So, it’s been a few months since my last post. Who would’ve known preparing for April retirement would be so labor intensive! So many forms to fill out, so many phone calls, so many emails to confirm this and that. But it’s finally here and I it’s beginning to sink in that this is my new reality. A lot has happened so far this year. Yet again another school shooting leaving 17 dead. In desperation, the trolls for the NRA have vilified the young survivors that have called for sane gun legislation. The corruption of the current Republican administration continues to make the news as the Mueller probe digs deeper. “Draining the swamp” seems to entail mainly the Trump cabinet. Misogynists have no where to hide as the “Me Too” movement gains momentum. Conservatives have moved from Gay-bashing to Trans-bashing. The administration fights an ongoing war with the states over illegal aliens, or as progressives prefer, “undocumented immigrants.” The saber rattling continues between two ego maniacs: Trump and Kim Jong-un prompting Trump to request a huge military parade. Trump has continued his “bull in the china shop” foreign trade policies prompting a tariff war and has sent military to guard our borders against a country he seems to think we are at war with. The president with numerous sexual assault allegations and hush money payed to a porn star declares National Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Oh, the irony!
I think the midterm elections will be very interesting. We just finished watching the lengthy series, “The Roosevelts,” on PBS. So proud of Teddy, FDR and Eleanor and the legacy of Progressivism that has followed. The fight goes on. But, politics aside, as you know from my bio, I grew up evangelical, attended evangelical churches for years and graduated from Fuller Seminary, an evangelical school. I grew up in the evangelical bubble, largely insulated from conflicting world views and protected from “liberal” views like historical criticism. But, all that has changed over the past half-dozen years for me as I stepped outside the bubble and critically assessed evangelical orthodoxy and the legacy I had inherited. The evangelical insistence that “Christian” businesses could legally refuse services to gays set off red flags for me, even though, at the time, I was not gay-affirming. The parallels to Christian businesses in the South during segregation and the Southern Baptist resistance to desegregation was just too obvious.
So, where am I today, 6 years later? Oddly enough, still attending an evangelical church. It is not a good fit, as I am no longer evangelical, but it’s my 94 year old mother’s church, and we take her there. It is also the church my wife grew up in. We have a new pastor, who has been influenced to some degree by the Emerging Church Movement: “You can belong before you believe,” so I have been guardedly optimistic. Becoming a church member is out of the question for me as I am at odds with much of the Assemblies of God denominational affirmations, such as the infallibility of scripture and the “biblical” definition of marriage. In many ways, my growing rejection of evangelicalism has created an “outside looking in” situation for me and the church I attend…not ideal.
I do enjoy singing and worship there, but… For the most part our pastor is non-controversial, no political statements and light on theology, which, if you knew me, is a bit disappointing. No discussion of gun violence, no discussion on Police treatment of Blacks, no discussion of misogyny in society, no attempts to reach out to Gays, in short, no social gospel. It’s as if the Sermon on the Mount never happened. He is a nice guy and sincere, but follows the usual White, evangelical road map. Although the church practices “outreach” to the community in a number of different ways, English classes for immigrants, help with applying for citizenship and an Easter egg hunt that included special needs children, the church programs center around personal discipleship. In other words, like most evangelical churches the goal is getting people “saved” then keeping them happy they made the right decision by constantly affirming them.
A personal relationship with Jesus is the tantamount theme, which, if it resulted in a realization of responsibility to society would be ok with me. But instead the goal is to try and get as many people “saved” as possible in as short amount of time. Evangelism always seems to end up being an exclusive club, where once in, we congratulate ourselves on our good fortune. Nothing is done for purely altruistic reasons. The reason behind everything from missions to Easter egg hunts is, basically a sales pitch for Jesus, or at least the evangelical version. No wonder Amway has done so well in evangelical circles. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying following Jesus or learning to be Christlike is a bad thing, but it seems like evangelical churches are immature in their faith, inward, self serving and overly concerned with a personal “walk with Christ” that ignores too much of society and its problems.
As I have grappled with my own doubts and questions, and engaged in (sometimes very lively) conversations with evangelicals online, I have come to the conclusion that evangelicalism in its dominant form is probably not redeemable. It is too closely aligned with dominionism and White Christian Nationalism. As we saw in Nazi Germany in the 20s and 30s when religion and state marry, the ends justify the means and Christians are willing to look away when the state tramples individual rights. That so many evangelical leaders see The Donald as God’s chosen, anointed leader to lead us back to a Christian America is further proof of how far white evangelicalism has strayed from Christ’s example. It is a worldview, that quite frankly, scares me. I don’t think evangelicalism will have the last word, however, despite an uptick in fundamentalism within it’s ranks. Time will tell.