Is This Really the End of the Evangelical Movement?
For decades the evangelical movement has been a powerful force in our politics and culture. And it seems poised to continue to wield influence over American life, as a new spate of rising stars fill the ranks vacated by aging and dead leaders.
But in a recent article published on AlterNet from the Christian Science Monitor, Michael Spencer, a "post-evangelical reformation Christian" argues that evangelicalism -- both as a political movement and an ideology -- is done for.
By blowing all of their political capital on efforts to obstruct the acceptance of gays and reverse reproductive rights, political evangelicals have made themselves irrelevant in our current cultural landscape. By blowing all of their actual capital on youth pastors, publishing and other media, the movement has reared a generation of young evangelicals with no real ties to the evangelical religious tradition and belief system.
So is evangelicalism really over?
AlterNet readers had a lot to say about the article.
pelican beak has his doubts about the collapse of evangelicalism, pointing out that religious movements accustom themselves to their era:
The values of American Xtianity have all the abiding permanence of a day lily. They're always morphing and changing to best fit the changing times.
Gazooks also agrees that evangelicalism is hardly on its way out:
Between the inbreeding of evangelicals with the armed, political right and the steeped, prophetic expectations of apocalypse to strike down the godless Sodomites, these should indeed remain interesting times.
Have no expectation of a substantial residue of believers fading lamblike into deserved obscurity. Christlike pacifism knows no place in the end-time visions of St. John, and the select will prepare the way for the rule o'God.
Annarisse is also unconvinced by the author’s dire predictions about the future of evangelicalism:
Why does he believe this will happen, and why the short timeline? Twenty years is one generation only, and while it will see the end of the current leadership of the movement (most of whom are over 60 and therefore likely to die or at least retire in that time span), I'd like to know why he thinks the bottom will fall out of the middle of the movement.
I think there's an exodus coming, specifically of young professional families, probably in favor of more liberal Protestant and UU-type churches, at least as much as toward the Catholic and Orthodox communions. That may be just wishful thinking, though, because that's my demographic and it's what I've done. So where's the evidence?
lcuzan does not think that more liberal denominations are the answer, writing that it is indeed time to throw out all religion:
I for one say good bloody riddance. I wait in giddy anticipation for the day this and all other forms of bronze-age religious dogma that infantilize the human mind gets a stake driven into it.
It's about time a secular humanity rise above this superstitious rubbish and start dealing with the litany of problems this world faces.
Believe it or not, there is a light at the end of this long, dark tunnel of nonsense. One day, in the not-so-distant future (if we last that long), societies will look back at religion, whatever its perverted stripe, shake its collective head, smile and file it alongside witch burning, ghosts, alien abductions, crystal healing, alchemy, seances, possessions ... pick your absurdity!
edgar_michel also argues that most churches go against what religion should be about:
True religion isn't born of the belief in an all powerful god, which plays to despotism, but rather a love of the earth and all its incredible and diverse life. True morality comes from respect of all life and especially the planet we live on. We don't need an artificial religion to instill moral values in us; we just need to revere the planet that brought us forth and all the life that supports us. That is true religion, and ethical and moral behavior will issue from that alone.
johnbradleycopeland is looking forward to the demise of evangelicalism:
Thank god it is going AWAY! religions of all kinds are a curse on every society and have caused most of the wars and disputes of the world. i look forward to the demise!
Dr. P. Mooney also says good riddance to a movement that has distorted the positive aspects of Christianity to fuel its political ambitions:
Christians got off the path of strictly preaching the good parts about their religion over the years to become hateful pulpit pounders attacking gay minorities because it bring in money and stirs up their conservative base that bring the baggage of bigotry with them wherever they go. Along the line, these religions found it was profitable to become political and try and influence government by voting religious issues in the ballot box. This has to stop because they have become bad for America. This is not a theocratic nation, and as much as they try and make it one, they will lose. Religion deserves to be pushed back to where they really belong, in their own churches and not in the political arena.
Well said. We don't look to the ancients for guidance regarding physics, astronomy, economics, etc. Why should we follow (or fight about) their moral instructions? We've simply outgrown those desert-dwelling, myopic religions (including Jewish, Xtians and Muslims), and if we have the courage to admit that, we can create a better world for all of us.
But cplot disagrees with Theshadowknows' contention that ancient belieft systems have nothing to teach us. At the very least, cplot argues, they should be used to start a conversation (though never as the final word):
The point is that: 1) we shouldn't dismiss things because they're old. There's a lot in those old knowledges that gets lost, sometimes has to be reinvented, or we simply grope around having lost those past knowledges we once had; and 2) the Bible can only start a conversation, it can't be the whole truth. If all of truth can fit in one little book, where does that leave us? Basically, then we're redundant, superfluous and a residue. It suggests we and truth have nothing in common. OK, that's fine. Then we're back to looking for meaning somewhere else other than the Bible. It would be better if those who find truths in the Bible and those who don't could have a conversation (at least in my own moral views).