Come primary season the evangelical community is usually referenced in political terms, with Christians voters in the bellwether South Carolina primary treated as a uniform group, and speculation tossed about over which candidate will secure the “evangelical vote”.
My uncle Randy Stonehill, who was “born again” in the 1970s and since built a prolific career as a Christian folk rock musician, recently relocated from Southern California to Columbia, South Carolina.
I asked him a few questions about his transition from one “SC” to another and the diversity he’s found in South Carolina’s evangelical community:
What’s the biggest difference between living in Southern California and South Carolina?
The pace of things is a bit slow and there is less tension in the air. People tend to be friendlier and more willing to look you in the eye.
As a whole, the Stonehills are pretty die hard Democrats. Has that made it difficult to transition into an evangelical community in South Carolina that is mostly Republican?
Surprisingly not, though there are obvious differences in culture and political perspective. Most people I encounter are aware that the world of politics is an arena of compromise. There’s not really much discussion about politics, and when there is, we try to stay focused on our common denominator as followers of Jesus.
What do you think is the most common misconception that liberals have about Christian conservatives?
They tend to stereotype them as uneducated, un-intellectual, and following their hearts more than their brains.
What do you think is the most common misconception that Christian conservatives have about liberals?
They think that, indeed, liberals do stereotype them as uneducated and un-intellectual.
What is the political issue that you hear raised most often in evangelical circles in South Carolina?
I can’t say with much accuracy, though I think abortion tends to be a hot button issue.
What do you think conservatives are looking for in their candidate?
Honesty, moral character, and wisdom.
To what extent do you include political themes in your music? Do you worry they’ll be too divisive?
I don’t include political themes much at all in my music. I’m not opposed to the topic, if it’s approached in an entertaining fashion with some humor and grace. My artistic passion is to engage the audience in honest self-examination. I try to encourage them to focus on our hunger for the eternal hope that only Jesus can deliver.
Did you vote in the South Carolina primary? If so, for who and why?
No, I’m on tour in Australia as we speak. I didn’t have the presence of mind to apply for an absentee ballet, but if I had, I fear that I would have been forced to choose between the lesser of the two evils. (I don’t really trust any of them.)