My criticism of “Evangelicalism” (my own former Christian tradition) has been so consistent that even I have felt abashed by it at times.
But two articles in Atlantic — one by Emma Green, the other by Michael Gerson — make me want, for some reason, to mount a bit of defense, if only because Evangelicals and Roman Catholics tend to define the visible Christian landscape in America and many find that landscape, especially as ploughed and re-ploughed by the press, pretty bleak.
It is widely touted that 81% of Evangelicals voted for Donald Trump and that loyalty remains high. Apropos of that:
- There are racial minorities in the U.S. who fit comfortably in the Evangelical definition who are not Trump fans. I doubt that they are counted in that 81% or in the 19% remaining for that matter. Perhaps they eschew the politicized term “Evangelical” now in a perverse feedback loop.
- Probably more important is how the “Evangelical” identity is determined. In most polls, it’s determined by self-identification. That’s a problem because we’ve reached a point where many self-identified “Evangelicals” are unobservant and ill-formed — “Christmas & Easter Evangelicals,” so to speak. I even suspect that many who have rarely entered and never joined an Evangelical church will now identify as “Evangelical” rather than “Protestant” if asked for their religious affiliation. (That’s a pyrrhic victory for Evangelical self-promotion.) More careful polls find strong differences between regular church-goers and nominal Christians of various traditions, including Evangelical. It’s only when regular churchgoers profess something startling that you’re got a really good religion story.
So I suspect that the people who ask “are we Still Evangelical?” are among the more serious and observant members of that tradition, and that, lacking any objective criterion by which to say that others are falsely claiming the label, it would be a good idea to zoom in on those folks to see what real white Evangelicals believe. I think there’d be a least a slight shift from incandescent red toward the bluer end of the spectrum.
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It is not bigotry to be certain we are right; but it is bigotry to be unable to imagine how we might possibly have gone wrong.
Bigotry is an incapacity to conceive seriously the alternative to a proposition.
A man … is only a bigot if he cannot understand that his dogma is a dogma, even if it is true.
(G.K. Chesterton) Be of good courage, you who are called “bigots” by those who are unable to conceive seriously the alternatives to their dogmas.