Calling out ‘American Evangelicalism’

By John D. Pierce

flagIt is time, way past time, to call out “American Evangelicalism” for what it is: a political movement that simply baptizes hard-right, secular political ideology in some religious varnish.

Hence, my intentional identification of this movement sans the words “Christian” or “Christianity” since it has nothing to do with the life and teachings of Jesus.

It is a fear-based, fear-driven, fear-inducing movement that attempts to claim the endorsement of One who consistently called his followers to “Fear not!”

It is a political movement that sees grace and mercy as weaknesses. And raw power is revered over the Fruits of the Spirit.

Misleading code words form the movement’s terminology. For example, “family values” means just two things: to mount political opposition to legalized abortions and to discriminate against gay and lesbian persons. Period. Yes, period.

That’s why the actual family commitments of candidates are irrelevant to the movement’s supporters; what matters are political commitments to these causes and the power-sharing coziness between politicians and preachers.

It is perfectly fine in this Land of the Free to hold these political positions and to support the candidates of one’s own choosing. Just know that many of us have a lot more sense than to fall for the notion that this movement somehow — or anyhow — represents Christianity.

The movement lacks a basic biblical perspective on truth and love, essential to the Christian faith. Just read One Corinthians 13 and other holy texts including the Gospels. It’s all there.

Vote for the person you wish; make your case for how your candidate is best to lead our nation, your state or local government. But cut out the nonsense that God exclusively shares your endorsement and that your political preferences somehow represent the Christian faith.

It’s embarrassing. That’s all.


  1. What a hate-filled article borne in ignorance. A classic case of a liberal bearing false witness.

    The core principles in American conservatism were derived from a correct understanding and application of Scripture. “American evangelicals” tend to accept the inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture, and hold to its authority as in “sola Scriptura”. Therefore, it is a natural alliance when Christians support those in politics whose stands on issues are in harmony with Scripture.

    Those who accept the killing of unborn babies and call as acceptable and not sin that which Scripture clearly teaches is sin, are the ones who “lack a basic biblical perspective on truth and love, essential to the Christian faith”. They are ashamed of the Gospel in order to find the fleeting favor of man.

    • Very well said, Jeff. Thank you.

    • You’re a perfect example of the ignorance outlined in the article. You just don’t get it. You my dear friend Jeff are what I refer to as a Christianist.

    • Sorry that you live in such fear and darkness…..too much OT and not enough gospel. Keep trying…’ll get some day. Blessings…..

    • Wow. Your response is the proof that this article is on target. What exactly do you mean by the “correct understanding and application of scripture?” Don’t bother answering that because I’m sure you mean your own understanding and application of it, thus proving the point of the article.

    • Jeff, Baloney read what this Conservative said. “Mark my word, if and when these preachers get control of the [Republican] party, and they’re sure trying to do so, it’s going to be a terrible damn problem. Frankly, these people frighten me. Politics and governing demand compromise. But these Christians believe they are acting in the name of God, so they can’t and won’t compromise. I know, I’ve tried to deal with them.
      Barry M. Goldwater

    • No one owns God, Jesus, the Bible, Christianity, or the church universal.

      There is no single, universal, absolute, definitive biblical canon, or understanding/interpretation of the Bible, or explanation of Christian theology.

      We do see a continuing clash of values that started with our Jewish faith ancestors:

      * Is our relationship with the Divine a contract or a covenant?

      * Are we called to a life of legalistic obedience and ritual purity or to a life of justice and compassion?

      * Do we live a life of war and redemptive violence or a life of peace and service?

    • Well said Jeff.

    • Abortion is mentioned in scripture exactly never. Romans 13:1-7, however, states that Christians are obligated to follow the laws of the land and, in regards to abortion, ours was established in 1973 by the Supreme Court. Have a nice day! 🙂

      • Christians are allowe d to lobby and demonstrate for changes in the law; who is more helpless aprt of the population han the rpeborn?. And what people other than myself do has nothing to dowith my following the law. And you’re right, salnder, vnadlaism, and assault against providers is not allowed for followers of Xt.

      • Dale: Road rage, revenge email, and internet porn are mentioned in Scripture exactly never either. Nonetheless, it teaches about the moral status of each of these. Likewise, Scripture teaches that abortion, too, is evil. WRT the obligation to follow the laws of the land, that’s true, but if and only if the law is consistent with the moral law. Acts 4:18-20

    • Sorry Jeff, I’d take the right wing Christians a little more seriously if they didn’t support weapons of death (i.e. guns) with a religious fervor AND every war that ever came down the line. Do you have a clue how many human beings were killed in Iraq by the last born-againer that we had as a president? I’m sure there were a few fetuses in the death count, if that makes a difference for you.

    • The core principles in American conservatism are hate, xenophobia, greed and single minded focus on controlling a woman’s sexuality. If they were truly following the teachings of Christ, there would be no poverty, hunger or homelessness in this great land. Instead we have politicians taking away benefits that allow working families to actually feed themselves, tossing veterans to the streets and the cycle of poverty to be never-ending. And then there’s the single-minded obsession about the ACA, which has literally saved lives. But the hated Obama put it into law so they must destroy it. All those people who can now afford life-saving health care – who cares about them. They won’t vote republican anyway so screw them.

