The Wasting of the Evangelical Mind

"The peculiarities of how American Christianity took shape help explain believers’ vulnerability to conspiratorial thinking and misinformation." - New Yorker

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Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Author gets a lot wrong (e.g., that dispensationalism's 'literal reading' is about ignoring the historical and cultural context of Scripture). He's got some things right, though. There really is an anti-intellectual streak. I'm persuaded that, on the whole, the fundamentalist reaction to "neo-evangelicalism" wasn't much better than what it opposed. It just made different errors. In many ways, equal and opposite errors.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Mark_Smith's picture

first sentence is about the Capitol riot. What was evangelical about a bunch of knuckleheads planning to raid the capitol with tactical gear? Were you there? Was any seminary endorsers of it? Was any pastor of relevance? Did they since out of the hymnal? Pray? So what was evangelical other than the media and anti-Trumpers can attack the event goers and evangleicals at the same time for convenience?

Mark_Smith's picture

to not trust the CBS nightly news anymore. It is not anti-intellectual to doubt the veracity of ANYTHING said on CNN or MSNBC. Or written in the NYT or Newsweek or Vox.  Journalism is dead for all intents and purposes. Almost everyone is so biased the news is spin and not facts.

Andrew K's picture

Mark_Smith wrote:

first sentence is about the Capitol riot. What was evangelical about a bunch of knuckleheads planning to raid the capitol with tactical gear? Were you there? Was any seminary endorsers of it? Was any pastor of relevance? Did they since out of the hymnal? Pray? So what was evangelical other than the media and anti-Trumpers can attack the event goers and evangleicals at the same time for convenience?

They were "evangelical" because one of their most prominent characters is a New Age, syncretistic shaman in a buffalo headdress and face paint who eats only organic food.

If that doesn't say "evangelical," I don't know what does.

T Howard's picture

You must have missed the crosses, Bibles, and Christian flags that were flying during the rally riot. Oh, and the flags that read "Jesus is my Savior; Trump is my president."

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Mark_Smith…

first sentence is about the Capitol riot. What was evangelical about a bunch of knuckleheads planning to raid the capitol with tactical gear? Were you there? Was any seminary endorsers of it? Was any pastor of relevance? Did they since out of the hymnal? Pray? So what was evangelical other than the media and anti-Trumpers can attack the event goers and evangleicals at the same time for convenience?

Suggest reading the article to see the relationship between the rally and evangelicalism. But if that’s too much work…

There are many more where those came from.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

TylerR's picture

Editor

A lot of smart people are only now trying to understand the nexus between evangelicalism, the GOP and American Nationalism. Of course, many people have known about it for some time, but for others (perhaps this Atlantic writer) it's a new thing which has burst forth onto the scene. They don't yet understand it. It is true that a startlingly homogenous ethnic group of professing Christians are all in for Trumpism. For some good resources along this line, I've found the following helpful:

For some larger context to understand Christianity's role in society from the 19th century, I recommend:

I also recommend Rick Perlstein's now four-volume history series on the conservative movement from Goldwater thru Reagan. Evangelicals obviously intersect that story at various points.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Don Johnson's picture

I didn't find Fitzgerald all that compelling. Kidd is always good though

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Mark_Smith's picture

Why do you assume these people are evangelical? Could be Catholic? Could be Nut Job? Could be Seventh Day Advent? Could be Mainline Protestant?

A cross and a Bible does not make you an evangelical! And I'm pretty sure saying Trump is your Savior excludes you from being evangelical by definition!

Are YOU responsible for the Jan 6 riot just because some guy brought a Bible, another brought a "Jesus Saves" sign, and another brought that silly "Christian" flag?

My beloved brother (real brother) wouldn't know Jesus from a hippie, but he goes around saying God made America, we need to save America from the libs, etc... Is he evangelical?

Mark_Smith's picture

TylerR wrote:

A lot of smart people are only now trying to understand the nexus between evangelicalism, the GOP and American Nationalism. Of course, many people have known about it for some time, but for others (perhaps this Atlantic writer) it's a new thing which has burst forth onto the scene. They don't yet understand it. It is true that a startlingly homogenous ethnic group of professing Christians are all in for Trumpism. For some good resources along this line, I've found the following helpful:

For some larger context to understand Christianity's role in society from the 19th century, I recommend:

I also recommend Rick Perlstein's now four-volume history series on the conservative movement from Goldwater thru Reagan. Evangelicals obviously intersect that story at various points.

Seems to me these authors are taking a VERY BROAD use of the term evangelical. That is to mean anyone who isn't Catholic. Seems to me they can even be including Catholics. They use evangelical to mean Christian and conservative politically. And by Christian it could be "pseudo-Christian".

It is one thing to support Trump. It is one thing to support the Republican party. NONE OF THAT means you got dressed up in tactical gear, bought some bear repellant, hooked up your ladder, and broke in to the Capitol with cable ties looking for Nancy and the VP!

Stop the group association.

