The Death of Evangelicalism

At the end of her longish piece on evangelicals and politics in Texas, Elizabeth Bruenig asks this:

Is there a way to reverse hostilities between the two cultures in a way that might provoke a truce? It is hard to see. Is it even possible to return to a style of evangelical politics that favored “family values” candidates and a Billy Graham-like engagement with the world, all with an eye toward revival and persuasion? It is hard to imagine.

Or was a truly evangelical politics — with an eye toward cultural transformation — less effective than the defensive evangelical politics of today, which seems focused on achieving protective accommodations against a broader, more liberal national culture? Was the former always destined to collapse into the latter? And will the evangelical politics of the post-Bush era continue to favor the rise of figures such as Trump, who are willing to dispense with any hint of personal Christian virtue while promising to pause the decline of evangelical fortunes — whatever it takes? And if hostilities can’t be reduced and a detente can’t be reached, are the evangelicals who foretell the apocalypse really wrong?

The either/or implied in these questions, a religion of transformation, one that would make America great because Christian, versus a religion at odds with the culture but looking for non-mainstream ways of preserving it (the Benedict option as it were), is what the leaders of Big Evangelicalism had not at all considered. The Tim Kellers, Russell Moores, and Al Mohlers of the world really did seem to think that Protestants could find some help or encouragement from cultural engagement with political leaders. They also seemed to think that the rest of the Protestant world was on board. They had no idea that some American Protestants saw engagement as fruitless, and possibly only beneficial for those who had access to the engaged.

The old evangelical “paradigm,” the one that began around 1950, is done. Stick a fork in it. What will emerge is not at all clear. But after Trump as POTUS, it is easier for many to see that the Reagans, Bushes, and Obamas of the political class were no more interested in the cultural engagers than the real-estate tycoon turned POTUS is. The Religious Right’s aims were so many fumes left over from mainline Protestantism’s cultural engagement. It is now time to think about Protestantism on the cultural margins.

To her credit, Bruenig understands that.

5 thoughts on “The Death of Evangelicalism

  1. It might be worthwhile for some of these doomsayer evangelicals to re-read Paul’s letters to his protégé Timothy, especially the last parts of the 2nd letter. He had been abandoned by everyone. Even though there were Christians in Rome they were apparently all cowering in fear of the emperor to the extent that not even one of them would stand with Paul at his first trial. One of Jesus’ last commands to his disciples was to preach the gospel message to everyone, converting and baptizing those who were God’s elect and who received the Word gladly. He never mentions anything about cajoling the governments to reform and to accommodate Christians. Instead, he says “in the world you will have tribulation.” His eye was focused on the next world, as should be ours.

    Like

  2. CW – an interesting discussion, that was. I’ve read most of Hart’s books so many of his comments were familiar, but one thing struck me as significant in such a way that I’m surprised that I hadn’t considered it myself. And that was the idea that evangelicals, having carved out a sort of pseudo, tribal-like identity for themselves (primarily during the latter half of the 20th Century) stand to lose it now that they’re under fire, not just for being Trumpers, but from radical Leftist groups such as the LBGT “community.” And as Hart mused, somewhat rhetorically, where will they go; with whom will they identify next? This “networking” business may just be another passing fad so there’s no real niche for them there. Parachurch organizations pretty much stand alone, so there’s no real respite with them, either. It’s an interesting thought. Whereas, as Darryl pointed out, the Dutch Reformed and confessional Lutherans have tried as much as possible to remain tied to their liturgies, confessions, and polity, not identifying so much with the ecumenically charged evangelicals. They didn’t get caught up in the revivalist trap of the Ahem…fill-in-the-blank… Awakening fervor, either.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Sounds like she’s describing the lost world of American evangelicalism.

    The Tim Kellers, Russell Moores, and Al Mohlers of the world really did seem to think that Protestants could find some help or encouragement from cultural engagement with political leaders.

    These guys are either being used by political leaders or they’re collaborating. I’m not sure even they know which. But when you get invited to the White House, you are being wooed.

    They also seemed to think that the rest of the Protestant world was on board. They had no idea that some American Protestants saw engagement as fruitless, and possibly only beneficial for those who had access to the engaged.

    Nailed it.

    The either/or implied in these questions, a religion of transformation, one that would make America great because Christian, versus a religion at odds with the culture but looking for non-mainstream ways of preserving it (the Benedict option as it were),

    True cultural transformation looks like the mass conversions in Iran.

    Like

  4. I think you have to get it right with understanding and wisdom…
    How does the aggregate of humanity measure such a statement?
    How does matter manifest function through the wavefunction derived by Max Planck’s quantization and Einstein’s E = mc^2 Equa…. consciousness is contrived from objective reality derived by the physical senses; although, the object’s composition and compilation cannot be directly perceived by the conscious mind through the physical senses… this is a primary truth! (Sub-atomic constituency is what you are A composite, including the periodic table.) Thought structure (consciousness) is ephemeral.

    Say we deal with this as first cause for diety, namely, G-D… O.K.
    All realities are compiled as composite; no thing is one thing by itself. The only ‘one’ thing with no composite structure is the concept for diety… this is a secondary truth! [Hear O Israel…]

    1+1+1 = 3
    A one can be added indefinitely as subsequent as infinity… this is the tertiary truth!
    What now occurs is a debate about which is which, primary or secondary, because the
    human carnal construction of the brain has three parts, right, left, middle!
    What about subjective reality, why you have articles such as the above…
    RELIGIONISM, RATIONALISM AND PEACE EDUCATION: AN ATTEMPT AT MODEL-BUILDING
    Archetypal Criticism
    Most of this can be summation:

    Isaiah 45:7
    the Song of Moses
    The Cruise 2018/19 Show — CHANEL :: 10:34 FULL VOLUME
    Tetragrammaton – The Most Sacred Knowledge On Our Planet – Nassim Haremin

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.