It’s always easy to tell when a group of people have given themselves over to untruth. Their philosophy, their theology, and their politics all rapidly become observably incoherent. Evangelicals, and many of the evangelical organizations, are now following the example of other Christian denominations in walking the broad and easy path towards Hell, and they are doing so on the basis of their mealy-mouthed Sunday School Churchianity.
As the election retreats like a hurricane heading back out to sea, first responders are assessing the damage left in its wake. One casualty is the reputation of evangelicalism. Evangelicalism was closely associated with the campaign of Donald J. Trump, and more than 80 percent of white evangelicals voted for the president-elect. This, despite large numbers of African-American, Latino, Asian, young and female evangelicals who were fiercely opposed to the racism, sexism and xenophobia of Mr. Trump’s campaign and the hypocrisy of a candidate who built a casino empire while flouting morality.
As a result, much of the good that went by the name “evangelicalism” has been clouded over; now a new movement is needed to replace it.
When it comes to religious identity in America, the fastest-growing group is the “nones.” Nearly a quarter of all Americans, and over 35 percent of millennials, report no religious affiliation. Nones, many of whom grew up within evangelicalism, often still affirm faith in God. They left the church because they gave up on evangelical leadership. Nothing sums up their objections more clearly than evangelicals’ embrace of Mr. Trump. Didn’t Jesus say, “Blessed are the meek” and “Love your enemies”?
Throughout the campaign, there was dissent even within the ranks of evangelicalism’s most conservative institutions. While the old guard, like the Focus on the Family founder James Dobson, were ardent Trump supporters, the best-selling evangelical author Max Lucado and the Southern Baptist leader Russell Moore were both early critics. At Liberty University, the largest evangelical college in the country, thousands of students signed a petition denouncing the support of its president, Jerry Falwell Jr., for Mr. Trump and insisting that they were more interested in being Christian than in being Republican.
Andy Crouch, the executive editor of Christianity Today, criticized both candidates, writing that enthusiasm for Mr. Trump “gives our neighbors ample reason to doubt that we believe Jesus is Lord.” He added, “They see that some of us are so self-interested, and so self-protective, that we will ally ourselves with someone who violates all that is sacred to us.”
As white male evangelists, we have no problem admitting that the future does not lie with us. It lies with groups like the National Latino Evangelical Coalition, led by Gabriel Salguero, or the Moral Monday movement, led by William Barber II, who has challenged the news media on its narrow portrayal of evangelicals. For decades, we have worked within evangelicalism to lift up the voices of these “other evangelicals.”
But we cannot continue to allow sisters and brothers who are leading God’s movement to be considered “other.” We are not confident that evangelicalism is a community in which younger, nonwhite voices can flourish. And we are not willing to let our faith be the collateral damage of evangelicalism.
We want to be clear: We are not suggesting a new kind of Christianity that simply backs the Democratic Party. Jesus is neither a Democrat nor a Republican — even if, as William Sloane Coffin Jr. once said, his heart leans left. Many faithful Christians did not vote for Hillary Clinton because of their commitment to a consistent pro-life agenda. True faith can never pledge allegiance to anything less than Jesus.
But Jesus-centered faith needs a new name. Christians have retired outdated labels before. During the late 19th century, when scientific rationalism fueled the questioning of Scripture, “fundamentalism” arose as an intelligent defense of Christianity. By the 1930s, however, fundamentalism was seen as anti-intellectual and judgmental. It was then that the term “evangelicalism” was put forward by Christianity Today’s first editor, Carl F. H. Henry, as a new banner under which a broad coalition of Jesus followers could unite.
But beginning with the culture wars of the 1980s, the religious right made a concerted effort to align evangelicalism with the Republican Party. By the mid-’90s, the word had lost its positive connotations with many Americans. They came to see Christians — and evangelicals in particular — as anti-women, anti-gay, anti-environment and anti-immigrant and as the champions of guns and war.
Mr. Trump did not create these contradictions, but his victory has pulled the roof off the building we once called home. It’s time to build a new home.
The amusing thing about their philosophical ineptitude is that they don’t realize they are making an overt case for Christian theocracy, the reality of which would of course horrify them because they have absolutely no intention of abiding by anything genuinely Christian at all; this is nothing more than shallow pandering to the worldly zeitgeist using a few inappropriately applied Bible verses as justification.
Moreover, it demonstrates that at least when it comes to Churchianity, race trumps religion in the hierarchy of identity politics. As usual, the Alt-Right perspective is the only one that makes any sense of this incoherent and degraded evangelicism.
Here is a useful metric for Christians: if
the New York Times Carlos Slim’s blog is affording you space for your views and generally striking a positive tone about them, you are absolutely wrong and whatever you are pushing is antithetical to genuine Christianity. No one – no one – is ever going to be inspired to follow Jesus Christ as a result of your pandering to the approval of the global elite. It is literally anti-evangelist evangelicism and its new home is godless churchianism.