sign it who are not involved in political things in order to let the country know that those right-wingers do not speak for all of Evangelicalism, and there are Evangelicals who care about more things and have different emphases. There are Evangelicals who are not so divisive, condemning, and judgmental.

    Like I said, I think it’s focused at both sides, which is why it is weird that Wallis’ name is on there, but that’s just my guess at why some of these guys’ names are not on there.

  6. Darius May 9, 2008 at 3:03 am #

    I agree with Brett… why the heck was Jim Wallis included and not Dobson? That in itself proves the slant that it was intended to have was against conservatives. That the document isn’t MORE liberal is actually quite amazing. I would have expected something closer to a McLaren book with Wallis involved.

  7. Ken May 9, 2008 at 7:40 am #

    But there are also several prominent theological conservatives who (AFAIK) are not politically active whose names are conspicuously missing: Packer (and he signs everything these days except Anglican documents), Zacharias, MacArthur, Sproul, Piper, and Swindoll all spring to mind.

  8. Darius May 9, 2008 at 8:53 am #

    Good point, Ken. Piper and MacArthur would never sign this document, that’s for certain. It depends on how you define “politically active,” though. Piper is very vocal on many political issues (though usually from a more theological position), yet at the same time does not lobby like a Dobson or Perkins.

  9. Derek May 9, 2008 at 8:14 pm #

    Shame on you, Richard Mouw.

    This is a cowardly college president stabbing Christian leaders in the back – Christian leaders who are NOT AFRAID to confront moral evil in our day.

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