In a recent New York Times article there was a comment in a post that grabbed my attention. The comment dealt with watching a church change and become more political and more focused on the culture wars. The person finally asked, which Jesus is being worshipped? And then they left.
“Love cures people – both the ones who give it and the ones who receive it.“
Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.
James 1:21 NIV
Last week this blog wrote about an op-ed in the New York Times by Michelle Goldberg. You can access that op-ed in, “Michelle Goldberg in the New York Times. The Decline of White Evangelicalism is Leading Evangelicals Who Fear Losing Power to Defile the United States.” There was a comment that resonated with me in which a person described why they left their evangelical church. They wanted to just go to church but they saw it change in the Obama years. The church became more political and racial overtones started to come forward. They didn’t recognize the place and they decided to leave. There were a couple of comments along those lines.
I checked out from evangelicalism from 2009 until 2013 but when I came back I noticed something more political. I also watched the behavior of people I knew from other churches in California or Wisconsin. I saw more conspiracies. I saw some marry faith and the right to own a gun which baffled me and I am a gun owner. I saw hostility and more overt racial tones. And what stunned me is that some of the people I just didn’t recognize as much. But for me the painful years were after the November 2016 election and the first couple of years afterward. That is when I lost a number of relationships or people questioned my faith because I was a Rubio voter at the time. What I saw I didn’t understand and it was painful. But the height of the racial issues which stunned me go back to my former Campus Crusade for Christ director in Milwaukee – Steve Papez. Even though he taught about racism as sinful when I did Crusade in 2016 and the first couple of years he threw his adopted (Who here remembers when every evangelical wanted to adopt from either China or Africa in the 1990s?) African-American daughters under the bus. I just could not understand that kind of loyalty. But this comment below hit a nerve.
I don’t understand what has happened to the church in America. From 1996 to 2010 I was very happy at my small church community, no one really spoke politics, it was all about the Bible and theology. I began to notice a change during the Obama years, and once Trump arrived people started to come out of the closet. I realized I was not worshiping the same Jesus as they were. I was amazed at the way he was embraced, no one spoke up against him, a few maybe. I realized white supremacy was alive and well in that church. I left in 2015.
The New York Times17m ago
@Radagast This is so sad but also so interesting. I’m not surprised the change that you describe began during the Obama years. The experience of a Black president was so radicalizing for so many conservative white evangelicals, and as Jones pointed out to me, the Obama years were also when self-identified white Christians stopped being a majority in America. Your experience gets at a self-perpetuating dynamic driving evangelical decline. Racial and cultural resentment, driven in part by a sense of losing power, led many white evangelicals to embrace hard-edged right-wing politics. Those politics, in turn, drove out believers who didn’t share them, leading to further shrinkage.