Before I get started into my rant, you should take a look at David Watson’s piece on the topic. It is well measured and even tempered, likely more so than I am going to be here. Now on to my rant…
Let’s be honest, evangelical hate is nothing new. We tend to have short memories, but the reality is that the same things have been being said about evangelicals, by those from the outside, for longer than many of us have been alive.
Let’s be honest, when an evangelical behaves badly, it does tarnish the reputation of all of us (that’s right, us. I am an evangelical, though I likely have a higher view of church authority than many do).
Let’s be honest, you are going to find what you are looking for. That is the way it goes generally. If you are out there looking for bad evangelicals, you are going to find them. Sometimes, you don’t even have to look.
Let’s be honest, some evangelicals have sold out to the political empire of man and not the here and not yet kingdom of God.
Let’s be honest, most of the people bad mouthing evangelicals either do not know what the marks of an evangelical are, or refuse to use them to identify evangelicals. The National Association of Evangelicals identifies four distinctive characteristics.
- 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 (Based upon the work of David Bebbington)
Let’s be honest, that is a high standard to live up to and very few of us, if any, measure up fully.
Let’s be honest, most of us try to.
I am not going to argue that there are not bad actors in evangelical circles. There are. There are bad actors everywhere. I am not going to excuse anyone’s behavior other than to say that all have fallen short, me included. As Paul said, I am chief among sinners. While some would have us abandon the descriptor of evangelical as it has been so tarnished so as to not be useful, and others would have us fight for the descriptor returning it to it’s meaning, I would ask a couple of different questions.
The first question that I would ask is who is pushing evangelical hate. The SPLC is doing a good job of it, and is currently being sued for doing so. News outlets such as the Huffington Post is doing so, but let’s be honest, they are not particularly friendly to any historic view of Christianity. Their religion section is a prime example of nothing new under the sun as they regularly print the oldest heresies in the newest ways. The Atlantic, dailykos, Washington Post, CNN, and more are very rarely, if ever, friendly toward evangelicals. They would have you believe that evangelicals are seemingly the cause of every problem in the United States, if not the world…and if it is not evangelicals specifically, it is the white evangelical patriarchy specifically. It seems like the people who comment on evangelical Christianity the most understand it the least.
Seriously, how many times have you had to have the shellfish talk with someone who doesn’t understand anything about the underlying theology that differentiates moral commands from ceremonial ones? How often have you had to be told that you hate someone because you believe that God has prohibited some of their chosen actions? How often is it that someone has come to you all full of contempt from the beginning calling you all manner of things while having no understanding of why you believe the way that you do? The hard Christian left with it’s militant atheist allies (in this matter) have unleashed this sort of assault for many decades. There is nothing new under the sun. It’s the difference between saying that Donald Trump is unfit for office and then providing the reasons why (a perfectly valid expression) and saying that evangelical Christians are racist bigots because, you know, Trump. It’s the difference between saying that Bill Clinton is a serial adulterer with aberrant sexual appetites (a perfectly valid expression) and calling all who voted for him sexually debauched perverts. Both are equally wrong. The who is anyone who militantly disagrees with evangelicals on any number of issues.
The next question is really the why? The answer is simple, it is power based. Just as the Christian right sought to become a political power by endorsing candidates and being active as a group, so now has the Christian left, and those who support it regarding evangelicals. Both have fallen into the trap of playing politics with God. Teh Christian political left simply must disparage the Christian political right (and the opposite is also true) because they both seek worldly power. I am not advocating for a complete separation of religion and politics, that is impossible. I am saying that both Jerry Falwell and Jimmy Carter are equally wrong about what that means.
Both of them would have their understandings of Christianity forced upon you one way or the other. The is the way of an earthly kingdom, the use of force to accomplish goals. The way of the kingdom of God is very different. The evangelical hate is nothing new. Those it is coming from is nothing new. The reasons are nothing new, nor are the justifications. The only thing that might be new is perhaps the intensity of it. These men would not be perfect. I doubt very highly that they would be involved in political office. They would however, by necessity be evangelical by the marks given. If those are the men that will rattle the gates of hell, then the abject hate toward evangelicals in general by the world makes a lot more sense. After all, this is a conflict between competing kingdoms. The kingdoms of men are always in conflict with the kingdom of God, and that is the kingdom that evangelicals, at their best, are seeking.