The Problem With Evangelicalism

Out of all the movements that I will talk about in this “problem” series, I believe that evangelicalism is the most biblical movement today.  This particular brand of theology has grown out of the Reformation which, as we mentioned before, left a divided but purified church.  Earlier, we defined it as a movement that occurred in the early 18th century as a result of the Protestant Reformation and, some would say, in reaction to Enlightenment thinking characterized by a belief in a personal conversion, adherence to the Bible, and an emphasis on the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ who is the Son of God.  I am not so sure that this was a reaction to the Enlightenment.  Rather, I believe it was biblical Christianity that has existed since the Reformation, but became much more distinct in the 18th century.  Its strengths are certainly those listed above: belief in a personal conversion, adherence to the Bible, and an emphasis on the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ who is the Son of God.  However, it did (does) have one glaring problem which still exists today.

In the late 19th and early 20th century, Evangelicalism morphed into a separatist movement called Fundamentalism.  We will talk more about this later, but one of the primary characteristics of this movement was that it separated from the culture.  In the mid 20th century, a movement called New Evangelicalism formed and has changed mainstream evangelicalism to be more connected to culture and to actually engage it.  The problem is that, in my opinion, it still does not seem to engage the culture enough and glosses over and sometimes ignores major problems in our culture.  Somehow, this movement has been linked exclusively with the pro-military (some would say pro-war), Republican agenda that the two ideologies are sometimes virtually the same.  In doing this, we have sent the message that in order to be an evangelical Christian, or to even be considered one, you must be a Republican, you must be pro-military and pro-war, you’re probably Caucasian, and you probably listen to Rush Limbaugh.

Some of this I say with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek, but the stereotypes and the assumptions are there.  I believe that it is time that the evangelical movement abandons, once and for all, the ideology of the so-called “religious right” and return to a belief system that does not endorse any political party, but rather stands on the principles of God’s Word.  I believe that we are seeing encouraging signs that this is happening, but it certainly not happening fast enough.  For too long, we have ignored our biblical mandate to care for the poor and “the least of these.”  It should wait no longer.  This is a problem that the evangelical church needs to fix…now.


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