In Driving Across the Heartland and Observing Evangelicalism One Aspect is Clear: American Evangelicals Are Lost

American evangelicals are a lost people. This past week in Kansas taught me again about the sad state of American evangelicalism. As I traveled and explored I saw evangelicalism on full display. And it is profoundly ugly. From Christians who refuse to wear masks to those who wear their faith on their sleeve.

“Every one goes astray, but the least imprudent are they who repent the soonest.

Voltaire

Praise the Lord, my soul.

Lord my God, you are very great;
    you are clothed with splendor and majesty.

The Lord wraps himself in light as with a garment;
    he stretches out the heavens like a tent
    and lays the beams of his upper chambers on their waters.
He makes the clouds his chariot
    and rides on the wings of the wind.
He makes winds his messengers,[a]
    flames of fire his servants.

Psalm 104: 1-4 NIV

20210902_172001

Kansas plains taken from off the I-70.

Its been a journey and along the way I saw American evangelicalism at work as I traveled. And the picture is not pretty. It occurred across Eastern Kansas as I visited and traveled and explored. But the footprint of American evangelicalism is dark and one full of despair.

In Kansas City I saw it occasionally but not as much. In the city I heard it when I listened to the radio station. I listened to a couple of Christian radio stations curious to see what they were saying. On one there was no mention of a pandemic. I remember thinking to myself… “Pandemic what pandemic?” In another station the message that was conveyed is victimhood and grievance. The government is persecuting us and the pandemic is being used to censor people. I listened to it for a few minutes and changed the station.

As I broke away from Kansas City to penetrate deeper into Kansas, again I saw the influence of American evangelicalism. When you exit the freeway you see signs saying, “Welcome to (town name)  Church at ******** Baptist is at ***********.”  I began to notice that fairly regularly when I left the freeway. Evangelical church signs inviting me into the community and also church seemed everywhere. And in these communities that are exploding with churches what else do I notice? I am often one of the only people wearing a face mask. From a convenience store, to restaurants to pick up food I notice how many people are not wearing masks.

In Salina, Kansas I get up early to see a steam locomotive leave town. What do I notice when I park my car? Trucks with Christian stickers and freshly added Trump stickers recently placed. As I stand waiting for this historic steam locomotive to leave I notice a guy wearing a t-shirt that says the following, “God Bless the United States Let Trump Do the Rest.”  My stomach churns as I see the linking of the two even afterward the election.

Again as I travel I listen to radio stations and pay attention to what is being said.. Moody Radio has a talk about the rapture. End Times theology makes me sick when I think of how it was used as a hammer. But in addition to listening to the radio I notice something else that is being discussed. Texas passed a new abortion law and on the radio stations evangelicals are excited. In rallying around an abortion law that encourages people to report neighbors and others I contemplate what that means. American evangelicals no longer believe in God. They have stopped the spiritual work or loving the broken and replaced it by winning in elections and statehouses. Jesus’s death now means nothing in the compromise that American evangelicals have made. On the radio evangelicals discuss the situation. “We’re finally winning…” I hear one women say on the radio. No I think to myself as I drive my car on the freeway, you are admitting you have lost. As I contemplate the situation I think of the abortion law in the context of the Southern Baptist sex abuse crisis. What are Southern Baptist pastors going to do when they get members of their congregation pregnant from sexual abuse? Smuggle them to New Mexico or Oklahoma for an abortion and to hide the abuse?

In Wichita I go into another restaurant and notice again, no one is really wearing a mask but me. I sit down and the person at the front starts coughing so hard I begin to wonder if she is sick with COVID. I decide to cut my visit short and leave earlier. I eat part of my dinner there and decide to finish the rest in the motel room. As I am waiting for the bill I over hear part of the conversation at the next table They are talking about church. They are not eating as they are done, but they are also not wearing face masks. I feel uncomfortable in this situation and can’t wait to leave the restaurant.

Then there was Sunday morning. Before driving to First Evangelical Free of Wichita I went to a donut shop in North Wichita. While I was ordering a couple of donuts a women comes barging in and says the following. “We’re going to church! Can you destroy these church fliers! Now let me order something” Then she realizes that she cut me off and says, “Sorry Hun, just anxious to get to church.” Again no face mask. I think to myself privately, “But why? What would be the purpose?”

But its American evangelicalism at its finest.

