I decided last week that I am no longer an Evangelical. Still a Christian, but just the generic variety.
I’m sure you’ll sleep better knowing this. 😉
Having dropped out of the ranks of the Republican Party several years ago, I guess the transformation is complete. Truthfully, I didn’t so much leave the GOP as it left me. The same holds true for Evangelicalism.
While most people would probably suspect that my beef with Evangelicalism comes because it’s not being conservative enough, it having “compromised with the world” too much and for too long, that’s truly not the case for me.
The primary reason I’m saying farewell to Evangelicalism is that I can’t determine what it stands for anymore. I know what Evangelicalism is clearly against, but what it stands for is mushy. And in those cases where I do know what Evangelicalism is for, I just don’t see Evangelicals doing those things. The walk doesn’t match the talk.
Take for instance evangelism. Sharing the Evangel, the Good News of Jesus, was so bedrock to Evangelicalism that the word formed the name. So how is it that I get more distinctly non-Evangelical Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons knocking on my door in any given month than Evangelicals?
Perhaps Evangelicals just got smart and realized that it takes more than door-pounding to create converts. Still, I almost never hear Evangelicals talking about evangelism. They talk about their whiz-bang church programs, their 401k plans, how vulgar our culture is, and on and on—but no one seems to be talking about leading people to Jesus and discipling them to maturity. At least not to the extent that the name of the group would imply. I get a better sense of what the modern day Tea Party movement is about from their name than I get from Evangelicalism. Heck, some Evangelicals can’t even agree on what the Good News is.
I also don’t understand the Janus-like ability of Evangelicals to love someone on Sunday and turn on them by Friday. Evangelicals talk more about restoration than any group I know, yet I see almost nothing being restored, especially “fallen” Evangelicals. Instead, the tasers, billyclubs, and brass knuckles come out, and that person Evangelicals once cherished has been reduced to so much bloody pulp tossed roadside in a 55-gallon drum on the outskirts of Nowheresville. And without so much as a Thank You for all those years of service. I’ve lost track of all the people I know who ultimately received “the left hand of fellowship” from fellow Evangelicals. I suspect my turn is coming.
I also suspect the hero worship in Evangelicalism is to blame, in part, for that selective memory of friend and foe. Despite Paul’s recommendation not to slavishly announce allegiances, Evangelicals do so with abandon—until the inevitable feet of clay appear on the hero, and then it’s off to Nowheresville, as noted. “I am of Piper” or “I am of Osteen” or “I am of Warren” or “I am of Wright” seem to be the flags that Evangelical clans bear into battle. The names change in time—feet of clay, remember. Or a good solider gets miffed at the name on the banner for some perceived slight or error, and then it’s off to a new clan. All that hero worship has so factionalized Evangelicals that one cannot even hold a conversation with a fellow Evangelical without announcing early on which flag one serves—and once that allegiance is announced, so much for real conversation. Fellow clan members can’t see beyond their clan, and distinct clans approach each other like Hulk Hogan and the Macho Man before a Wrestlemania title match, chests out and spittle-laced vitriol flying. How that builds the Body of Christ is beyond me.
Of course, the Media makes the most of defections, discord, and failings, yet Evangelicals love the capital-M Media and want to own it. In actuality, they always come off looking bad when the Media shines its light on them. Why this lesson is never learned so that Evangelicals keep their heads down and their faces out of the spotlight is beyond me. I can’t think of the last Evangelical media-mongering that truly advanced the cause of Christ. To quote “that commie” (by Evangelical standards) Pete Seeger, “When will they ever learn? When will they ever learn?”
In America, the need to self-label is a mania that afflicts us all, but I’m tired of labels. I’m also tired of defending ideologies that read great on paper but can’t pull off the practice.
So in stripping off years of lead-based paint, I hope to get down to the good, pure wood and build from that. Not by adding another layer of paint, but by preserving the natural beauty at the core. It’s why Evangelicalism must go—at least for me.
I’m not one of those who goes so far that I can’t call myself a Christian and end up calling myself the slightly hippie Christ Follower instead. Christian still works for me. I just won’t be adding Evangelical to the front.