The top religious story of 2017 is the relationship between evangelical Christians and Donald Trump. Charles Matthews a religious studies professor writes an article for the Washington Post on how white evangelicals today are governed by fear. Chris Stroop writes a solid article that is published in Playboy that analyzes the Roy Moore loss in Alabama. Plus another article again in the Post looks at evangelicals in Alabama and the culture wars.
“The predominant strain within contemporary American white evangelicalism is patriarchal and fundamentalist, with its roots found among Southern slave owners. During the early Cold War, government and business interests worked together to promote American faith as a counterpoint to official Soviet atheism, and these evangelicals built up powerful institutions in the 1970s and 1980s, emerging as the Christian Right we know today. Today’s conservative evangelicals are forcing Christian school kids, like I once was, to learn young earth creationism as “science,” using “school choice” to advance this #ChristianAltFacts agenda.”
Christopher Stroop in Playboy
“When we’ve reached a place where good Christian folk think it’s a matter of major theological principle not to sell pastries to gay people but are willing to give pedophiles a pass, I think it’s safe to say that American Christianity today — white American Christianity in particular — is in a pretty sorry state.”
“There are many factors — historical, social and political — that have helped shape white American Christianity into what it is today. But when it comes to keeping us away from the core truths of our faith, I suspect this one error is key: Christians today seem governed by fear. Theologians as well as psychologists will tell you that there is a spiritual peril in acting out of fear and a sense of danger. Fear drives us into patterns of “reasoning” that are far from reasonable, but more akin to reactionary patterns of cause-and-effect. And fear moves us away from the core of Christianity — love. “There is no fear in love; but perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love,” says the first epistle of John.”
Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”
John 18:36 NIV
There have been several recent articles examine the issue of evangelicals and politics. I want to merge them into one post today for people to read and discuss. Two of them come from the Washington Post. Chris Stroop’s article is in Playboy and generated discussion on Twitter. But it was the article from the Religious News Service that led to this post.
The Evangelical Relationship with Donald Trump is the Top Religious Story in 2017
Recently the largest organization of religious news polled their journalists and asked a question…what is the top religion story in the United States in 2017? All the journalists from all walks of life inside the faith and outside responded to that question by saying the top religious story is the Evangelical Christian phonomona with Donald Trump. That belief probably came from how the situation with Donald Trump has influenced both domestic and foreign policy. For example domestically you had the Supreme Court issue influenced in both the appointment of an associate justice and the Department of Justice arguing and defending a Colorado baker who discriminated against a gay couple. In foreign policy you have the U.S. embassy being moved from Tell Aviv, Israel to Jerusalem. That was also done out of Evangelical Christian influence. This is being reported in the Religious News Service and you can read the article in, “‘Trumpvangelicals’ top religion journalists’ poll.”
Why The Wondering Eagle Occasionally Tackles Politics
Let me break down evangelicalism as I interpret it. On one side you have the Neo-Calvinist movement. In this camp you have Sovereign Grace, Acts 29, Sojourn Movement out of Louisville, 9 Marks, The Gospel Coalition and other like minded parties. As I see it Neo-Calvinists are not into the political scene as much. They approach politics differently and are not in the culture wars. The exception might be Al Mohler. Russell Moore breaks the mold in a lot of ways. Now in another camp you have the charismatic movement and the Third Wave crowd. In this camp you have organizations like Vineyard, Mike Bickle’s International House of Prayer, and publications like the Elijah List and more. This camp is very into politics and the culture wars. I saw this first hand at Wooded Hills Bible Church outside Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In this camp faith is married to politics. All you have to do is look at the Kansas City International House of Prayer to see how. Here you have people praying for the end times to be ushered in. When Obama was president sections of this camp thought him to be the anti-Christ. I am not kidding as I write this. In this side of faith you have prophecies and people who believe God intervenes in elections for his will. Outside this camp you have the non-charismatic Baptists, mainstream evangelicals who while not charismatic are very much into the culture wars. There are a lot of Southern Baptists who are motivated by the issue of the support for Israel, Supreme Court, gay marriage, and other social issues. Many conservative Baptists have merged the culture wars and faith into one system, and they are inseparable. Now the question to ask is where does one belong if you don’t fit into any of these camps? What do you do if you reject the charismatic movement? What do you do if you reject Neo-Calvinism because of the authority issues and how it makes the problem of evil worse? What do you do if you believe the Christian faith should be apolitical and you don’t want to be a part of the culture wars? Where do you go, what do you do?