      • Angela: the ACA is one of the many programs responsible for driving people further into poverty. Has it saved lives? Sure. There are probably some such people, no one begrudges those people who are the better for it. But that’s not the only measure by which we judge the success of a policy: it sets the bar for success too low. For instance, you also have to ask questions like, “save lives at what cost?” and “how does it fare compared to alternatives?” and “what are the costs versus benefits of this policy in the long term and in the aggregate?” The ACA does not fare well under this scrutiny. These are the reasons I think the ACA, and other well-meaning policies that involve removing competition and innovation, amount to a great detriment to everyone, and, because it destroys wealth rather than creates it, is a detriment to the poor in particular.

    • Let’s for a moment accept your premise of the inerrancy and infallibility of Biblical Scripture. Do you suppose, even for a moment, that certain denominations of fundamentalist evangelicals may be errant or fallible in their interpretation of Scripture? After all, it’s men who are infallible, not Scripture….right?

    • Certainly there’s no disagreement with the statement that the scripture teaches the sanctity of human life which begins at conception. If that were the only issue involved, it would be simple. But it is usually just beyond that point that most political conservatives depart from Biblical values, and are in opposition to scripture on many other points. The scriptures themselves tell us not to “place our trust in princes.” If sticking to a purely scriptural view of politics was a priority for most of those identified as American Conservative Evangelicals, Donald Trump would be a pariah, instead of a frontrunner. I don’t have enough space to even start on Ted Cruz. On the other hand, the most sincere and committed Evangelical politicians have been beaten to the curb by their own constituents. They turned on Mike Huckabee, to give support to a cultist Mormon, just because they thought he could win. Lindsay Graham never got any traction. George W. Bush was considered an “evangelical,” even though the church that he and his wife belonged to through their entire presidency endorsed gay and lesbian clergy, and performed same-sex unions. So its not as simple as it seems, especially if you sincerely seek answers from the Spirit and give prayerful consideration to your ballot. I’m not sure that I want to support carpet bombing cities, and killing tens of thousands of women, children, Christians and Jews just to try to knock out a few terrorists who are probably safe in a shelter somewhere. I don’t think anything Jesus taught leads to that.

  2. Thanks for this John! I know you’ll have to endure some hate mail from all the loving Christians. But you are spot on. Thanks! We need some more prophets like you.

    • Ain’t it the truth about the hate mail. The comment string appearing just above your comment says it all…makes the case precisely for his point, yet they don’t have the self-awareness to see. I see the articles and comments from Franklin Graham, Brian Fischer and the like, and just shake my head and respond sarcastically, “more from God’s gentle loving people.”

      Just notice the supreme code words they use…”a correct understanding”… We have a God so big he could create a virtually infinite universe, but they are the only ones who know his mind accurately. Disagree with them, and they never entertain the possibility they might be wrong…only the person/s who disagree could be wrong. Again, a complete lack of self-awareness.

  3. Thank you! I could not agree more. I’m grateful for your willingness to call things exactly as they are. You are absolutely correct. It is way past time!

  4. Simple truth. Too often, truth is complex, hard to grasp. This isn’t.

  5. Excellent article and much appreciated by this former Baptist now Episcopalian.

  6. Some of the very things I that had been placed on my heart recently.

  7. The correct phrase is “fruit of the spirit”. It is singular in Greek. On the bigger picture, see earlier issues of The Wittenburg Door as they called out American evangelicalism years ago.

  8. Thanks Johnnie. Well said. God is far bigger than our politics. Neither party has a corner on God.

  9. As a “born-again” Christian for 60 years, a Baptist for all of my life and a Southern Baptist for most of it (but no longer), I must support what you have said. It is an ultimate perversion of the Gospel of Jesus the Christ to preach or teach hate toward anyone, even a sworn enemy. Hatred is anathema.

  10. John,
    EXCELLENT article! Some of the candidates attempt to wear the name “Christian” without even the most basic understanding of the love, grace, and peace of Jesus. I would never insist that our President be a Christian, but if he/she claims to be Christian, I want to see the fruit of God’s grace in their lives. Those who take pride in the hatred the represent are not following Jesus.

  11. Lewis speaks to this in his letters to screwtape.
    He calls it the Cause.
    The Cause supplants the believers faith and thus screwtape wins another soul.
    Lewis’ examples are consciensious objecton to war and patriotism.
    But current ‘evangelical’ politics as in the examples of anti abortion activists and anti gay/lesbian attitudes seem to correlate fairly well.

    • pknorton: It’s highly unlikely that pro-life and pro-marriage positions would be “the Causes” that Lewis would pick out, simply because those are necessary conditions of a society conducive to human flourishing. Now, surely, there are vices in political life (bad attitudes, treating a candidate who holds one’s views as a messiah, supplanting one’s faith with a cause, etc.), but whatever issues correspond to Lewis’s “Cause” for an evangelical, those stand or fall on their own merits. And so, if pro-life and pro-marriage positions are worth fighting for (as I think they are), we must be careful not to disparage them simply because some poor soul has supplanted their faith with it.