TylerR's picture

Editor

One thing Kidd notes is that, in pop culture, "evangelical" is often used as a code word for "conservative WHITE Christian." Black conservative Christians, for example, are rarely referred to as evangelicals. He spends significant time discussing other groups who, by all rights, should be considered "evangelical" but are not so labeled. 

It is difficult to see how you can make the claims you do without having read the books. Fea and Kidd, in particular, are very careful evangelical scholars who are not given to the sloppiness you decry.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Mark_Smith's picture

White... pseudo-Christian Conservative Fox News Watching Bible Believing Rioters...

Mark_Smith's picture

Sorry I can't get the picture to post. The link above is good.

TylerR's picture

Editor

I have no idea what you're talking about. I shall bow out of this conversation.

For those who are interested, the books I noted above are helpful context to understand what's happening today.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Andrew K's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:

Mark_Smith...

first sentence is about the Capitol riot. What was evangelical about a bunch of knuckleheads planning to raid the capitol with tactical gear? Were you there? Was any seminary endorsers of it? Was any pastor of relevance? Did they since out of the hymnal? Pray? So what was evangelical other than the media and anti-Trumpers can attack the event goers and evangleicals at the same time for convenience?

Suggest reading the article to see the relationship between the rally and evangelicalism. But if that's too much work...

 

 

 

 

There are many more where those came from.

Properly speaking, I would call this "American folk-religion" rather than "evangelicalism" as such. But the term has become largely meaningless now anyway, having been re-appropriated as a socio-demographic marker, as others above have noted.

Important as well to draw attention to the fact that of the individuals arrested and taken in the riot incident, the various write-ups have not highlighted a strong evangelical identity. The silence here is extremely telling.

Joel Shaffer's picture

Properly speaking, I would call this "American folk-religion" rather than "evangelicalism" as such. But the term has become largely meaningless now anyway, having been re-appropriated as a socio-demographic marker, as others above have noted.

Important as well to draw attention to the fact that of the individuals arrested and taken in the riot incident, the various write-ups have not highlighted a strong evangelical identity. The silence here is extremely telling.

What you call American Folk Religion is probably more the Charismatic/Pentecostal arm of evangelicalism. We often forget that 49% of evangelicals in America claim to be Charismatic/Pentecostal (Barna, 2008). In the past decade, there has been an explosion of growth with Kingdom Now or Kingdom Dominion Theology among the Charismatics and Pentecostals in America (e.g. Bethel) who believe that God is calling the church to yield themselves to the authority of God's apostles and prophets and take back control from Satan the kingdoms of this world, which are all the social institutions,-"kingdom" of education, the "kingdom" of science, the "kingdom" of the arts, the "kingdom of politics," etc. The late Dr. Peter Wagner explained that part of its influence can be traced back to Rushdoony, Kuyper, and Calvin.  With many Charismatics and Pentecostals believing that Trump's presidency would lead to the dominion of social institutions within America, and with so many "prophets" that have been prophesying about a worldwide revival because of Trump, we can see where a large segment of the "wasting of the evangelical mind" comes from.  What's even worse, I have Baptist and Bible church fundamentalist/conservative evangelical friends that frequently quote articles or click-bait media that come from this heretical arm of evangelicalism (those who embrace kingdom/dominion theology) when they attempt to fight the keyboard social media culture war on Facebook and Twitter.  Charismatic/Pentecostal Dominion Theology (which I would argue makes up a large segment of Christian Nationalism) applied to Social Ethics is a very serious threat to biblical Christianity. 

Mark_Smith's picture

TylerR wrote:

I have no idea what you're talking about. I shall bow out of this conversation.

For those who are interested, the books I noted above are helpful context to understand what's happening today.

The point Tyler is the people who raided the Capitol on Jan 6 were not deacons at the local First Southern Baptist church. They were, by and large, kooks! Period. End of sentence. 

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Mark_Smith wrote:

The point Tyler is the people who raided the Capitol on Jan 6 were not deacons at the local First Southern Baptist church. They were, by and large, kooks! Period. End of sentence. 

Invoking Christianity in support of one's political views is hardly just an American pastime.  In the 1933 propaganda film "Der Sieg des Glaubens" (The Victory of Faith) made about the National Socialist rally of 1933 in Germany, what's interesting to me is not all the railing against communism and other enemies, the parades and displays of strength, the veneration and almost worship on one man, etc., in short everything you'd expect from what happened back then.  No, the interesting (and most shocking) thing for me is that in the middle of one of the political rallies, they stopped to sing "We Gather Together to Ask the Lord's Blessing" with almost an exact German translation of the English words to that hymn.  They sang it in as reverent a fashion as you would see in a church.  Somehow, they thought that God would look favorably on what they were doing.

The fact that some people today do the same thing is not new, nor does it mean that Christianity or Evangelicalism has irreversibly been turned into something else.  It means that people can be deceived, and I would agree with Mark that most of the people you saw at the January 6th rally were NOT representing Christianity, but to the extent they were invoking it, it was their own twisted views of it.

Dave Barnhart