On the Possibility of Quitting Evangelicalism

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At some point last Tuesday night I wrote the following tweet:

I wrote this after I read a tweet from Christian culture warrior Tony Perkins announcing that 81% of American evangelicals voted for Donald Trump.

The following day I wrote a piece for the syndicated Religion News Service that began with this line: “As someone who once called himself an evangelical….”

My tweet and RNS piece has resulted in dozens of tweets, messages, and e-mails from evangelical Christians.  Some of them have told me that they are abandoning the label “evangelical” to describe their religious identity.  Others wrote to urge me not to leave the fold.

I have given this a lot of thought.  Anyone who reads this blog knows that I have always had a rather uneasy relationship with American evangelicalism.  Some of this stems from the fact that I spent the first fifteen years of my life in the Catholic church and have been shaped and formed by its social teaching.  Much of it stems from the way that evangelicals have sought power and influence through politics in a way that has, in many ways, hurt their public witness and, at times, equated the kingdom of God with the United States of America.

Anyone who reads this blog knows that I have been a strong critic of Donald Trump.  They also know that I have been deeply disappointed that so many of my fellow evangelicals have gotten into bed with this monster.

Yet I remain an evangelical in terms of theological conviction.  In this sense I am a David Bebbington evangelical.  I embrace his formulation of evangelical faith, the so-called “evangelical quadrilateral“–biblicism, crucicentrism, conversionism, and activism.

Will I continue to use the label “evangelical” to describe myself?  Probably.  But I will do so carefully and cautiously.  I have no plans of leaving my evangelical congregation and will continue to work within the evangelical community to help my fellow believers think more deeply about what it means to be a Christian citizen in democratic America.  (And you can bet that the subject of history and historical thinking will play a role in that work).

I realize, now that some of the emotion that has subsided, that to quit evangelicalism is to abandon a significant part of my responsibility and calling as a public scholar.

Stay tuned.  I hope to flesh this all out in the coming weeks and months here at The Way of Improvement Leads Home.

6 thoughts on “On the Possibility of Quitting Evangelicalism

  1. Evangelicalism rests on the idea that there is a Holy Spirit that dwells in Christians and leads them on what to do. That 81% voted for Trump makes a mockery of that idea. If there is a spirit, it is ineffectual or evil. Or there is no such thing.

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  2. I entered evangelicalism via the Anglo part of Anglo-American: InterVarsity. John Stott and Os Guinness shaped me, along with Donald Bloesch. My faith is rooted in oldline/mainline Protestantism–which is where I discovered C.S. Lewis. So, I have never been whole-hog evangelical as a subculture. I have known too many Christ-followers of other traditions to think that there is only evangelicalism as the “truest” way …

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  3. I grew up with a very long history in evangelical Protestantism. Though Presbyterian as a youth we were influenced by regional Baptists and the Keswick Movement. However, the growing political leanings of many evangelical Protestant groups has made close identity very problematic. I am also considering not using the evangelical term or to attach “theological” to it.

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