As a person born into an evangelical and fundamental Christen home, I have spoken often of my lack of my growing lack of respect for all things evangelical or fundamental. This type of Christian begs the question: Is religion as a whole a force for good in the world or a force for evil?
Even Jesus Christ found the church of his day as more a force for evil than of good. I believe he would have the same opinion of many of today's evangelical and fundamental churches. That is not a new opinion for me. By the time I was 10 years old, I knew I wanted nothing to do with evangelical and fundamental Christianity. One of my first acts as an adult was to find a liberal minded liturgical church which approached the Bible and Christian dogma with a degree of common sense led by clergy highly educated in theology.
It has been 54 years since I came to the conclusion that evangelical and fundamental Christianity was worse than no religion at all. In those 54 years, the fundamental and evangelical churches have only increased their misunderstanding of the Gospel of Christ in a reactionary assault on what they see as a world bound for Hell. The denomination I belonged to as a kid took it as a point of pride that they believed in total separations of church and state. Now, they are doing their best to make sure they can use the state to force their religious view concerning abortion, homosexuality and other things on every American. They have become what they once feared most.
Yet, fundamental and evangelical churches are among the few churches that are still growing in the United States. What is the pull on people that keeps so many of one of the highest educated people on earth streaming through the doors of churches that literally make it a practice to denigrate and deny education itself?
The following article appeared in the Weekly Standard October 3, 2011 issue. The article is a well deserved probe, perhaps a well deserved attack, on those who assail education and even common sense in the defense of a simple minded view of religion that negates all the Good News to man in the Gospel of Christ. The word "gospel" means "good news", but there is no good news at all in the dogma of the fundamentalist and many of the evangelicals. God is an angry old man who hates almost everyone and is anxious to throw almost everyone into an eternal lake of fire in their view. Where's the good news in that?
The article is not an easy one to read, but if you are a married bisexual man hounded by the declaration of fundamental Christians that you are headed for Hell, it is well worth the reading.
To make it a little easier, I'm going to take the advice of Two Lives and others and break the post into two parts.
Good News Bears
The complicated,contradictory world of evangelicals.
BY A. THOMAS WALKER a policy analyst Jor the Family Foundation
The Weekly Standard October 3, 2011
The Weekly Standard October 3, 2011
The constant tension in any movement is who gets to define it, and how. Enter the debate over evangelicalism, which exists in two forms. Evangelicalism as a doctrinal movement has often been defined according to what is called the "Bebbington quadrilateral"a strong commitment to the Bible, Christ's atoning work, evangelism, and activism. Yet another evangelicalism, an Anglo-American phenomenon, peppers the American landscape with its own cultural signifiers. This kitsch evangelicalism, known more for its cultural oddities, consistently edges out the intellectual and doctrinal coherency of evangelicalism in popular culture.
The Anointed - Evangelical Truth in a Secular Age by Randall J. Stephens & Karl W. Giberson picks up on this theme, insisting that evangelicalism has come to be defined more by its reactionary elements —opposition to evolution, aversion to modern psychology, apocaIypticism, and support for an unabashedly Christian America. So what drives evangelicals to reject the overwhelming evidence in support of evolution? Why do evangelicals insist that the Founding Fathers were devout Christians when other evangelical scholarship points to the contrary? Plagued by perpetual disputes as to what properly qualifies one as an "evangelical," and a looming fissure among its youth, evangelicalism is facing an uncertain future in America. Randall Stephens and Karl Giberson insist that holding steady on culturally marginalized positions will not help evangelicalism in its quest for cultural relevance or intellectual coherency.
Profiling such figures as the noted creationist Ken Ham, David Barton of WallBuilders, and James Dobson of Focus on the Family, the authors search for the affinities of what draws evangelicals to the opinions of "the Anointed"—discredited spokesmen and authorities who receive celebritylike adoration and expert-like status among evangelicals. Such opinions foment the cultural derision and scorn heaped. on evangelicalism by its opponents and further intensify the entrenched and embattled mindset of evangelicals. Their quest is to offer a psychological analysis of evangelical authority structures.