Sometimes I want to give evangelicals a chance. But when I give them rope they often hang themselves. Its a weird and sickening feeling that rests in my stomach when I think of what American evangelicalism has become. And what is that?

  • Hypocrisy.
  • Condescension.
  • Arrogance.
  • Political movement.
  • Disrespect For One’s Neighbor.
  • Rude.

So as things wind down in Kansas I see American Evangelicalism on full display. And it makes me want to keel over and vomit. It is ugly. Why would anyone want to be an evangelical? Why would anyone want to be an evangelical pastor? Why would anyone want to be associated with the evangelical church? Evangelicals claim that they want to bring the Gospel to the lost. This blog would contend that it is evangelicalism that is lost. They have lost their ability to talk to me or share their faith. I am not interested in the message from this disgruntled and disoriented people group.

I am baffled and confused. But like the sunset over the Great Plains I don’t have any hope for evangelicalism. Its shown me once again what it is and I am not impressed. Instead I want to keel over and vomit. That is all I have to say about this topic for the moment.

16 thoughts on “In Driving Across the Heartland and Observing Evangelicalism One Aspect is Clear: American Evangelicals Are Lost

  1. Reminds me of traveling through Tennessee. On Sunday, you can tell everybody in the fast food place has just come out of church by the church talk and the nice clothes. (And there’s my hubby sitting there with some doom and gloom D&D T-shirt. lol ) Churchy stuff is everywhere you look. The weirdest thing for me was the prayer tent set up in the mall parking lot!

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  2. It’s when you reach the peak that you realise that the only way is down. US Evangelicalism is doomed. And it is doomed because the Bible is being ignored in the way Christians behave.

    Whatever happened to the Fruit of the Spirit?

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    • It’s when you reach the peak that you realise that the only way is down.

      Like the delivery boy taking the elevator into Heavy Metal Hell in Dio’s “Last In Line”:

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  3. We drove through Kansas City and Oklahoma on our way to Houston.

    No overt religiosity noted in the diners, gas bars & hotels but driving along there was church after church after church pretty much from Kansas City to the Gulf.

    Mostly Baptist & Pentecostal. Not big ones either. Quite a few looked like they were the independent sort.

    A few looked like double wide mobile homes.

    I wonder if the small, independent church demographic is hampering vaccination efforts.

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    • I remember my writing partner giving me a tour of his stretch of rural Pennsylvania. You were NEVER out of sight of a church, usually some small one, either independent one or of a minor denomination. The one I remember was the little KJV1611 ONLY! Baptist one — the only One True Church Founded By Jesus Christ in 33 AD, a full DOZEN strong, none of them under the age of 70.

      My writing partner estimated half those churches would be gone in ten years. You’ve heard of “The Elephants’ Graveyard”? Well, this place looked like The Churches’ Graveyard.

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  4. Sunday morning at the donut shop, ugh, been there. I timed my everything bagel and coffee to coincide with church service. Its commonly known that restaurant wait staff hate Sunday mornings, where Christians are famous for whining about service, and leave terrible tips. Richard Beck of Abilene Christian University, blogs about the evangelical after-church restaurant clientele and its notorious lack of civility.. This is the company Jesus keeps:

    “Millions of Christians go to lunch after church on Sundays and their behavior is abysmal. The single most damaging phenomenon to the witness of Christianity in America today is the collective behavior of the Sunday morning lunch crowd. Never has a more well-dressed, entitled, dismissive, haughty or cheap collection of Christians been seen on the face of the earth.”*

    * Beck, Richard. The Bait and Switch of Contemporary Christianity. (God’s Politics, December 27, 2011). http://sojo.net/blogs/2011/12/27/bait-and-switch-contemporary-christianity

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  5. I notice a guy wearing a t-shirt that says the following, “God Bless the United States Let Trump Do the Rest.”

    i.e. Showing off the Mark of his Real LORD and God.

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  6. Pingback: Some Musings About Evangelicals and Abortion in 2021 With the Texas Abortion Law Center Stage | Wondering Eagle

  7. “Why would anyone want to be an evangelical pastor?”

    That one’s easy. You get a huge amount of power with no accountability.

    “Why would anyone want to be associated with the evangelical church?”

    That’s my real question. Why do people stay in these groups? I guess my best answer is tribalism. But Evangelicalism is declining, so there’s hope.

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