I was afraid that this would happen, and it has. My use of the term Evangelical or American Evangelism has been misunderstood per private e-mails. I take the blame for that, because I did not define how I was using the term.
It is true that Evangelism, as a common term, had its birth in America around the time of World War II. You can trace some of the roots further back. In the beginning, it was a term coined to define a group of people based on their theology. The National Association of Evangelicals define these theological boundaries this way;
- Conversionism: the belief that lives need to be transformed through a “born-again” experience and a life long process of following Jesus
- Activism: the expression and demonstration of the gospel in missionary and social reform efforts
- Biblicism: a high regard for and obedience to the Bible as the ultimate authority
- Crucicentrism: a stress on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross as making possible the redemption of humanity
I am not talking at all about American Evangelicalism based on any theological definition, but about the subculture that has risen around it. Those who have reached the conclusion that I’m going to spend eternity in hell because I’m no longer an evangelical, are making huge inferences.
As I describe this American Evangelical culture, I am basing it on my experience within it. If you can’t relate, I am certainly not accusing anyone of these values, and this does not apply to you. But I know what I personally experienced, and I sense that it is true for large swaths of Evangelicals today, based on what I hear them say and what I read.
Here are some of the characteristics of this group:
- Anti-intellectualism, which I’ve been talking about in the past two posts. For further reading, I suggest Mark Noll’s book, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind.
- Christianity that has a deep bond with political conservatism, especially the Republican Party. I suggest that the philosophy of the Republican Party now supersedes any values that they would get from the Bible. At one-point (during the days of Jimmy Carter) Evangelicals had an unhealthy bond with the Democratic Party. Both parties will manipulate the evangelicals for their votes.
- As a subculture they rank sin as horrible or inconsequential. The Evangelicals I’m talking about list homosexuality and abortion as the horrible sins (even though Jesus himself never mentioned these in his sermons). However, they list adultery, greed, lying, deceit, stealing, ignoring the poor, and religious pretentiousness, all as inconsequential sins, especially if done by an evangelical or evangelical leader. Oddly, Jesus did preach against all of these things.
- They have blended Christianity with American Nationalism, and some, even with White Nationalism. I’ve heard several evangelical preachers say things from the pulpit, such as “America is God’s chosen people.” Jesus also warned against mixing Christian things with secular political things.
- What I call, Unorthodoxaphobia, which is the fear of being exposed to some kind of thinking, which they define as “unbiblical.” Therefore, they do not entertain any curiosity outside the very specific dogma of their church, a lot of it having nothing to do with the Bible.
- That we are living in the “Last Days.” This idea was not part of the main church for its first 1800 years of existence. Yes, there were a few pockets of people throughout history that thought that Jesus was coming back any day. But the great theologians of the Church for all those years considered the early days of the church as the times of great persecution and now there was going to be a very long period of peace. Evangelicals ignore all those years of Church history and insist on this idea of Jesus coming back soon, and this planet is going to burn, is “Biblical.” It was mostly promoted by the likes of Hal Lindsay in the 1970s, and in the 1800s, C. I. Scofield.
- Israel is still God’s chosen people and them becoming a nation was the plan for the “end times.” This too was never part of the Church’s position, up until John Nelson Darby and C. I. Scofield (in the 1800s) came up with it. If anything, prior to this, the Church was guilty at times of being anti-Sematic. So now, the idea of praising Israel and looking the other way when they do horrible things to the Palestinians, is part of American evangelicalism. I’ve had Palestinian Christians ask me, “Why do the American Christians hate us so much? We are confused.” When I explain to them this history, they are in disbelief that one man (mostly C. I. Scofield) can have such powerful influence of the Church.
So, this is the evangelicalism, which I left. I’ve been warned never to write things that will challenge people’s religious beliefs, because it will piss them off. That is not my purpose. My purpose is to state the fact that the church in American is dying. That kids are leaving evangelicalism in droves and will never consider God’s existence again, because of their experiences within it. I’m just trying to define the problem and address those who are about to leave so that they will know that there are alternatives to this evangelical sub-culture, in which they have been raised, besides atheism. Mike