Evangelicals opposing evolution, for instance, argue that the loss of a Divine Being results in no authoritative moral norms. Lamenting America's break from its Christian heritage, evangelicals warn of further moral decay as God is marginalized from the public square. And spurning modern psychology for its "secular bias that menaces spirituality," evangelicals gin up alternative authorities to conceal their own machinations. With decreased cultural influence, and fearing secularization, many evangelicals retreat into what the authors call a "parallel" culture.
But because evangelicalism encompasses such a large swath of the population and, by default, its own economic subculture remains intact within a larger religion-free market, the authors are right to suggest that evangelicals can reject expert opinion for the "selfsufficiency of their parallel culture." Leaders are formed through an informal process of constituency building and rallying followers by "playing on common fears, identifying . out-groups to demonize, and projecting confidence." Joined by the direction of a leader with "charismatic trustworthiness," spokesmen are said to "speak for God" and given preeminent status. A pervasive anti-intellectual spirit congeals these ingredients into an identifiable subculture: The authors attribute these features to an innate and evolutionary penchant for tribalism — the need to belong, identify, and embrace: "People, not surprisingly, more readily follow experts they know or perceive as being like them, even if their expertise is marginal or even suspect."
To be sure, the authors are not wrong in many of their assessments. As they state, A winsome preacher who can quote the Bible and tell heart-warming stories of God's blessings may possess more authority on global warming for believers than an informed climatologist ... from Harvard.
And an anti-intellectual current does drive much of populist evangelicalism, as Mark Noll famously lamented in The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind. The castigation evangelicals receive is often far from unwarranted. Yet one can hardly say that evangelicals are the only ones to blame for glossy truisms and simplistic maxims in American culture. The authors ground anti-intellectualism in a larger American enthusiasm for commonsense explanations, plus an aversion to overtly cerebral leaders. The authors are also driven by their search for a version of evangelicalism with greater intellectual awareness and capaciousness, an evangelicalism at home with academic elites that rejects the "democratic impulse" of populist evangelicalism.
End of Part One
End of Part One
Some questions for married bisexual or married or unmarried homosexual men to contemplate:
1. Thomas Walker suggests that the tension in any movement is the product of who gets to define the movement and how they define it. Who have you allowed to define your view of religious beliefs? Have you read and studied theology on your own or have you simply accepted as truth the views of people whose backgrounds and educational levels are unknown to you? Do you understand that some colleges exist in name only and their chief purpose is to deny and distort real scientific facts for those whom they are preparing to be clergy in fundamental churches?
2. Do you know that that the harsh and vulgar dogma of much of the current fundamental American churches is a product of the American frontier which took root throughout the American culture when educated clergy was scarce. And small churches across the vastness of the American continent were served by uneducated men who only spoke of their own ideas of God? Are you willing to risk both your physical and spiritual life on the dogma that resulted from such circumstances?
3. Does it suggest anything at all to you that both educated non believers and most educated Christians find no incompatibility at all in the Book of Genesis and evolution while most fundamental Christians who are generally much less educated think that acceptance of the theory of evolution negates ones ability to be moral?
4. Do you really think that people such as the reverend fred phelps speak for God when he thanks God for dead American Soldiers and preaches that dead American soldiers are burning in Hell because they enabled American gays? The reverend fred phelps is only the best known of American fundamental preachers. Others like him are in community churches across the nation.
For bisexual and homosexual men, their ability to find a place in mainstream society is crucial to self acceptance and personal growth. For bisexual men and homosexual men who happen to be Christians, do that is complicated. I found my place because I did not allow myself to be overcome by my fundamentalist upbringing. It never overcame my ability to work out my own salvation with God, just as the Bible itself recommends we do.
Part two of Thomas Walker's The Weekly Standard article follows in a few days.