At Julie Roy’s blog Brandon Showalter wrote a guest post showing empathy to Rachel Held Evans. This post looks at the main issue of evangelicalism as being corruption. That is my personal experience and that has been reinforced. However, there are other issues as well that need to be raised.
“If you have been part of the church, you’ve been hurt by them at one point or another because the church is made up of people (sinners). We have two choices when this happens. We can either remember that God is faithful and trust Him through the process. Or you can allow it to make you angry and resentful which will draw you down the wrong path.”
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
James 5:16 NIV
Rachel Held Evans
We just had the first anniversary of Rachel Held Evans death. I can’t believe its been a year since she died. This post is triggered by seeing Julie Roys guest post and I thought of stepping back and reflecting on the main issue of evangelicalism from my point of view. This blog tends to be dark though I also work at finding good stories to write as well. For a different perspective on Rachel Held Evans and showing empathy on progressives I would encourage you to read Brandon Showalter’s post over at Julie Roys called, “Guest Post: Why Conservatives Need to Consider the “Legitimate Grievances” of Rachel Held Evans.”
It’s The Corruption Stupid…
When Bill Clinton ran for president in 1992 at his Little Rock headquarters James Carville who managed his campaign used to hang up a banner that said, “Its’ the economy stupid.” I would like to take a spin on that approach and say that with evangelicals, “Its the corruption stupid.” I have written over 1,700 posts over five years and all too often I keep coming back to the topic of corruption. Over and over its massive. The scope and depth of corruption in evangelicalism is shocking. Its deeper and more problematic that I could ever have imagined. But in writing about evangelicalism as I wrapped my mind around the corruption it helps me to understand why I ran afoul of the system.
Rachel Held Evans talked about scandal but I think even Rachel was in denial about how deep the corruption is in evangelicalism is. At this blog I have ended up writing about every single church I once called home. From California to Wisconsin to the Washington, D.C. area. And the couple I have not written about I am exasperated about writing them. I came from a mega church that had a youth pastor who sexually abused a number of teenagers before he fled and committed suicide in a motel room as police were searching for him. That happened before I showed up and I realized the place was dealing with the scars. I dealt with a small hyper charismatic church that was toxic. Everything was spiritual warfare and if you had the flu its was because Satan was out to get you. This church struggled with how to handle a sex offender and had issues of nepotism. Then I had several years of Campus Crusade for Christ under my belt. I saw how Crusade worshiped the personality cult of Bill Bright and employed people embroiled in scandals and just didn’t care. I saw the Sovereign Grace Ministry implosion in the Washington, D.C. area and had a clash with a military officer who tried to get me involved in a former SGM church. I faced a false accusation from a military officer who had abused his power and to my distraught learned why rape and sexual abuse is a problem in the military. The situation was never resolved, dragged on and later effected my Mom in a terminal illness which makes my blood boil today. After that false accusation as I was trying to put my life together I stumbled across sensitive information about a mega church I was involved in. The church employed a violent sex offender and concealed it from the congregation. I ended up being the whistle blower because I did not want to have such a situation on my conscious. After that mess my last church was dealing with Christian nationalism. It was slowly becoming politicized and I realized it was time go. Two other churches I was involved in dealt with a theological coup as a mega church was flipped and made Calvinist and people were forced out and abused. And then my former EFCA church in California which I thought healthy put in a pastor in a pulpit who was involved in the cover-up of a child pornography and voyeurism situation at an Acts 29 church in Tennessee.
The problem is that its not one church instead its the system. Its hard to shake my head as to how many places I have seen that are toxic. And at the same time it blows my mind that I am even composing this kind of post. But its the reality of the situation and its how evangelicalism is. But there is more that needs to be said. I think evangelicals need to be help accountable as well for enabling and supporting the corrupt system. George Orwell once said, “A people that elect corrupt politicians, imposters, thieves and traitors are not victims… but accomplices.” I would add that Christians who go to church are accomplices also. One of the aspects that was disillusioning for myself is that as I watched C.J. Mahaney’s Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM) implode in the Washington, D.C. area I saw people who left SGM who then turned around and got involved in other cult like churches. In other words they never learned. They left one bad situation and went to another. Over the course of time I have seen the same thing happen with those from Acts 29 and places like Harvest Bible Chapel. It leaves me dumb founded and disappointed. Why do I say that? Well a blogger like myself puts themself out on a limb and sometimes takes risk in writing about these places. And when you see how someone reacts it leaves me bewildered and puzzled. I finally came to the conclusion that for a number of people I am not writing for them but for the community that the church resides. For example in the case of Harvest Bible Chapel I wrote so that the community around Harvest could learn of the problems and stay away. Evangelicals struggle with critical thinking skills and its a problem. I think Rachel Held Evans understood some of this but I think she was also in some denial about these problems as well. Yes she was progressive but I don’t think she wanted to be. I think she was looking for a way to find a solution to her theological difficulties. Kind of like me. I write hoping that maybe the situation will improve. But who knows maybe I am the fool hoping against hope who is naive in the end.