  12. John, I thank you for stepping from a place of privilege to speak on a topic the white majority is afraid to acknowledge. It is a sad testament that a group of people are embedding themselves with a political structure (no matter how aligned they claim to be with scripture) that shifts with the wind. The Republican party was not “right” enough so the Tea Party emerged. I am embarrassed at the amount of disrespect given our President. The claims of standing against the party pale in comparison to the hateful rhetoric being spewed from the mouth of “Americans.” It is even more saddening to hear this from a group purporting to be following Christ. When I read scripture, I fail to see the hateful tones and talk, especially from Jesus. I see why many of our youth and young adults are leaving the faith. What they see is a group of people (supposedly adults) saying one thing and simultaneously doing another thing.

  13. Finally someone has said what many of us already know, that these so called Evangelist are just bigoted hateful people hiding behind religion. Who believe they have some special knowledge (which is totally fabricated). Their interpretations of a bible that is already found to be flawed and incomplete, Gnostic gospials as one example, are full of self serving platitudes.

  14. John, you claim to be someone who is tolerant of other viewpoints, however you sound just as intolerant as the Christian conservatives whom you excoriate. You assert that your (liberal) interpretation of “love and truth” in Scripture is the “correct one”, while conservative evangelical (Christians) are hateful for holding to an orthodox interpretation. In other words, “my dogma is holier than your dogma.” The irony is remarkable.

  15. John, I am an American evangelical. I am also politically progressive. I am not alone among American evangelicals. What you call “American evangelicalism” I call “the religious right.” Are you perhaps globalizing, tarring all American evangelicals with the same brush? I think so and I wish you wouldn’t. We are diverse–beyond our common commitment to the gospel and basic Christianity as stated in, for example, the National Association of Evangelicals’ Statement of Faith (which includes none of what you talk about in this column). Instead of bashing all American evangelicals, perhaps you should point out, as I do often on my blog, that what has happened is many very conservative, even fundamentalist Christians (and others) have simply adopted the label “evangelical” or been given that label by the media while many of us who have been evangelicals all our lives are not included in their political movement. Please do not over-generalize about “American evangelicals.” I am one. So is Jim Wallis of Sojourners. So is Ron Sider of Evangelicals for Social Action. So is David Gushee. Please, don’t participate in the media habit of handing over to the religious right the label “evangelical.” Surely you know that many people, especially in certain parts of the country where Baptists are few and far between (e.g., Minnesota where I lived for fifteen years), think the same way about “Baptists” as you do here about “American evangelicals!” How ironic. Roger Olson

    • I so agree! I posted something similar this week on my Facebook feed and received a comment that is most likely true. Regarding the media lumping all evangelicals into one pot, they do not get it. They link right-wing, fundamentalists and evangelicals together and to do otherwise is too nuanced for the media to comprehend!

    • Prof. Olson: wonderful, although unexpected, to encounter you in an online forum. (Your Arminian Theology remains a formative read of mine from several years back; I’ve recommended it to a number of people.) I would like to invite you (and any other readers) to attend the Acton Institute’s “Acton U.” conference. Three days of vigorous, intelligent, theologically informed, charitable discussion on a free and virtuous society with hundreds of people from around the world and across the theological spectrum. I’m an American evangelical, socially and fiscally conservative, and always benefit greatly from the interaction with thoughtful people who disagree. Cheers. Tim.

  16. John,
    Without hesitation I identify myself as an evangelical. Long before political power blocks hijacked the term I was an evangelical. I am in my 51st year of preaching and have been considered an evangelical and name myself an evangelical for most of that time.

    David Bebbington, a British Baptist, gives four marks of evangelicals:

    1. A belief in biblical authority;
    2. A belief in personal conversion;
    3. A cross-centered proclamation and view of the Christian life and message;
    4. A commitment to evangelism and missions.

    To generalize about all of us who openly call ourselves evangelicals is not helpful for non-fundamentalist Baptists. That partisan political groups have hijacked the term for their own tendentious reasons will not cause us to give up a great word.

  17. In fact, it is very helpful for non-fundamentalist Baptists to separate clearly from the politicized “American evangelicalism” I described. That doesn’t suggest that all who claim to be evangelical are monolithic. But the term will be used a million times today in media reports and coffee shop conversations. Not one will be a reference to Ron Sider or a British Baptist’s four marks or good Baptists hanging on to the label. It will refer to Franklin Graham, Jerry Falwell Jr. and the masses who seek political support for the narrow issues I described. Overwhelmingly, that is what American evangelicalism, if not Christianity as a whole, represents in the public arena. Surveys prove that again and again. Those who perpetuate that image need to be challenged openly.

    • Many ex-Baptists like me will be even more blunt about just who evangelicals are. They are racial bigots, homophobes and rabid Republicans who would see this country burn to the ground before they would back social programs that would use tax dollars to help the poor and end racial discrimination . Southern Baptists were born out of slavery and race hatred. They are back to their roots. Good riddance.

