There is no easy way of saying I am done with Evangelicalism.
I think my trip to a conference in Memphis back in February set the wheels in motion, but the death of Billy Graham got the car moving.
Early in my Christian walk, I was a part of a fundamental independent Baptist church. It was a joyous time, but it was a painful time. Fundamentalism, the really literal, sometimes legalistic practice of the faith, was all I knew and we were taught that we were the only ones faithfully following Jesus. It became clear, however, that the pastor of the church was not following Jesus and nothing in our pastor-worship could prepare us to deal with it. Fundamentalism was anti-everything: intellect, accountability, responsibility, etc. All that mattered was that we were on “God’s side” and everyone else was not.
We left that church and went to a Southern Baptist Church in Suffolk. This was my first brush with Evangelicalism which was far better than Fundamentalism. However, it soon became clear that Evangelicals were as susceptible to the abuses of faith as Fundamentalists. Through the years I have seen the admirable side of Evangelicalism and the not so admirable side. I have visited various flavors of Evangelical churches and admire some more than others. Many of them have really good people, that are in my view are wrong on some issues and in danger of missing the point of our faith.
Also to clarify, I attend an Evangelical church and I have no plans of leaving it. I believe Fundamentalists and Evangelicals are people who want to know and love Jesus and to love others, they are just wrong in some of the ways they seek to do it. However, the leaders of Evangelicalism who have sold out their soul to the far-right and Trumpism make it impossible for me to call myself an Evangelical. I am a brother or sister in Christ, but I am not going to be an adherent to their beliefs about everything.
This has been a long time coming, but for me, I think it boils down to these things:
- The alignment of Evangelicalism with the Republican party and the far-right, culminating in the racist disdain for Barack Obama and the election of President Trump.
- The theological bullying that occurs from groups like The Gospel Coalition and the Southern Baptist Convention, especially in the area of “Inerrancy” and “Theories of Atonement”. The tightening of orthodoxy until it is suffocating.
- The continual mentality that all societal ills can be solved with more preaching, praying, evangelism, and bible verses. The lack of willingness to engage and work with culture to create positive change.
- The unwillingness to challenge assumptions about the application of the doctrine that may have been held throughout the history of the Church.
- The Evangelical scapegoating, fear-mongering, and even hatred toward those who are homosexual and transgender.
- The extreme-Calvinistic trend in Evangelicalism that increasingly makes the will of God like the musings of Pangloss in Voltaire’s Candide.
- The substitution of the scripture for the Holy Spirit as the true third person of the Trinity; a reverence for the Bible that is idolatry. Treating scripture as almost a magic book.
- The relegation of women in the Church to roles that are not in leadership and thus not important; leaving women out of important theological debate and ministry decisions.
- The belief that we need specialized clergy to be able to rightly interpret scripture, something that even the Reformers would have considered heretical. Overemphasis on Hebrew and Greek as necessary, or even a “divinely chosen language.”
- The lack of love and encouragement for various forms of Evangelicalism for one another, often leading to competition rather than cooperation.
There may be more items that come to mind later, but I think this is a good basis for which start, and I plan to do a blog explaining a little bit of each one. Let me be clear that I don’t think poorly of most Evangelicals, I think they are good people who want to live like Christ. However, those who are spearheading and speaking for the movement have become unbearable, unChrist-like, and intolerant (in the bad sense). I cannot continue to be a part of a movement where the leaders openly defy the very example of Jesus.
When Billy Graham died, we lost one of the few leaders left to respect in Evangelical American Christianity. Hopefully, more will rise up, challenge the hard hearts of their leaders, and bring Christ back to the center of the movement.
Grace and Peace