Time Magazine’s current issue has a cover story on the 25 most influential evangelicals. It is an interesting list. Of course there’s always some curiosity as to who makes it and who doesn’t. Beyond that, however, is what the list shows about the perspective that Time, a standard-bearer of secular, liberal America, has on evangelicalism in this country.
The most striking thing about the list, at least to me, is the beyond-obvious focus on all things political. Clearly, evangelicalism is seen and described in political terms, even as a political movement. Now that’s not necessarily an unfair characterization from Time’s perspective. Evangelicals have been very vocal about all kinds of political issues – not just abortion. Many evangelical leaders have strayed quite far (too far) into the political realm. (As I’ve said before in parenthetical comments like this one, I think we should be engaged with all of the issues in our culture, political and otherwise. I just think that too often we overemphasize political engagement to the point that we could be accused of having a political agenda as our chief objective. That, of course, is clearly wrong.)
The other observation I made is that, not surprisingly, the folks at Time don’t really understand or care that much about the kinds of doctrinal issues that would divide or define evangelicalism. Thus they even have 2 catholics on the list (a politician and an influential intellectual), and a couple of people that many would consider outside the tent – TBN charismatics Joyce Meyer and TD Jakes. So Time definitely paints evangelicalism in broad brushstrokes. Yet, it probably isn’t fair to expect them to be capable of a more nuanced view.
The other factor they examined seems to be book sales. I suppose that is a fairly accurate way of figuring out who is influential.
So we need to take this list for what it is – a secular and even liberal’s perspective on what is evangelicalism, who defines us, and what we are all about. It certainly isn’t a list that I would have made or hoped for. I don’t even have to be happy that some of these people are influential; the fact is most of them do influence a broad audience for better or worse.
I’d love to see a good discussion here. What do you think about Time’s list? Who was left off? Who do you wish was left off the list that was on it?