Elisha, Omri. 2013. All Catholics Now? Spectres of Catholicism in Evangelical Social Engagement. In The New Evangelical Social Engagement edited by Brian Steensland, Philip Goff, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Excerpt: “Addressing an audience of conservative leaders and lobbyists in February 2012, evangelical pundit and former governor Mike Huckabee boldly announced, “We are all Catholics now.” The surprising rallying cry, coming from an ordained Southern Baptist pastor, was in response to a controversy over an Obama administration proposal to require private employers, including religious organizations, to provide insurance coverage for contraception. Catholic bishops came out vigorously opposing the measure, and Huckabee’s show of solidarity, in the name of religious liberty and defeating President Obama, was adopted by a variety of high-profile conservatives, including evangelicals as well as other non-Catholics. In July, in what was heralded as an unprecedented move, evangelical flagship Wheaton College joined Catholic University of America in a lawsuit against the federal mandate.
Such politics of affinity may seem counterintuitive, but they make sense in the context of an election year when two GOP contenders (Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum) and the party’s vice presidential nominee (Paul Ryan) were Roman Catholics with strong support among conservative evangelicals. Indeed, evangelicals and Roman Catholics have found ways to get along for decades, demonstrating repeated, albeit cautious, willingness to forge mean- ingful partnerships despite stark doctrinal differences and mutual recrimi- nations. From the ecumenism of the Billy Graham crusades to the abortion activism of the religious right, to interfaith dialogue groups like Catholics and Evangelicals for the Common Good (spearheaded by veteran bridge-builders like Ron Sider), evangelicals and Catholics routinely find common cause around moral, political, and social issues. In recent years, leaders and intel- lectuals of both traditions have come together to form coalitions and working groups, issuing influential (and controversial) manifestos such as the landmark “Evangelicals and Catholics Together” document of 1994 and the Manhattan Declaration of 2009. The charismatic renewal movement opened up multiple lines of communication and joint worship that continue to influence adherents in both camps. And as is evident in this book, especially in chapters 2, 9, and 10, politically and socially engaged evangelicals have been borrowing conceptual tools and mobilization strategies from Catholic activists for many years.
Aside from formal partnerships and dialogues, there are subtle and implicit resonances between contemporary evangelical and Catholic sensi- bilities that are less conspicuous but worth investigating as well. This chapter is an attempt to think about notable features and cultural characteristics of evangelicalism’s new social engagement that recall or resonate with Roman Catholic theology and practice, with an emphasis on shared motivational themes especially as applied to ministries of social welfare. While the fact that evangelicals and Catholics are able to come together around certain social and political issues is significant, issue agreement is only one marker of elective affinity. By framing my discussion in terms of resonance (intentional or otherwise) rather than collaboration, I point to underlying affinities between these two traditions, and, more important, I highlight the ways that divergent traditions separated by centuries of theology and ritual practice may find themselves drawn into closer alignments in their modalities of religious and social action, resulting from gradual shifts in public consciousness. The possible ways in which uniquely evangelical influences make their way into Catholic ministries and services merit exploration as well, but this is not within the purview of my discussion here.”