I’d like to point out that you’ve described mainline evangelicalism.
It continues to strike me that many of us are really no longer evangelicals. We just aren’t. We’ve discarded too many of the ideas and practices that really makes an evangelical tick (although we may still be chafing under them in our current church, ChrisH :-). But to call us evangelicals is just not right. I call myself and others like me post-evangelicals.
And hey, you can bicker with my terminology if you want. But most of you here are math and/or tech-heads, so you know that you can define your terms if you want to. As long as you’re consistent. So with no further ado, and mostly just for fun, here is my proposed list of characteristics of a post-evangelical. [edit. adding to my list]
- You prefer to take communion every week.
- You want a time of confession at the beginning of worship.
- You don’t think Mother’s Day is on the church calendar.
- You REALLY don’t think Memorial Day and Veteran’s days are on the church calendar.
- You know there’s a difference between Christmas and Advent.
- You don’t mind if a store clerk greets you with “Happy Holidays!”
- You laugh at the notion that Xmas is x-ing the Christ out of Christmas.
- You don’t like Fox News and you don’t want to be a cultural warrior.
- You’ve ever said “Fuller isn’t that liberal.”
- You prefer “Surprised by Hope” over “Left Behind”.
- You read @biblestdntssay and laugh.
- You would rather be at a small church than a big one.
- You are uncomfortable when people talk about taking the Bible literally.
- You’re old earth, not young.
- You’ve commented that they effectively have a Trinity of God, Jesus and the Bible.
- You actually enjoy sermons that talk about the work of the Holy Spirit and even pray to be filled by the Spirit from time to time.
Want to add to my list?
Jason Blair writes:
It originates with atheist, Marxist intellectuals in universities.
Whatever your view on various issues (women in ministry, lgbt issues, liturgical dance, clown communion, whatever), as culture goes, this is true. Among the college educated, what is taught as the enlightened progressive attitude is defined by sociologists and antropologists whose ideas and classifications are rooted in Marxist thought. With the possible exception of PhD candidates, I would argue many of them have no idea.
What I find frustrating in churches really has nothing to do with the parenthetical issues above as much as this: Buying into culture or wilfully separating from culture plays into Marxism’s necessity to separate people into groups and set them at odds with each other. Whichever group happens to have the majority of perceived or actual power is defined as the demon against which every other group is a victim. Today, the perceived power is straight white males of European descent and a Judeo-Christain heritage. It’s easy enough to pick at the flaws of one group and excuse that of another. But what isn’t understood (or worse, is understood and no one cares) is that as soon as the current dominant group has been knocked off the mountain, another will assert itself in that place until it becomes the next demon to slay.
In that, Fundamentalism isn’t so much a real “come out and be ye separate” or “in the world but not of the world” position as it is a stunted perversion of victimhood as played by other groups. In the end it’s all one of Uncle Screwtapes schemes.
Now if we start talking about reconciliation, grace, and forgiveness from God to all who would have it, and put it under Christ the King’s authority, then that which is Christianity might have something useful to say to the rest of the world. As it is, as long as we keep playing by Marxism’s rules, we’re wasting our time.
Jesse B writes:
Have I mentioned that I moved back to Romania? Anyway, I moved back to Romania.
I also agree with everything Fearsome Pirate says, though I don’t have much time to elaborate on it. The major cultural difference between Evangelicals and Fundamentalists is simply that Evangelicals wanted to be within the culture, while Fundamentalists thought they should separate from it. It turns out that the fundies were right.
I’m really curious to know what Michael would have said about all of this.
Jason is right, of course. The majority of evangelical churches will eventually accept that a man can cruise parks and go to pool parties and still be a Christian. This is of course not because some well-known evangelical scholar will finally unlock the puzzle, discover that we were reading the Greek all wrong, and corroborate this with archaeology to discover that the first Christians did indeed embrace sexual behavior that even the Greeks found degenerate. He’ll be doing it for the same reason liberals came up with their laughably bad justifications for women’s ordination the first time around: they want to be respectable.
