Thoughts on Michael Gerson’s “The Last Temptation”: Part 1

Last temptation

I have finally found time to read Michael Gerson’s Atlantic essay on evangelicals and Trump.  It is titled “The Last Temptation.”  It is good piece.  Very good.  In fact, much of it is very similar to my argument in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald TrumpVery similar.  (In one recent Washington Post piece, Gerson even used the phrase “court evangelicals.” I wonder where he got that?) 🙂

Like Gerson, I have come to the conclusion, after much soul searching in the wake of November 8, 2016, that the word “evangelical” is worth defending.   I still believe in all the things that the word stands for–the “good news” of the Gospel, the authority of the Bible, the centrality of the cross, and the need to engage with the world from the perspective of these beliefs.

I appreciate Gerson’s autobiographical reflections about his evangelical upbringing.  I also spent some of the most formative years of my life within evangelicalism.  But unlike Gerson, I was not a cradle evangelical.  I converted as a teenager.   While I am fully on board with Mark Noll’s assessment of evangelical thinking in the Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, I can fully say that my conversion is what actually led me to pursue an intellectual life and instilled me with a sense of vocation that continues to animate my work.  My Catholic upbringing played an important role in my moral formation, and I will always be a fellow traveler with my Catholic brothers and sisters,  but it was evangelicalism that brought meaning and purpose to my life.   It still does–at least on the good days.

I know that many former evangelicals read this blog.  I understand that they are angry and bitter and critical.  I see it in their posts and comments and published pieces.  I saw it in the way they responded to the death of Billy Graham.  I get it.  I don’t know how folks can live with such anger and bitterness, but I get it.  Don’t get me wrong, anyone who reads this blog regularly knows that I have a lot of issues with evangelicalism.  I have had my own moments of anger and bitterness.  But I see those disagreements, to borrow from Noll, as “lovers quarrels.”

More to come.

2 thoughts on “Thoughts on Michael Gerson’s “The Last Temptation”: Part 1

  1. “Lovers’ quarrels” I do hope that you will unpack that a bit.
    I, too, was not a cradle evangelical. Like you I came to that decision as a teen. Unlike you, I found it necessary to leave that tribe for many reasons. Anger is not one of them. I find it spiritually and intellectually lacking. The time I spent in seminary earning an M. Div. clarified what I had already begun to think about that lack.
    With the current state of ‘evangelicalism’ in the U.S. I cannot align myself with it. Perhaps the label is worth striving for. Maybe you and others like you can convince Falwell, Graham, Perkins, et al to give it up?


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