Positive Words from the #ExEvangelical Crowd

Believe Me 3dI am not sure if this is good or bad, but it appears that there are some people in the ex-evangelical crowd who like my analysis of American evangelicalism. After my interview at Salon with Chauncey DeVega, I got a message from Chrissy Stroop, a leader of the #exevangelical movement. She read the DeVega interview and wanted to feature my work in a piece on anti-Trump evangelicals.

Here is a taste of Stroop’s piece as it appeared at Raw Story (Evan Derkacz, the editor of Religion Dispatches, is listed as the author, but I am certain that Stroop wrote the piece.  Whatever the case, the quotes in the piece come from an exchange of messages with Stroop, not Derkacz):

In light of this situation, I’m singularly unimpressed with most critical commentary directed by anti-Trump evangelicals at their coreligionists; Trump is, after all, a symptom of a much broader malady, one in which these commentators are to varying degrees complicit. Where, for example, is Gerson’s accountability for his role in the George W. Bush administration’s lurch into “truthiness”? Here we are, 17 years after the devastating and destabilizing Iraq War was launched on false pretenses, in a U.S. whose Right wing is broken and has largely, including most white evangelicals, embraced the post-truth politics that are a hallmark of authoritarianism. Yet people want to celebrate Gerson for merely being anti-Trump? Sorry, not sorry, but it’s too little, too late.

Commentary that attempts to downplay, obscure, or to some degree excuse white evangelicals’ large-scale embrace of authoritarianism—even outgoing Christianity Today editor-in-chief Mark Galli’s much vaunted editorial calling for Trump to be removed from office—elicits in me, if I’m being quite honest, more contempt than respect. Yes, I know what it’s like to be inside evangelical subculture, how terrifying (and sometimes risky) it is to publicly break with the community’s widely held views in even the slightest way. But when wealthy white men, who will be in no actual economic peril if they take a stronger stance, fail to muster more than the tepid criticisms of the Gallis and Gersons of America, I find it beyond underwhelming.

On the most charitable reading, men like Gerson and Galli may be hoping to change evangelicalism from the inside in a way that I have long since been convinced is impossible. It’s noteworthy that in the midst of these anemic criticisms, anti-Trump evangelicals typically bend over backwards to assure fellow evangelicals that their community’s paranoid fears of “attacks” on their religious freedom are justified, and that their anti-choice dogmatism is a respectable position, and not the proxy for often unacknowledged racism that it systemically functions as. And yet the fact that there are still many evangelicals and fundamentalists who will castigate them for being “too liberal” speaks to what we might call evangelicalism’s pluralism problem.

While I would apply a portion of the criticisms laid out above to some of evangelical historian John Fea’s public comments, I was pleasantly surprised by remarks he made in a recent Salon interview with Chauncey DeVega that’s well worth the read. To give credit where credit is due, Fea, the author, most recently, of Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump, has been more forthright and steadfast than most evangelical critics of white evangelical support for Trump, and he’s also dug deeper into the problem. In his interview with DeVega, Fea starkly observed that evangelicals “have no model for pluralism. They cannot grasp any idea of a pluralistic society in which there are people who differ from them and question what American evangelicals believe.”

Read the entire piece here.

Stroop holds me at arms length, but I appreciate that she takes my views seriously.

Most conservative evangelicals and many moderate evangelicals hold me at arms left for the same reasons  Stroop liked the piece.

And don’t worry Mom and Dad, I am not becoming an “ex-evangelical” anytime soon. 🙂

Addendum (February 24, 2020 at 11:14am):  Stroop’s piece is now up at Religion Dispatches.