And most evangelicals will go along with it. We already live in a world where if you own a business, your livelihood will be destroyed by court order if you refuse to show up for the consecration of a bear and his twink when ordered to do so, where a man can lose control of the company he founded because it was discovered that he voted the wrong way on whether the state should extend benefits to a couple of women who want to LARP as a married couple. It will, over the course of the 21st century, become increasingly hard to keep your job if you disavow homosexuality in any way, much like it is already impossible to keep your job if you disavow diversity. We can take for granted that any church continuing to call it a sin when a man uses his digestive tract to simulate a sex organ will lose tax exempt status soon. As social and legal pressures to accept the sexual revolution continue to increase, evangelicals will gravitate toward those who allow them to maintain social respectability and still be Christian.
Look, the majority of people just go along to get along. They want to go to work, get their paychecks, and go home to
raise their children play with their toys. If Christianity won’t allow them to do that, they’ll just leave.
Of course, they’ll drift away anyway. Like liberal mainliners before them, they’ll go to church, but their 1.2 kids won’t. The reason is pretty simple. Like I said, the coming acceptance of sexual degeneracy doesn’t originate from Christianity. It originates with atheist, Marxist intellectuals in universities. Once evangelicalism has crossed that bridge and elevated Andrea Dworkin to Doctor of the Church, none of its intellectual class “leads” in any meaningful sense. They’re simply taking their cues from Harvard’s Women, Gender and Sexuality department on a 10-year lag. While people want to be respectable, neither do they find a weak-sauce, watered-down, laggard version of secular institutions terribly attractive. Why go to church when you get the real thing at public schools and the New York Times?
And make no mistake, the norm will keep moving. Marxists have a continual need to revolutionize culture; it’s their raison d’etre. Gay marriage and women’s equality are already passe in the circles of the avant garde. The hot new things are “genderfluidity” and “polyamory.” So sure, evangelicals might be ready to warm up to women’s ordination and consecrating sodomy, but are they ready to clap for Bruce Jenner? Are they ready to give puberty-blocking hormones to 14-year-olds? And once we reach the point where you can be fired for failing to congratulate a woman for moving in with three lovers, will evangelicals accept the next revolution?
Well, of course they will. They’ll need to.
Jeremiah Lawson writes:
it’s starting to seem like people only talk about peer pressure being bad when the pressure to conform is for something that’s considered bad. Otherwise, in the era of microaggressions and checking privilege public shaming is actually the first resort.
Depending on which former pastors we’re talking about, some conservative Protestant types have declared that sodomy is awesome as long as you’re married and straight. I’m starting to feel like whether it’s defending race-based slavery two centuries ago or abortion within the last century Americans historically don’t really want a Christianity that resembles a historic and global Christian faith so much as the red state or blue state Protestant Jesus that lets them do what they’re already doing.
Seeing how neo-cons and conservatives went from backing the war on terror a decade ago to abruptly realizing just how much power that granted the state after a Democrat took office … I find it impossible to take the two parties seriously at this point. For the popular image of the Republicans as being hawks, if you look at the last century Democratic executives were in place for the biggest global conflicts we participated in. Sure, Republicans are more likely to resort to military police actions that bypass Congress but for official wars, Democrats are tops. I would have thought that if Obama were going to scale back the military thing there shouldn’t even be an F-35 project right now.
I’ve been reading Mark Noll’s America’s God this year so maybe that’s part of why I’m feeling this way lately.
On one hand, there will be a group that move to an increasing conservative stance, who will become indistinguishable from current Fundamentalists.
On the other, a much larger group will find a way to make a theological case (not agreed with by all by any means, but at least with a strong look at the Bible) for full inclusiveness concerning the role of women in leadership and LGBT participation.
So in other words, one group will remain evangelicals, while the others will get absorbed into the Greater Morass of Liberal Protestantism.
