3 options for uncomfortable evangelicals

By John D. Pierce

Any honest assessment of white American evangelicalism reveals a religious/political ideology or civil religion largely absent the life and teachings of Jesus.

Just look at how evangelicals poll and how evangelical leaders speak and how so many evangelicals react on social media.

To reach this conclusion is not to ignore reality but to stare it straight in the face. This is the self-definition of American evangelicalism.

Just try emphasizing from the pulpit or in social media posts what Jesus actually emphasized and wait for the deflections and defensiveness.

Following Jesus is not the primary white American evangelical agenda; it is more rooted in preserving cultural dominance, securing political power and advancing social causes other than the matters of equality, justice and compassion that Jesus so consistently taught and demonstrated.

Jesus — although honored as the only password to heaven — is largely missing from white American evangelicalism. Which leaves those raised in an evangelical culture — who bought into the original idea that the Christian faith is primarily about following Christ — with three options.

LEAVE — Many former evangelicals have done so and others are en route. They rightly find more of the examples and teachings of Christ beyond a baptized secular political agenda rife with wrong-headed, divinely-attributed discrimination.

Yet leaving is much easier for some than others. It may feel a bit like running away from home.

GIVE IN — The easiest and least disruptive approach is to go along to get along. Just ignore how Christianity is being redefined apart from Jesus.

Deflect the criticism even if you know it’s true. Point to the errors of other ideologies. Note the good things that come from evangelicalism — and there are many — as a way to downplay the harsh reality of the harm it brings to marginalized persons and to the Christian witness.

CALL IT OUT — For those who have professed Jesus as Lord, it is a valid question in any situation to ask: “Where is Jesus?” In many evangelical circles, however, don’t expect a straight answer.

Defensive responses are more likely, and will largely be some claim of biblical fidelity followed by  misinterpretations of highly-selective Bible verses used to justify discriminatory attitudes and actions clearly in contrast to what Jesus revealed.

In other words, Jesus is not verbally denied. He is just redefined as being supportive of an political ideology in contrast to about everything he said and did.

Seeking to focus American evangelical Christianity on following Jesus is not well received among those who claim his name but have a different priority. Yet the way of Christ has always come at a cost.

Moving toward the cross we are keenly aware that it did for Jesus as well. Too much grace and too much mercy are too much for some people’s sense of personal security.

Life is full of choices.

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