Thoughts on Evangelism and Politics
I want to write about Evangelism. The issue is politics.
If the evangelicals had simply been a religious group that wanted to live their lives quietly, practice their religion and avoid the outside world — like the Amish, the Mennonites, the Shakers, and others — there would less trouble. But they wanted to push their religion on to others and therein lies problem.
In the late seventies, Jerry Falwell and Paul Weyrich joined with the Reagan campaign and took politics into the churches. Through the Moral Majority (with others like Pat Robertson), they began urging ministers to raise political issues and get their flocks to vote Republican. This changed the political dynamic and led to the point where today evangelicals are a major portion of the Trump base.
To understand this more fully, we need to look at what Evangelism is actually saying and doing. These folks are fundamentalists, who take the Bible literally, who take authority of God as absolute, and who think anyone who disagrees with them are heathens, infidels, unbelievers, and persons to be defeated. They would prefer that we join them, but if we do not, they want to step on us.
If you think this sounds like the Taliban or Islamic fundamentalists, you are right.
Although, in fairness, being evangelical does not imply violence or use of force. The evangelicals that I know were/are kind and generous. But it is the act of taking evangelism political that has led to “Christian Nationalism” and to violence.
If you question evangelicals on authority, they respond that God is the only authority. The Bible tells them, and instructs them to spread the Gospel and proclaim the Kingdom of God. It is spiritual warfare: good versus evil. It the struggle between everlasting life versus eternal damnation. Spiritual Warfare.
(Sometime before 1973 — before Reagan, before Trump, before the Moral Majority — I had an evangelical friend tell me that we had to move past democracy to a theocracy).
Long before current times, evangelicals were proselytizing, spreading the ‘Good News’ and trying to ‘save’ people, one conversion at a time. But since Reagan and Falwell et al, saving people became more public, more political, less about the soul of the individual and more about the soul of the country as they wanted it to be (a theocracy). And in the end, the evangelicals became the main support for Donald Trump, a man that is hardly a Christian. That alone is weird.
The progression from personal to political came about, in part, because the left-leaners are more open to the world, more interested in scientific observations, less receptive to the authoritarian god image. There are left-leaning, mainstream and moderate Christians who understand science and society, support civil rights and social justice. But the evangelicals lean towards authoritarianism. And the evangelicals are the dominant Christians in the public space.
A scientific understanding of the world has been growing since Kepler, Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, Darwin and Einstein. This has regularly challenged the theological explanations of how we came about. “Secular humanism” grew from the 60’s onward and this was alarming to the evangelical community. This was evil and the fight against had to go bigger. Hence the movement into politics. It is called ‘cultural warfare’ these days.
The important point is that evangelicals see this as a huge battle between good and evil. We on the left see a more pragmatic battle to take care of matters like climate change or healthcare. The left-leaners are less into spiritual warfare and more into fairness and problem solving in the civil community.
We are not even fighting the same fight.
Again, if Christians had a more personal and private religion, there would be less problems. But rather they are trying to force their view on others. Freedom of religion does not include the right to force your religion on anyone.
If you think about it, that is oppression.
Sorry folks, it is not spiritual warfare. Democracy is better than theocracy.