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Evangelicals find the center

Rejecting political partisanship, more Evangelicals seek a broader agenda.

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A fresh wind is blowing through the American evangelical movement: New leaders are coming to the fore. The religious right shows signs of declining influence. An evangelical "center" appears to be emerging, rejecting alignment with a single political party and embracing a broader range of concerns.

Weary of the public perception that all evangelicals back a strident Christian right, a number of faith leaders from across the spectrum are describing these changes in new books, along with their views of what constitutes a genuine, biblically based approach to politics.

In "A New Kind of Conservative," the Rev. Joel Hunter explores why the public agenda should go far beyond the hot-button issues of abortion and gay marriage as well as how to change the tone of political engagement.

In "Red Letter Christians," liberal pastor Tony Campolo examines the "radical vision" revealed in Jesus' words (traditionally printed in red in some Bibles) – and tackles a range of issues from war to the minimum wage.

Among the most interesting of the recent crop are two books that highlight significant trends in the expanding evangelical agenda. These include the rise of an "evangelical center" and the potential for Evangelicals to collaborate with other faith groups on pressing moral issues.

About 26 percent of Americans call themselves Evangelicals, and politically they're spread across the spectrum. In The Future of Faith in American Politics, David Gushee provides an enlightening look at the sweep of the movement, describing key players and organizations that represent the left, right, and center, and the changes under way within important evangelical institutions.

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