      • This.

      • Brian, do you really think “they” are all “like that”?

  18. First of all, hey Johnny! Hope you are well! Tell MK hello for me and that I foolishly dared to wade into this comment stream! Ha!

    I’m not going to comment on the actual article, though you might gather my own feelings concerning your post based on what I’m going to say here. I’m interested instead in the comment that Brian House just made.

    You wrote: “Southern Baptists were born out of slavery and race hatred. They are back to their roots. Good riddance.”

    I’m a Southern Baptist. I do not dispute the historical origins of the SBC. Nor do I dispute that there are people in the SBC who are racist. There are elements of SBC life today that I do not like and elements that I do like. I have chosen to remain within the SBC for reasons that are irrelevant to this conversation.

    I can tell you that I deplore “race hatred.” I can tell you that not a single one of the many ministers within the SBC that I call friends indulges in or tolerates race hatred. The SBC is a big entity, of course, and I have seen and heard racism within it, just as I have seen racism in various places, but I actually feel that there is great progress being made there.

    I’m curious: do you think that what you just said about the SBC is really fair and just, or should you perhaps nuance it a bit? As far as I know, you and I are brothers in Christ. It just strikes me as a profoundly offensive and unjust thing to say. Are you perhaps guilty here of painting with too broad of a brush? Most of all, speaking from within the SBC and as one who is frequently critical of the SBC myself, I simply reject what appears to be your clear assertion that the modern SBC is itself racist on the whole or even in the main.

    Perhaps this would be a good opportunity for us to demonstrate more care in the use of language? You could still strongly disagree with the SBC without smearing the entire body with a very serious charge.

    • Wyman, my main man! Miss you-let’s go to J Carrina’s. Please do something positive with SK. My only feeble addition to this discussion is my reflection that Yes indeed S Baptists have come MILES&Miles on race relations- it just took us 40 years too long. It also is politically correct today to be racially sensitive, so no kudos here. We might still be a little behind on other issues (women?). Hope it’s not another 40 years on that one. Miss you Bro. Thanks for what you mean to my family

  19. Hi, Wyman. Your wide-brush warning is appreciated.Indeed any of our descriptions that begin with or suggest “all” of any labeling tends to prove inadequate. It is an easy attempt at dismissal whether referring to a religious brand of the fan base of a particular sports team. (Guess that’s confession since I generalize about Mets fans! But it’s Marshall’s fault; he’s a bad influence on my otherwise goodness.)

    • I’m comfortable with what I said. My assessment was blunt but blunt can make people think objectively which is something the leadership of the SBC has not done with any depth for decades. Wyman, I’m certain you don’t fall into that camp. Based upon the tone of your comment I sense you do not interpret the bible literally, that you are comfortable with the ordination of women, that homosexuality is not a sin and hence gays can be ordained as well, that what Al Mohler and the conservatives have done to Southern Seminary is nothing short of immoral, that the ten commandments do not need to be placed in public buildings and that you are comfortable acknowledging the racist past of the SBC. If I have inappropriately characterized you in this comment then excuse my brush.

  20. Johnny,

    Did Marshall ever mention to you that my 3rd cousin is NY Yankee great Bobby Richarddon?!


    Ok, I’m out. God bless you and yours!


  21. John, You are brave to publish this.
    I have been concerned since the early 1980’s when the church suddenly got involved strongly in politics and left behind the gospel of peace. During prayer meetings they take over and worship the president of the United States (Republican) or pray that something horrible will happen to the President of the United States to get him out of office sooner than the end of his term (Democrat). It seems more like witchcraft than praying.
    As a Christian I look at the whole candidate and listen to his/her heart as they speak. Morals are important. I steer clear of a candidate that causes people to be afraid or makes them hate others. I pray for all who are leaders in our nation, even those I didagree with, that we may live in peace so we can preach the gospel to the people.

  22. I believe in separation of religion and state as our founding fathers did. And here is a clear reason why. Our country was set up to give people freedoms. Life liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We are given the right to search our soul and find our own true belief system. If our government dictates and makes laws on one religions belief system it will be like it was for a lot of our for fathers where they lived before they fled to America to excape religios prosecution do you really want to live in a country who does that to their people. No one is Telling Christians they do not have a right to believe what they want to believe why do Christians think they have a right to do that to others. Jesus is ashamed of those who call them selves Christians who do not excepts others as they want to be accepted. Jesus did not hate any one. Jesus said he brought new teaching. It seems most Christians I have known do not follow Jesus’s word but the bible???? Really. Wake up Jesus loved all people I never read anything Jesus said that was mean and abusive to others. Wake up Christians and follow Jesus’s words and example. Fight amongst your self and leave the rest of us alone. And every church that has a political agenda should be stripped of their tax exemptions. Because they are than part of the government.

