What I Think of Evangelicals and Evangelicalism

I’m really trying to get away from the “blog wars” and minimize further fallout because of misunderstandings and things said in the heat of controversy. In this light I’ve been shown a posting from a message board wherein the author opines that I have “a blind, passionate hate of Evangelicals”. This is not correct, but I do understand why this individual thinks this of me.

In part it’s personal: he believes that he “handpicked” me to be a part of his ministry team and then I subsequently betrayed his trust by adopting viewpoints that go against his ministry’s “Evangelical” tenets. In part it’s also theological: his theology is, by his own admission, extremely pessimistic about the mass of humanity, believing that most people are damned and very, very few will ever heed the true Gospel. It’s very easy with this kind of theology to take extreme umbrage at others disagreeing with oneself, and the extremely rigorously-policed nature of this gentleman’s Internet community is a very good proof of how such pessimism overflows into one’s self-concept (opposition to me = persecution of me, and occurs because the opponent doesn’t like the Truth) and one’s treatment of others (extremely harsh language used of other people’s motivations while oddly being blind to the sinfulness of one’s own behavior toward them). And partly it’s also because I do tend to speak in generalities that don’t always capture the nuances of things and which a given person might perhaps justly feel upset over if it appears he’s being lumped in with things he doesn’t hold. I can’t do anything about the first two reasons, but I could stand some improvement in the third, and will have to pledge myself to work on it.

Now regarding the “blind, passionate hate of Evangelicals” I supposedly harbor, it is true that at one point in these awful controversies (and if I remember aright it may have been in a post to this very gentleman himself) I did state that I “hate the Evangelical religion”. There was a reason I said that, but I may not have made that reason clear at the time, or even if I did the mere use of the word “hate” on my part has since been combined with my vigorous opposition to theology such as this particular gentleman holds, and the result is now being touted as a prime example of the “ramblings of emotion-charged, historically inept idiots.”

Well, alright then. I guess all I can do is say that NO, I do not hate Evangelicals as people. They are my Christian brothers and I do have an obligation to love them and bear with them and believe the best of them, and all the other similar Scriptural injunctions. To be sure I have often failed
in these duties. But I do not hate Evangelicals as people. The remark I made to the effect that I “hate the Evangelical religion” was a reference to certain very bad features of my own upbringing in what I would have to broadly consider the “Evangelical” tradition–features which caused me no end of spiritual grief as I got older and which I believe only the Reformed faith saved my spiritual sanity from. I do see many of these features operating in the type of “Evangelical” religion that said gentleman practices (though I make no representations about his spiritual life, which I know nothing of), and this certainly helps to account for some of the hostility that has come out during the “blog wars”.

I do not like the Modern American Evangelical religion, but oppose it most strongly. I do not hate Evangelical people, but I am very strongly against their basic religious paradigm. I think that epistemologically and sociologically it is a thinly Christianized form of humanism and that even though there are many good Christian men and women within it who do the best they can to serve Christ to the best of their ability, this does not mean no criticisms are due to the basic paradigm or that the flaws of the paradigm may be simply looked over in the name of what this gentlemen calls “preserving the bonds of peace” with the brethren. It is very difficult to have peace with gentleman who, like this particular one, try to confine True Christianity (“the brethren”) within excessively narrow doctrinal confines and add to this rigorist position an attitude that finds it very difficult to avoid the most extreme sorts of denunciations upon having their views challenged to even a moderate degree. I am sorry that my opposition to Evangelicalism has caused this individual to believe that I hate Evangelical people, because it’s just not true. But at this point in the troubles, I am really not sure what can be done to get the discussions back on a decent footing. I am open to suggestions.

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