Skip to main content

Evangelicalism's gradual demise

The term "evangelical" was popularized by Martin Luther ("evangelisch" in German), which meant a follower of the gospel. The term was originally a very good and useful term, as it referred to someone who believed in a religion based on faith and following the teachings of Christ, rather than man-made religious rules. It was meaningful enough but also broad enough to encompass a general theological orientation and religious lifestyle. It could include and accommodate somewhat different views or interpretations of Christian belief, including those who focused more on the grace, spirituality and lifestyle of Christ. As such, it was not the exclusive property of one religious group or theological orientation. The meaning has been generally positive in modern church history.

However, in recent decades the term has been hijacked by fundamentalists who insist on a narrow interpretation of the term, insisting on a set of specific theological beliefs, while ignoring the Christ-like lifestyle and spirituality that the term embraced. Most shockingly, it has been tied to a specific set of cultural and political beliefs that go against the moral teachings of Jesus Christ, and against the general nuance of the term evangelical that it used to convey, at least for non-fundamentalist groups. This includes the following aberrant teachings and practices.

  • Using the gospel as a get-rich-quick scheme, and focusing on material success. 
  • Using religion for fire insurance. 
  • Using religion to condemn those who disagree with you, and to consign them to eternal wrath over religious, cultural, or political disagreements. Using religion to condemn, judge, talk down to, condescend to others who disagree with you over religious, cultural, or political disagreements. 
  • Arrogance and judgmentalism toward others of different beliefs and faiths. 
  • Using religion as a feel-good, self-therapeutic or self-motivational device, without the need for critical moral self-examination and self-critique. 
  • Using religion to benefit the rich, and one's own race or socio-economic class; using religion to marginalize the poor, minorities, and others who deserve our attention and help. 
  • Ignoring social justice, which is a key element of Christ's teachings and lifestyle. 
  • Using religion to promote self-serving and selfish political and economic agendas. 
  • Using religion to promote an ethnocentric and nationalistic agenda, worldview, and lifestyle. 
  • Using religion to preserve ill-informed, ignorant, and even immoral cultural and social values. 
  • Focusing on nostalgic views of one's nation instead of fighting for social justice. 
  • Justifying oneself instead of critical moral self-examination and self-critique, and instead of seeking moral and emotional growth and maturity. 
  • Ignoring science, what it tells us about our world, and how we need to change. 
  • Seeking political power instead of social justice or moral change in society. 
  • Using religion to justify or ignore racism, sexism, and discrimination. 
  • Seeking short-sighted political and social goals instead of moral principles in political, economic and social policy. 
  • Aligning with immoral, corrupt, arrogant, authoritarian and disreputable politicians for the sake of political power. 
  • Excluding those you disagree with or don't like for various reasons from your churches and communities, without concern for the hurt you cause others. 
  • Tying the term "evangelical" exclusively to very narrow, and even elitist, interpretations of theology (e.g., dispensationalism, Calvinism, nationalism, political conservatism, etc.). 
  • A focus on rationalism in your theology, which you don't realize are very influenced by Enlightenment attitudes; and you fail to see how this rationalism has shaped your approach to concepts like faith, belief, evangelism, and apologetics. 
  • Conversely, and even simultaneously, an excessive focus on subjective religious experience and religious emotionalism. 
  • Embracing a number of novel and man-made doctrines and beliefs over the centuries, and especially in modern church history. 
  • A disinterest in speaking prophetically against the kinds of social injustice and  immorality that Christ and the latter OT prophets inveighed against.
  • De-judaizing Christ and his teachings. He was a first-century Jewish rabbi, who used typical Jewish discourse styles, including moral fables, hyperbole, metaphor, and metaphorical interpretations of scripture. You have literalized away the meaning and essence of what he said. 

For these reasons, I can no longer consider myself an evangelical. I tried for some time to identify as a progressive evangelical. But it seems hopeless, as the term has been so corrupted and polluted in its usage. I will prefer to consider myself one who tries to follow the moral an spiritual teachings of Christ, without the baggage of terms like "evangelical" or "Protestant," and I will probably not use the term "Christian" to describe myself except in the sense of following Christ's wisdom, lifestyle and teachings.

It seems that the evangelical movement is disintegrating, fragmenting, and merging with the general culture, and is becoming somewhat meaningless. I suspect that in time, not much of the movement will continue to exist in any meaningful way in the future.


Popular posts from this blog

Portraits of Christ: John’s Gospel, part 2

In John’s Gospel we have an emphasis on Jesus that is unique compared to the other gospels. John not only emphasizes his deity, but his mysteriousness. The reader is left with an impression of Jesus as a mystical teacher, in the sense that his words and actions are not only those of a profound religious teacher, but of one who is other-worldly. So often in this gospel we read of Jesus making statements that the crowds, the religious teachers, and even his own disciples sometimes could not fathom. For starters, there are the “I am” statements (e.g., I am the bread of life; I am the living water; I am the good shepherd; I am the way, the truth, and the life), which were clearly claims to divinity, for these statements in the Jewish context referred to God’s title “I am,” given when Moses inquired of his name at the burning bush. Jesus makes much use of mystical metaphors like these and others, like all the ‘day’ and ‘night’ references in this book, which portrays him as mystical or my

Book review: Green Eggs and Ham (Dr. Seuss)

Green eggs and ham, as a recolorized staple breakfast food, captures the reader's attention by turning this diurnal sustenance into an unexpected and apparently unappetizing foodstuff. It thus symbolizes the existential angst of modern life, wherein we are unfulfilled by modern life, and are repelled by something that might impart nourishment. The "protagonist" to be convinced of its desirability remains anonymous, while the other actor refers to himself with an emphatic identifier "Sam I am", formed with a pronominal subject and copular verb of existence. This character thus seeks to emphasize his existence and existential wholeness, and even establish a sense of self-existence, with an apparent Old Testament allusion to Elohim speaking to Moses as the "I Am". This emphatic personal identifier thus introduces a prominent theme of religious existentialism to the narrative, probably more in line with original Kierkegaardian religious existentialism, rat

Gossip, accusation and spiritual warfare

Paul once wrote to the Corinthians, “For I am afraid that when I come I may not find you as I want you to be, and you may not find me as you want me to be. I fear that there may be quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, factions, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder” [1 Cor. 12:20]. Gossip is diagnosed as a serious spiritual problem, not a harmless form of conversation and social entertainment, as many in the secular world would view it.   God views it differently. Gossip is the opposite of the love and grace that God wants to display in our lives. Gossip is often exaggerated (and thus, untrue), or outright fabricated. Even church people engage in gossip in a seemingly sanctimonious guise (“We really ought to pray for X – you wouldn’t believe what he told me yesterday!...”). Whether secular or “christianized,” gossip betrays trust.          “A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret” [Prov. 11:13]; “A perverse person stirs up dissension, and a goss