The difference between this group and others who have already gone there in mainline and progressive churches is that Evangelicals will still hang on to a stronger case for the authority of scripture
Yeah, the ELCA tried to be that for a while. Now all they believe in is sodomy and voting Democrat.
Hmmm, Jason, I’m gonna have to chew on that one a bit.
The interesting post I came across today is this bit from Pete Enns about “the Christian pressure to disagree”. His nut graf:
And this experience has led me to think that we might start believing beliefs because we think they are true but more often than not we have a lot of social pressure to keep believing them, afraid of how change of beliefs might affect relationships.
I’m of two minds on this one. From Pete’s “most of evangelicalism is wrong, wake up people!” perspective, yeah, wow, this sort of peer pressure is a bad thing, because it’s causing people to hold on to (whether deep down or just for appearances) beliefs or positions that otherwise they would grow out of. Boo to bad peer pressure!
But on the other hand… the whole point of verses like Heb 10:24-25’s charge to prod one another to love and good deads and to not forsake the assembling is essentially to encourage positive peer pressure, yes?
Does it just in the end come down to a matter of perspective? Is there some point at which it might be healthy to at least superficially espouse the accepted views whilst working out our theological evolution in private?
Jason Blair writes:
A little Facebook musing from earlier this morning:
For all its variety and loan words, English often fails. Fundamentalism a a great example. On one hand, it is used to describe a way of approaching religion based on simple, literal interpretations of its sacred writing. With that comes an inability to reconcile that way of interpretation with inevitable inconsistencies with reality as it can be observed. It can be a haven for people who crave control and certainty in an uncertain world. Among its ranks are beautiful and well intentioned souls. Unfortunately there are some who also use the strictness of their worldview and interpretive grid to control and manipulate others, or at least attempt to do so. On a grand scale, this is not difficult to see, and easy to escape with emotional and intellectual maturity. These days, what we most often think of are Christian or Muslim fundamentalists, and cultish sects based on them.
On the other hand, fundamentalism can be thought of as a mindset that is more broad than a way of interpreting one’s dogmas. Literalism is still there. But I would suggest an inherent fear of change and the unknown drives this kind of fundamentalist to define an ideal, often rooted but not limited to a mythical past. It is driven by a lack of a combination of emotional, intellectual, or spiritual health. One may excel in any of these, but be so lacking in one or two others as to fall back on a simplistic way of viewing the world. Instead of observing and understanding the many ways people come to knowledge, they cling to their own while fearing to look at what else exists, seeing only threats to the core of their identity. Instead of being able to hold and consider multiple contradictory ideas in mind while being rooted in their own, fear again drives them to exclude and even punish any and all who do not fit their ideology. This kind of fundamentalism is so deeply intertwined with the above that it can be difficult to distinguish from one’s religion or philosophy. It extends most often to religion, but can be found in any world view or system of thought. I have observed it not only among Christians or Muslims, but also Atheists, Scientists (not meaning those who make a living in scientific disciplines, but those who hold science as the set of organizing principles upon which they build their understanding of reality), Geeks of many subcultures, Social Activists, etc.
One can be the first kind of fundamentalist without being much harm to themselves or others. I know a few. They’re great people. Those who fall among the second kind can be difficult to deal with. As children, teens, and even into our twenties, I hypothesize we all exhibit this to some degree. But those who stay there run the risk of becoming the intolerable, the difficult, and in some cases narcissists, sociopaths, control freaks, or cult leaders. The first kind can recognize their fundamentalism, call it for what it is, and either embrace it without fear or grow out of it. I would argue the second kind is unable to recognize their deeper fundamentalism, and require some kind of guidance to maturity in order to escape its bonds.
So far, all of this is a simple thought experiment. In my own observations of people, it seems to hold true. Think about it the next time you consider religion, philosophy, politics, or any major area of social interaction where people can’t seem to get along.
And now to open Pandora’s box and break off the hinges. What do you think?