As I have hopefully demonstrated the fact of the matter is that many parts of evangelicalism are involved in politics. They have married the concept of faith and politics into one movement. Now I would also suggest that those evangelicals who have done this have created a new movement or faith system. A quasi political party/religious organization is the end result. That article by the Religious News Service highlights why politics should be written about from time to time. The Neo-Calvinist and Charismatic movements will generate stories and news. And this blog will write about, next month we are going to look at a disturbing story involving a Neo-Calvinist church. But to be a blog and totally ignore the way evangelicals are reacting to Donald Trump and then claim to write about evangelical issues would be flawed. It would mean that you have no interest in writing about the top religious news story of the year. And how responsible is that in the end? If one is committed to truth, one should pursue truth no matter where it goes, no matter the issue. To ignore these issues I believe would be flawed, and this is why from time to time this issue will occasionally be looked at.
Charles Matthews – How White Christianity is a Movement Based in Fear. Is this a New Faith System?
Charles Matthews is a professor religious studies at The University of Virginia. He has published a number of books on the topic of religion including, “Evil and the Augustinian Tradition“, “Understanding Religious Ethics“,”A Theology of Public Life” and he co-wrote “Prophesies of Godlessness Predictions of America’s Imminent Secularization from the Puritans to the Present Day.” He recently wrote an article that analyzed white evangelical Christianity in the 2017 time frame. He paints a dark picture of modern evangelicalism, and its quite bleak. White evangelicalism has become a threat to itself. Evangelicals seem to live in their own world and imagine their own problems. The war on Christmas is one such topic. He also looks at how evangelicals have reacted to a case before the Supreme Court where a bakery denied serving a gay couple; then he compares that with white evangelicals embracing an alleged child molester in Alabama. Evangelicals struggle with knowledge, learning and understanding. In addition their movement has become one that is based in fear. All white evangelicals seem to know how to do is live in fear of gays, Muslims, immigrants and more. You can read Charles article in The Washington Post, its called “White Christianity is in big trouble. And it’s its own biggest threat.“
I deeply appreciated this article quit a bit. I liked what Charles had to say about fear. For me is seems as if many white evangelicals live in fear of the world around them. It makes me wonder how many lack faith in the end. From where I stand in some of what I observe it seems as if many evangelicals do nothing but fear. Fear secular gay marriage. Fear entertainment. Fear Hollywood. Fear public schools. Fear science. Fear neighbors and those in their neighborhoods. Fear immigrants. Fear those in other faiths such as Islam. Fear mainstream Protestants. Fear, fear, fear, fear..seems to be how many evangelicals operate. What happened to love driving out fear? What happened to love being core to the faith? Since evangelicals have kicked faith to the curb and replaced it with fear the question must be asked…are they even Christians? Are we actually seeing the Christian faith or another belief system? Or are they following another gospel as Paul warns in Galatians? I wish every evangelical could read Charles Matthew’s article and reflect on it. Its a hard read but if you are going to be committed to truth one should always face it.
Christopher Stroop in Playboy – What Roy Moore Loss Means for Evangelical Christianity
I have written about Christopher Stroop before. You can read about his #Emptythe pews movement in “Chris Stroop’s #EmptyThePews Movement Takes Off on Twitter.” Recently in Playboy Chris Stroop wrote an article that analyzed what Roy Moore’s loss in Alabama means for evangelical Christianity. In Chris’s article he points out how white evangelicals actions are tied to their roots as being slave holders in the south. Roy Moore revealed that evangelicals have become too authorterian in their nature. He also points out that evangelicals do not hold their own accountable. He compares and contrasts what Democrats did with sexual harassment recently while evangelicals embraced Roy Moore while he was dogged by allegations of child molestation. You can read the entire article in Playboy. Its called, “What Roy Moore’s Narrow Loss Says About Evangelical Christianity.”
Chris hits on some important points. One of the reasons why many parts of evangelicalism is profoundly sick is because the movement is very authoritarian. Many evangelicals can’t think independently for themself. Seriously if you listened to people like C.J. Mahaney, Mark Driscoll, or Ken Ham, is Donald Trump or Roy Moore that far off? If you are going to listen to someone who threatens to beat someone up, and calls women penis homes then supporting someone who boasts of grabbing someone’s pussy is not far off. The issue of authoritarianism is deeply troubling as its become worse with the passage of time I would suggest. In regards to white evangelicals and racism, we all know that evangelical church services remain deeply segregated. The SBC is founded on the policy of slavery. They have repented of it, and yes they rebuked the alt-right at the last SBC convention. But the issue of race seems to hang over the convention.
Taking Up the Christian Banner
Again in the Washington Post Stephanie McCrummen writes an article that offers a window into another aspect of the evangelical culture wars. In the small town of Glencoe, Alabama, the marriage of evangelical Christianity and the state is revealed. The waving of Christian flags from government and business highlights how many fundamentalists view the United States as a Christian nation. For many it appears they can’t divorce the concept of faith vs. control of government and the culture wars. It helps understand why so many evangelicals loved Roy Moore. You can read this article in “Taking Up the Christian Banner.”