Evangelical Thuggary

If you’ve read my brief introduction to my blog, you are aware my background is (or was) evangelical. When I first woke up to the realization that trouble was brewing in the evangelical camp, I did not know where this knowledge was going to lead me. The current culture wars that were being waged by the Religious Right seemed over the top mean spirited. As a concerned evangelical I thought there must be a way to better present the love of God for humanity. Having gone through the sexual revolution of the 60’s followed by the Moral Majority’s reaction in the 70’s and 80’s, I realized that there was a pattern here.

In both cases, the hard right conservatives within evangelicalism pushed for political control, both within evangelicalism and within the American legal system, drowning out more moderate voices within evangelicalism. It was becoming increasingly difficult to separate neo-fundamentalism from evangelicalism as a whole. As a result, I wanted to understand more of what it meant to be evangelical. So a few years back I somewhat timidly decided to step outside the evangelical “bubble” and get third party perspectives on the movement, especially the unique American manifestation of it.

The first books I read were “American Apocalypse, A History of Modern Evangelism” by Matthew Avery Sutton, and “God’s Own Party, The Making of the Christian Right” by Daniel K. Williams. It was an eye-opener. The history revealed was nothing like the rosy narrative of evangelicalism I had been taught. But it rang true as I had actually experienced a great deal of it coming of age in the 60’s, I had simply submerged it under the more flattering presentation of my chosen tribe.

I soon realized I was going to have to set all my beliefs on the table and begin to examine all in the light of the gospel. At this point I was still very much an evangelical, just a very concerned one. Then, when the Christian Bakery in Oregon refused to bake a wedding cake for the lesbian couple hit the news in 2013, red flags went up. Mind you, at this point I was somewhat typical of most evangelicals: SS marriage was not “Biblical marriage” in my thinking. But the thought of Christians refusing to serve others seemed so anti-Christian. Serving others, even one’s enemies, is so central to the story of Jesus, I could not wrap my brain around how anyone calling themselves a Christian could treat others that way. It also brought up memories of a time past when other Christians declared “we don’t serve your kind here.”

So the last 5 or 6 years has been a gradual move away from evangelicalism to a more inclusive, less judgmental faith in Christ. This was never my original intent, but after a few years I realized I had so little in common now with the tribe I had grown up in, that I was now outside that tribe. This has been confirmed over and over in my interactions since with evangelicals. I have dealt with trolls and bullies, Judaizers and self righteous bigots, my interactions, when they find out I am progressive, are seldom pleasant. There is an unfortunate tendency among the evangelicals I deal with to pummel and bludgeon you into compliance with their “orthodox” views.

I attempt to be thorough, critical and cite sources for my views. This is seldom met in kind. Thuggery and name calling is the more typical response. This seems to be the new norm among what I would call the “Fox News Christians,” the “MAGA Christians.” Evangelicalism is now defined in the public eye, largely as represented by the Christians that put Donald Trump in power. For evangelicals, this is a sad turn of events that has been almost 50 years in the making. Post-conservative and moderate evangelicals struggle to have their voices heard, and are generally drowned out by the thuggish majority that have found a champion in Trump, the much anticipated “Cyrus,” that will return fundamentalism to a major force in America.

This is not just my online experience, either. When I share Christ with friends and coworkers the apprehension is palatable. They assume at first, I am an evangelical. I have to get past that hurdle in order to share the gospel. People this is sad! It is only after they learn I am not an evangelical that they feel free to open up and share with me.

While there are notable exceptions, Beth Moore, Jen Hatmaker, Phillip Yancy come to mind, most I fear have been or will be drummed out of the evangelical camp. Like Andy Stanley and his recent sermon on “unhitching” from the OT, they will be deemed “heretics.” It is a relentless process of gradually cutting off any novel or critical thinking in favor of a Borg-like assimilation of all theological thought by the Pharisaical thought police. I do not think history will look back kindly on the movement. Nor do I think the neofundamentalists are going to suddenly become moderates. They taste victory and victory is sweet.

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