Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Deconstructing Evangelicalism (Part 3) [or] One More Good Culture Rant

I've briefly discussed D.G. Hart's Deconstructing Evangelicalism: Conservative Protestantism in the Age of Billy Graham in two previous posts, one a general overview, and the other on his chapter on church music. I had planned for one more, but due to the recent wave of cultural commentary, I thought it might be worthwhile to insert some bonus Hart.

As I briefly noted in my overview post, Hart argues that evangelicalism has grown to stand far more for conservative politics than for any coherent statement of biblical faith. He writes:
Evangelicalism came to national attention when believers claiming that identity entered the drama (stage right, of course) of electoral politics. That occurrence gave academics who study religion in the United States lots of material to analyze. The emergence of evangelicalism as a political lobby may also have spelled the demise of this particular faith because it diverted born-again Protestants' attention from spiritual to temporal realities [emphasis mine].
p. 176
So is this all we're about? Political power? Maybe I should go a step farther because Hart may have stopped short. These days, evangelicals (fundamentalists too!) can do more than vote. We can also buy. We are every bit as much materialistic consumers as the secular left and center. We evangelicals are getting rich, and we're acquiring a refined taste to go with it. So now, we don't have to wait for elections and the great levelling "one man one vote" principle for our voices to be heard. We can do like big business and the mainline denominations have always done and just go buy our power like everyone else.

One can certainly argue that the recent spate of evangelical furor over "The Book of Daniel" and "The End of the Spear" is an accurate rebuke of real error. But are these culture wars really where we want to focus our efforts? Is our politicial/economic weight really that for which we want to be known?

Someone, please make it stop.

I love the conclusion of Charles Marsh in his New York Times op-ed from January 20th, "Wayward Christian Soldiers":
What will it take for evangelicals in the United States to recognize our mistaken loyalty? We have increasingly isolated ourselves from the shared faith of the global Church, and there is no denying that our Faustian bargain for access and power has undermined the credibility of our moral and evangelistic witness in the world. The Hebrew prophets might call us to repentance, but repentance is a tough demand for a people utterly convinced of their righteousness.


Paul said...

Great post! I could not agree with you more. Are there any creative ways to stop the insanity? Petitions, boycotts, letters, signatures, pitch-forks and lanterns, anything? Let me know; I'll be in.

Ben said...

Boycotts and petitions have been the traditional weapons of choice, but I like your pitchfork idea.