In the end the corruption just transfers and cycles on. So take my mess with a former SGM church in the D.C. area. One of the pastors involved in that mess Jordan Kauflin left and joined another church in the Atlanta, Georgia area. And that church took him in with open arms and embraced him and became aggressive toward me on social media. That is how the system works and why its problematic. I see it in different churches of size and theology. I see it in Calvinist, Arminian, Wesleyan and more. But you know what is really telling for me is when I write about a place or offer to meet said pastor and I get met with silence. This blog focuses on the Evangelical Free Church of America and you know what its like to write a post about an EFCA church and then be met with silence when I emailed them and offer to meet? Its almost as if too many evangelicals are afraid to talk about these problems and be honest about them. Instead they put their head in the sand. While it shows me that Christianity is hollow and lacks substance in many ways it also is something that I have come to expect. That is why when I meet or interact with people like Dale Harris in Wisconsin or Benjamin Vrbicek in Pennsylvania I appreciate them and their difference take on things. Their willingness to talk about difficult topics for me shows that they are grounded and not insecure. Stable and eager to engage. But most of all loving. Part of my mess is fueled in one part anger but another part disillusion. So when I met someone that wants to talk and discuss I will do so. But for those that don’t their silence speaks volumes and tells me quite a bit about themselves. So when I think of evangelicalism I would say, “It’s the corruption stupid.”
What I Don’t Understand About Evangelicalism…
While corruption is what I consider the main issue its not the only one that I have with evangelicalism. There are other aspects I don’t understand. These are some of them.
- Why do some evangelicals have to say that Catholics are involved in a cult? So you disagree with Catholicism on some theological issues why can’t you just leave it at a agree to disagree? Why do some have to go over the top in condemning Catholics. I can’t figure that out.
- Why do so many evangelicals live in fear of gays? You disagree with someone being gay you are free to do so. But why be hostile or fearful of gays? I can’t figure out why so many Christians have to be hostile to gays? Why is there so much hate?
- Why do many evangelicals get caught up in conspiracy theories? From junk science to the anti-vaccination movement and more. Why do evangelicals buy into so many conspiracy theories that many others reject? Why did some evangelicals think that Hillary Clinton ran a pedophile ring out of a basement in a pizza parlor in Washington, D.C. Is that just validation of Mark Noll’s “Scandal of the Evangelical Mind?” This past weekend on social media I saw people from my former church in Wisconsin buy into junk science and conspiracy theories. Why can’t people be rational and level headed?
- Why do so many evangelicals have to reject science? I can’t figure this out as science has improved the human race and assisted in raising the quality of life. Science has eradicated disease and found cures and treatments for disease. Science has helped fill in gaps and explain aspects of natural history. Why are many evangelicals hostile to science? We’re in the midst of a pandemic and why do some evangelicals embrace fake news and questionable sources. about science? How can one worship Jesus in spirit and truth if you are neck deep in conspiracy theories?
- Another question why do some evangelicals marry faith and politics. You want to be a conservative that is fine. But why do some have to marry the two together and follow Christian nationalism? I have come to the conclusion that for some evangelicals Jesus suffered and died for a Supreme Court seat. And when you take a person who falls into the Reagan/Bush camp and scream “liberal” because he doesn’t accept the status quo why attack? Many Christians have turned people away from faith by their behavior and arrogance. And that is the consequence of politicizing the Gospel is that people tune you out.
All of these things I don’t understand. Rachel spoke to a number of these issues. Rachel and I are on different sides but I think my questions are similar. She asked those questions as a progressive. I from a homeless conservative frame of mind. Why do so many of those issues define evangelicalism?
Why My Path is Leading Towards Being Spiritually Nothing
This will alarm some people but this is me being honest. Evangelicalism has raised its dark head. It shows how abusive and difficult it can be. Look at the comment that I lifted from Julie Roys Facebook page by Michelle Zenisek. That comment struck me as being cruel. But its the following that makes me feel sick to my stomach. “If you have been part of the church, you’ve been hurt by them at one point or another because the church is made up of people (sinners). We have two choices when this happens.We can either remember that God is faithful and trust Him through the process. Or you can allow it to make you angry and resentful which will draw you down the wrong path.” That is how you respond to abuse? That is the response to a person who once watched his Mom in a terminal illness and saw abuse crash into the situation? A person who has been raped just needs to remember that God is faithful? That is what I was doing wrong for all those years is that I was not faithful? Michelle’s comment reminds me of all that is wrong with evangelicalism. While its abusive you can’t talk about it and when you do one then fluffs it up with some flowery religious bullshit. And in the process you make the person the problem. Its similar to abuse in other areas of life such as the military, public education, private sector and more.
For me all these problems have actually raised deeper questions. If this is the church that is supposed to convey God’s message then one should be honest and ask as to what it reveals about God? It shows that God can be cruel, schizophrenic or that he is not there. Once or twice I could see, but when it happens over and over? How is that explained away? Many people do not want to discuss these issues and raise them. Honestly I think many are scared to raise them. If you had one Harvest Bible Chapel situation then I could see how you could work through it. What if you had five or six? Wouldn’t it be natural to be disillusioned and to doubt the existence of God entirely? If you are not doubting God are you being human at all? And that is where I look at it. For me the evidence points away from faith a lot of the time. Its a long slow walk one step at a time. And when things are unresolved that remains a burden. The peace that could come from an apology and a series of hard discussions from a person who wounded me will never come. Since Christians do not practice nor believe in forgiveness that leaves people stuck where they are. In some ways its the theology as well that contributes to some of these problems. Now let me put this in jargon that people can understand. If you were to purchase five Fords over a few years and each one had major issues you would be disappointed. Would you not? If a brand new car had transmission problems, engine problems, etc…. you could say if its one or two that you got the lemon of the production run. But when you had five back to back? What would that say about the quality of Ford? Likewise when it comes to God its similar from my perspective. If you just have nothing nut bad or horrific experiences why would you not doubt that God existed? I don’t think Rachel Held Evans went down that path, but that is where I see myself going. I am a product of evangelicalism even as I slowly lose everything. I am sorry for saying all this but its just how I see it. Again this is a different take but its a unique one. Brandon Showalter’s post is worth the read make sure you read that as this post comes to a close.