    • Well said Sally. I find myself holding the opinion that the “political religious right” are actually the anti-Christ. They are abducted souls in the same body, very dangerous and arrogant towards other humans. I’m not even sure they are “awake” to how they’ve been changed, how their behavior hurts others so very much. As long as the GOP manipulates or brainwashes them to their favor, I just don’t know how long this will continue, how to end this vile thinking. In my late 50’s, I cannot feel content nor able to ignore this hate based group. They are focused on destroying the good in our country. Would it help for “real” Christians to rise up and publicly proclaim the truth about them? I am sad.

  23. Folks who want a deeper understanding of this abberation of faith should read Wendell Berry’s The Hidden Wound, which traces the rise of southern evangelicism as an explicit justification for slavery. Splendid, learned book.

  24. This Episcopalian says “thank you”!

  25. Thank you for this article. I am happy to have read and shared on Facebook. I might have stayed in the Baptist Church if I had heard anything remotely close to this. John, the world needs your voice. Keep talkin’

  26. Call them what they are: Christian Extremists

  27. One thing that drove many of us away from Christianity was that the Moral Majority was formed to fight against the one truly religious president we have had in memory.

    And that they always fight against any proposal to help people.

  28. Enangenitals?

  29. There are so many things wrong with this article that I wonder if you truly do understand the Bible and Christianity at all, even with your laundry list of “credentials” in your short biography. You don’t have a handle on the entire Christian faith to say that “American Evangelists” are some of the worst people out there and you obviously don’t understand exactly what was taught in the Bible or by Jesus himself. I cannot say I am a scholar, but I certainly understand a few things…

    First, it’s 1st Corinthians. It was the first letter to the Corinthians, not ONE Corinthians. I stopped taking anything serious about your knowledge when I read this just like I stopped taking anything Trump said about his Christian faith he’s trying to use to win votes when he said the same thing. Second, you obviously don’t understand that the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament are the same. God still will not be mocked, but He came to earth to die on the cross regardless. There’s still punishment for sin, but Jesus took that punishment away if you believe on Him… not if you’re a good person, think a certain way, or “tolerant enough” to the social issues in America today. So, to say that God or Jesus would not call out against homosexuality and the murder of children through abortion because is “only Love” is absolutely false. He would and did. And third, it’s not fear driven… but if there’s any fear at all to be given it should be going towards the Fear of God. We need to fear His might and His punishment for sin. We need to fear these notions that the family unit He created immediately after the creation of the world is to be pure and holy, between one man and one woman, and we are to protect our children should not be ridiculed or mocked or attacked in the name of “tolerance”.

    Besides, the average “American Evangelist” does not hate homosexuals or women who have abortions. Far from it. They simply cannot agree to homosexual marriages or abortions. Disagreeing does not equal hate. American Evangelists are not throwing homosexuals off of rooftops or burning them at a cross like Middle Eastern countries. They’re also not parading through streets mocking people (or Jesus in the case of homosexuals immediately after DOMA was reversed) or interrupting church services to prove a point. If anything, some of the ONLY groups who offer after-abortion care and therapy are Christian organizations. Some of the ONLY groups helping women who give up their children for adoption along with the psychological pain that goes along with it and try to help find a good home are Christian organizations. So, obviously there’s something to it. They do love and care about people, even if they might not agree with their decisions. How many government and atheist organizations help provide therapy and counseling after abortions or adoption?

    They are simply standing up for the biblical standards set before them. Hate the sin, not the sinner. Jesus hated sin and called sinners out on their sins, BUT He also healed them when they repented. You have it all wrong. I may not have worded it best and not seen somewhat as “harsh”, but don’t try and label Christians as “not Christ-like” for believing God’s Word.

    • You totally missed the point of the “one” which was a jab at the ignorance of Trump who is totally accepted by many “evangelicals” — most of whom I would not worship with, because they would not accept the primary characteristic of God being his love for humankind.

    • You say that the average evangelical does not hate gays. This may be true. But evangelical leaders do hate gays. They were influential in the ‘death to gays’ laws in Africa.

      Another thing that amuses us non and former Christians is when one group claims that another group is not really Christian. “The only true Christians are those who believe the same as me”.

      Since you brought up abortion. We may stop mocking you (American Evangelicals) when you begin to care about children and families as much as you care about fetuses. The policies promoted by the religious are almost always anti-family in the true sense of the phrase. You do not want to help struggling families. The biggest reason given by women who have abortions is money; yet your policies always hurt the poor.

      Show you are christian by your actions. Then we will take you seriously.

      • How are all policies anti-family? We advocate what God’s Word says about the family… not the new societal definition of a family. It’s not that Americans hate “alternate families”, but that they don’t advocate from the pulpit these alternate families. Many preachers speak out against divorce and many churches still use 2 Timothy as their doctrine for not only the preacher, but staff in the church in general.

        And how is defunding abortion hurting the poor? It’s helping the children who are murdered. And you say Christians don’t help the poor, but they’re the #1 group of people who give to charities, help the poor, provide outreaches for the poor, churches give to families that walk in off the street asking for help, Christian family planning centers, Christian counseling for struggling families and those who either abortion or give their children up for adoption, Christian-based hospitals, etc, etc. You don’t want to see that, though. You only want to paint Christians as “hate”. It’s far from it. The government has also tied the hands of many Christian organizations from helping people in a much broader sense as they feel they should “help” these poor families through the legalization of abortion instead of teaching them how to deal with additional family, proper family counseling, proper sexual education, etc.

