Thursday, January 27, 2005

The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience

Ron Sider has written an excellent critique of American evangelical Christianity from the perspective of a passionate insider. (Thanks to for drawing my attention to this)

While I'm not an "evangelical" in the newer, American-style "born-again" variety, I wonder if much of this criticism can be leveled against us in the Canadian mainline churches. How different are we from the prevailing culture? How do we point to the alternative reality that is the kingdom of God?

Too often, we in the mainline bed down too snugly with the political left (either the NDP here in Canada or the liberal wing of the Democratic party in the US) the same way the evangelicals do with the political right. We do this thinking that Jesus' message can be translated easily into traditional right/left political categories without recognizing that Jesus would have words for both. We treat each other as "enemies" without the love that Jesus asks from us. We lust after power seeminly oblivious to its dangers. We think that if enough of the right politicians are elected and appropriate legisilation passed, then the kingdom of God will arrive.

But we forget our own complicity in the worldwide sin that threatens to destroy our world. We're so trapped in the western consumerist lifestyle that we fail to see the harm that is causing our sisters and brothers in the so-called developing nations or even to the earth itself. Economic sacrifice is deemed treasonous. Religious involvement is to prop up the dominant culture. I'm reminded of something I read somewhere, "What does it profit you to gain the whole world yet lose your soul?"

Jesus asks more from us because he knows that we are capable of more as his followers. Sider offers the whole church (evangelical and mainline)a wake up call to greater faithfulness.

Here's an excerpt:

Scandalous behavior is rapidly destroying American Christianity. By their daily activity, most "Christians" regularly commit treason. With their mouths they claim that Jesus is Lord, but with their actions they demonstrate allegiance to money, sex, and self-fulfillment.

The findings in numerous national polls conducted by highly respected pollsters like The Gallup Organization and The Barna Group are simply shocking. "Gallup and Barna," laments evangelical theologian Michael Horton, "hand us survey after survey demonstrating that evangelical Christians are as likely to embrace lifestyles every bit as hedonistic, materialistic, self-centered, and sexually immoral as the world in general." Divorce is more common among "born-again" Christians than in the general American population. Only 6 percent of evangelicals tithe. White evangelicals are the most likely people to object to neighbors of another race. Josh McDowell has pointed out that the sexual promiscuity of evangelical youth is only a little less outrageous than that of their nonevangelical peers.

Read the whole thing here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Excellent post, excellent article ...

Too often we confuse our politics with our religion. I've been on both sides politically (left and right), but the goals from a religious side have seemed the same - we just differ on how to do it. I think I settled on the conservative side because it seemed like the 'left' wanted government to do things while the 'right' took personal responsability ...

... but I agree that the 'evangelical' side doesn't seem quite right - they seem very similar to the ultra-conservative community that I live in - extremely pious on Sunday, but "screw you anyway I can"/"it's all about me" the rest of the week