      • And the whole “death to gays” movement in Africa is not primarily a Christian movement… in fact, I would venture to say it has nothing to do with Christians. Look at the #1 religion in Africa right now. It’s Islam, not Christianity. You say that Christians are advocating the death of homosexuals, but they are not. I find it ironic that everyone tries to pain Christians as the ones who are advocating and killing gays while trying to defend Islam out of the other side of the mouth, but when in reality hundreds (if not thousands) of gays are continually murdered in Middle Eastern countries… by Islamists. I don’t know of a single story where a single Christian in the United States has killed a person for being gay in at least a decade. I’m sure it would be the #1 top story, but please let me know if I’m wrong. Speaking out and saying something is not Biblical and trying to state that they’re murdering gays is totally off-base.

  30. You mean it’s not “One” Corinthians? That’s not the way American “Evangelists” refer it? What about Three John?

  31. In the discipline of argumentation, there are what are termed logical fallacies. Some are:

    A fortiori – argument suggesting that what is true of the lesser is true of the greater, and vice versa

    Cynicism – A cynic is one who makes emphatically negative statements without sufficient evidence.

    Fallacy of composition – the assumption that what is true of the part is necessarily true of the whole

    Reductionism – This fallacy is committed when we selectively focus on only some of the parts of a composed whole.

    Simplistic Reasoning – Taking a complex reality and simplifying it in such a way that grossly distorts it.

    Guilt by Association – contrary to what the conclusion asserts

    Abusive ad Hominem – in addition to drawing attention to the source of an idea, attacks the advocate of that idea with insult or abuse.

    Prima facie – literally, “at first face”; a case that on the surface seems to satisfy the burden of proof unless something is said against it.

    Hasty Generalization – An isolated or exceptional case is used as the basis for a general conclusion which is unwarranted.

    Special pleading – when we selectively omit significant information because it would weigh against a position we are promoting.

    Bifurcation – an argument which presumes that a distinction or classification is exclusive and exhaustive, when other alternatives exist.

    Poisoning the Well – a fallacy where adverse information about a subject is preemptively presented to an audience, with the intention of discrediting or ridiculing anything subsequently said about the subject.

    Appeal to Fear – an argument that uses the threat of harm to advance one’s conclusion.

    Dr. Pierce’s article is a case study in logical fallacies.

    It’s embarrassing. That’s all.

    • Johnny Price needs to re-read Irving Copi more closely, because he has incorrectly identified logical fallacies in Dr. Pierce’s blog.

      For example, Dr. Pierce has not over-simplified or incorrectly generalized with respect to the political views that represent the point of his criticism. He carefully distinguishes between that which is justifiably religious with that which is clearly political. It is perfectly clear that Pierce does not intend to lump together dissimilar elements in order to criticize the whole; on the contrary he is doing precisely the opposite, demonstrating how the political elements should be considered separate from the religious.

      Johnny also demonstrates a poor understanding of what constitutes an ad hominem abusive fallacy. This fallacy relies on identification of a person himself as a basis for argument, without regard to the underlying merits of the debate. It is a form of name calling, which Dr. Pierce has not done. Dr. Pierce supports his characterizations with independently verifiable observations of fact.

      It would be too much of a kindness to suggest that Johnny Price has resorted to fallacies in crafting his statements, because he really doesn’t present much of a structured argument at all. A better way to describe Johnny Price’s comments would be a collection of factual distortions that make an unsubstantiated pretense of scholarship, but in reality are uninformed.

      • Thank you for the response, Mr. Carruthers, so we can clarify.

        “Comparison is the key to clarification.” – Os Guinness

        Having never heard if Irving Copi, I’m afraid I’m unable to re-read him – but I will look him up.

        First of all, Mr. Pierce says, “It is time, way past time, to call out ‘American Evangelicalism’ for what it is: a political movement that simply baptizes hard-right, secular political ideology in some religious varnish.” He then continues to expound on that point.

        Thus he takes an entire demographic of the Christian community and reduces it to a 14 word definition; erroneously painting all who would consider themselves American Evangelicals with the same broad brush. That is an (undocumented, by the way) over simplification and incorrect generalization.

        Intentionally or not, he does indeed “lump together dissimilar elements,” thus criticizing the whole because he never mentions, distinguishes or suggests that are any dissimilar elements.

        Therefore, regarding the “abusive ad-hominem fallacy,” in this case he is not referring to a single individual but an entire group of people.

        But even if he had separated out that group of people among American Evangelicals, against whom his ire may be justified, the “abusive ad-hominem fallacy” would still apply. For it is not just a “form of name calling,” it is an attack with insult and abuse.

        Rather than refuting the position these people stand for (and there is a significant difference between disputing and refuting), he accuses them (again, with no documentation) of being a “fear-based, fear-driven, fear-inducing movement,” “a political movement that sees grace and mercy as weaknesses,” “raw power is revered over the Fruits [sic] of the Spirit,” “the actual family commitments of candidates are irrelevant to the movement’s supporters,” and “The movement lacks a basic biblical perspective on truth and love.”

        And, I’m sorry, but he offers no support of his characterizations “with independently verifiable observation of facts.”

        (By the way, there are at least six other fallacies I listed, to which you did not object.)

        As an American Evangelical, who knows MANY other American Evangelicals, and therefore can recognize first-hand the disingenuousness of Mr. Pierce’s article, I hope this helps to disabuse you of any notion that my comments are “a collection of factual distortions.”

        • No Johnny Price, Dr. Pierce is not describing all those who would describe themselves as evangelical, but the political movement identified in the media by that word. It is the media that assumes that all who claim that title have certain political beliefs, based mostly on the large number of politically active pastors who claim that title as a distinctive. And it is a correct label for that movement. But it is not a Christian or religious movement but a political one, and that is the problem.

          • Well, Mr. Cooper, if what you say is true, Dr. Pierce owes you a major word of gratitude for interpreting what it is he’s trying to get across. Because never once did he make the distinctions you’re attributing to him. Not once did he indicate he was speaking of a “subgroup” of a much larger population. Not once did he identify those he’s “admonishing” as “those referred to in the media as ____________.” So, I’m going to stand my ground criticizing his piece. Now, a week later, 1/26, he does offer some clarification. But look through the various posts and see how many of his readers’ responses lack “a basic biblical perspective on truth and love, essential to the Christian faith,” obviously paying no heed to “One Corinthians 13 and other holy texts including the Gospels.” But does Dr. Pierce call them to task? Sadly, no. Thus, most of this is very analogous to pre-pubescent mud slinging.

  32. I don’t see many comments from atheists here so here’s one.

    How many times have I pointed out to someone that I was more Christian than they in spite of my atheism? I am more than happy to abide anyone’s religion as long as they don’t use it as a weapon to achieve political goals that have the effect of making me abide by their religion. The co-opting of the “American evangelicals” by the conservative right is as much about ethics and morals as invading Iraq was about weapons of mass destruction. It is a match made in hell. The right gets their agenda of demonizing the poor to the benefit of the rich and the “American evangelicals” get ever closer to their dream of a “Christian” nation where separation of church and state is written out of the Constitution.

    • Barbara, You are attacking a strawman. It is no part of conservatism to demonize the poor or favor the rich, though ironically, this is a well-known historical consequence of Left-leaning policies.

      • Barbara, I should add: Church/State separation strictly speaking isn’t in the Constitution, so it’s therefore not possible to write it out of it. Nevertheless, it is no part of Christianity or conservatism to abrogate the separation of Church and State. Second, your comment about “weapon to achieve political goals” is a little unclear: if you mean Christian conservatives want legislation to be enacted that requires every American to bow the knee to Jesus, or give their income to their local church, or attend a casserole potluck, that’s false. Forced conversion (just as an example) is no part of conservatism or Christianity, and indeed is antithetical to it (though countries that have undertaken a principled Leftism (progressivism) have historically done *just this*). On the other hand, if by your claim you are objecting to the fact that Christian conservatives desire, as citizens, to achieve political ends consistent with their views on the world, then, well…so what? Everyone wants that. We are all political animals, as the philosophers tell us, and legislation is ipso facto legislation of morality.

  33. You are correct. These modern day Pharisees are a disgrace and do a supreme disservice to the Gospel.

  34. Johnny Price — The original column put the words in quote marks. That suggests that the author was not talking about anything but a distinct thing apart from the general use of the words. And I think that the original author, in his responses to the comments here, has clearly indicated that he was not talking about all people who claim to be evangelical, but to a particular portion. And the column itself is addressing politically active people of a particular stripe who are taking the word “evangelical” in vain. In fact they seem to be more evangelical in converting people to their politics than to faith in Jesus the Christ.

    • Mr. Cooper,

      While looking up the term, “American Evangelicals,” to see if you might have a point, I just ran across this blog by Roger Olson at

      On January 19 (2016) moderate Baptist writer and editor John Pierce published a column entitled “Calling out ‘American Evangelicalism’” at . Pierce is editor of Nurturing Faith Journal—“the signature publication of Baptists Today, Inc.” I know and respect him as a leading spokesman for moderate Baptists—a category in which I place myself.
      In my opinion, as a scholar of American evangelicalism and as a proud lifelong evangelical, Pierce’s attack on American evangelicalism is uncalled for and inappropriate. It’s inappropriate because it treats “American evangelicalism” as a homogeneous and monolithic political movement and uncalled for because it is offensive to evangelicals—especially those of us who do not fit its description of American evangelicals as haters.
      Here are a few samples of the column’s vitriol toward American evangelicals. First, Pierce says American evangelicalism is “a political movement that simply baptizes hard-right, secular political ideology in some religious varnish.” Then he distances it from “Christianity” saying it has “nothing to do with the life and teachings of Jesus.” Finally, he claims “It is a fear-based, fear-driven, fear-inducing movement” and “a political movement that sees grace and mercy as weaknesses” and in it “raw power is revered over the Fruits of the Spirit.”
      Pierce is a Baptist. I wonder if he would be offended by those in many parts of the U.S. and elsewhere who view all Baptists through the lens of Westboro Baptist Church? I lived in Minnesota for fifteen years. According to people who study such things, that state has the lowest percentage of Baptists of any state. Only about three percent of Minnesotans identify as Baptists. There I found myself constantly battling (e.g., through letters to the editors of the two Twin Cities daily newspapers) the common misconception of all Baptists as fundamentalist haters.
      As a proud and unapologetic, lifelong American evangelical Christian I am offended by Pierce’s broad-brush, globalizing dismissal of American evangelicalism. I believe it is an example of false stereotyping and even caricaturing. To be sure, there are many people in America who claim to be evangelical who fit Pierce’s description, but there are also many who do not. I have to wonder how familiar he is with “American evangelicalism”—a spiritual and theological movement and ethos that in and of itself is not political.
      I am also offended by American evangelicals who claim to speak for all evangelicals and who do attempt to portray it as in lock step with ideological and even partisan politics. The fact is, however, they do not speak for all American evangelicals. I am also offended by the mass media and journalists who have succumbed to the wiles of the self-appointed spokespersons for American evangelicalism who are really fundamentalists and right-wing ideologues and have begun to use “evangelicals” as a label for an extremely conservative, mostly Republican, religious-political bloc.
      So who is an “American evangelical?” I have long argued that “evangelicalism” is not a closed or bounded set category. It is a centered set category (like all movements). Historically, theologically, and spiritually it is a trans-denominational movement of mostly Protestant Christians who share belief in the necessity of a personal decision for Christ for authentic Christianity. It is a movement that emphasizes the Bible as supernaturally and uniquely inspired and authoritative for faith and practice. It is a movement that believes salvation comes only through Jesus Christ and his death and resurrection. It is a movement that practices evangelism and social transformation in a variety of ways. Finally, it is a movement that values traditional basic Christian beliefs (“orthodoxy”) such as the deity of Jesus Christ (incarnation), the Trinity (however understood or misunderstood), the need of every person for the grace of God received through faith alone, and the future return of Jesus Christ.
      All movements are rightly defined by their prototypes. The prototypes of American evangelicalism are the first and second Great Awakenings, evangelists such as D. L. Moody and Billy Graham, theologians such as Carl Henry and Bernard Ramm, institutions such as Wheaton College and Fuller Seminary, and organizations such as Youth for Christ, the National Association of Evangelicals, and World Vision. Proof that not all American evangelicals fit the “Pierce stereotype” are socially and politically progressive evangelicals past and present such as Mark Hatfield, Jim Wallis, Ron Sider, Tony Campolo, David Gushee and the entire Evangelicals for Social Action organization.
      Numerous articles and books have debunked the idea that “American evangelicalism” is a monolithic political bloc devoted to ultra-conservative politics. I recommend to Pierce and others who lump us all together: The Truth about Conservative Christians: What They Think and What They Believe (University of Chicago Press, 2008) by Andrew Greeley and Michael Hout. Anyone who has studied American evangelicalism knows how diverse the movement was and (insofar as it still exists at all) still is.
      To those Baptists, such as Pierce (and many others I am acquainted with) who view “American evangelicalism” as a united ultra-conservative political movement I say: Become better acquainted with us. I say the same to the very many Americans who view Baptists as all marching in lock-step with (or at least just a little behind) the Phelps family and Westboro Baptist Church: Become better acquainted with us Baptists, we are not all like that.
      I find it highly ironic especially when Baptists lump together and stereotype all evangelicals as politically and socially conservative. Both are spiritual and theological movements, not political ones. I ask them how they would feel if they turned on a television talk show and saw and heard a Catholic or liberal, mainline Protestant spokesperson lumping all Baptists together as Westboro Baptist types? I’m sure they would protest that. Well, I protest the lumping of all American evangelicals together as Religious Right types. We are not. Please be fair. Do not do to us what you would not want done to you.

      • What Dr. Olson misses, however, is that his historically correct use of “evangelical” is not the widespread public use. The word has a pejorative meaning that equates with religious right fundamentalism, and it’s not going to change. The “lumping all Baptists” example doesn’t help, because Franklin Graham, Jerry Falwell Jr., and others are not not being identified in the media as Baptists (though they are). They are widely referred to as evangelicals. And while the evangelical voting bloc may not fit an earlier definition of the word, it is precisely the one in public use now.

  35. John D. Pierce, Suppose one advocates the view that, certain policies, say, pro-marriage or pro-life policies are (1) the views of Jesus (or are at least consistent with the views of Jesus), (2) should be legislated, or (3) both. Just so far as that characterization goes, are such people in need of this “calling out”?


  1. Calling out ‘American Evangelicalism’ | Baptist News Global Perspectives - Conversations that matter - […] Calling out ‘American Evangelicalism’ Tags: American Evangelicalism, Baptists Today, Evangelical, Family Values, John Pierce, Politics, separation of church and…

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