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Quote of the Day: Evangelicalism Isn’t Dying, It’s Dead

zach hunt

Long before there was evangelicalism, before there was even such a thing as Christianity, there was good news.

As the earliest Jesus followers wrestled with exactly what it meant that this prophet from Nazareth had been crucified and resurrected, what was clear was that his life meant good news for the poor, the disenfranchised, the marginalized, the oppressed.

People like themselves who lived and died under the merciless rule of the Caesars.

That good news wasn’t just an ethereal hope for life after death. It was good news for life here and now on earth as it is in heaven.

….

For one thing, and this is a very important thing to remember, evangelicalism is not Christianity. That is not to say evangelicals aren’t Christians. Rather, Christianity is not exhausted by the tradition and beliefs of evangelicalism, as much as many evangelicals might want to believe otherwise.

Christianity existed long before there was a stream called evangelicalism, and it will continue long after that stream has dried out.

Even now there are many who are sounding the alarm that the stream has nearly run dry. This, of course, comes as no surprise to anyone on the outside looking in who can see clearly that white American evangelicalism hasn’t simply wedded itself to the empire, it has all but replaced Jesus with Trump and Trumpism in all the ways that ultimately matter.

Which is why evangelicalism isn’t dying. It’s already dead.

Which is why evangelicalism isn’t dying. It’s already dead.

Sure, there are still plenty of evangelical churches meeting on Sundays and that will continue to meet for years to come. Some will even welcome new members, although those members almost certainly will be transfers from other churches or lost sheep returning to the fold.

Why?

Because there is no one outside the church, no one who grew up away from Sunday school and the fear of hell, who has any interest in what the church has to say anymore. And who could blame them?

Evangelicalism as a tradition started out as so many things do, with noble intentions. There was good news to be shared — that death wasn’t the final word and life here could be lived like life in the kingdom of God.

Now contrast that with the “news” folks outside evangelicalism hear coming from American evangelicalism regardless of whether or not Trump’s name is ever invoked:

  • People who love the wrong gender are going to hell.
  • People who love God the wrong way are going to hell.
  • People with the wrong gender are going to hell.
  • People who don’t believe the right list of doctrines are going to hell.
  • Women who dare to speak in church are going to hell.
  • Anyone who questions the Bible is going to hell.
  • Anyone who brings up racism is a troublemaker and should be silenced.
  • Anyone who is so desperate they flee their home for the chance at a better life in another country is a criminal, rapist, murderer or drug dealer.
  • Anyone who follows a different faith is a potential terrorist and is doomed to hell.
  • Anyone who is poor has only themselves to blame and should pull themselves up by their own bootstraps instead of relying on others for help.
  • Medical care is only for those who can afford it.
  • The planet is ours to destroy.

The list goes on and on and on. How, exactly, is any of that good news?

Why, exactly, would you want to join a group of people who believe such things?

Now, if you identify as evangelical you may be shouting: “That’s not me! I don’t believe any of that!” or “Not my church! That’s not our message!” But here’s the thing: It doesn’t matter. You may be an exception, but your defiant cries long ago were drowned out by a multitude of other voices.

Whatever good news there may still be clinging on to life behind the baptistry or in the fellowship hall of a faithful local church has long ago been drowned out by the chorus of bigotry, misogyny, xenophobia, racism and hate that has come to define evangelism in America in the eyes of those outside the church.

….

For those on the outside looking in, there is no good news coming from the church. They have no interest in joining what, to them, appears and often is a cult of arrogant and bigoted people who want to silence women, ignore the climate, pretend like racism doesn’t exist and damn everyone to hell who doesn’t agree with them.

There is nothing good about that news.

Which is why evangelicalism isn’t dying. It’s already dead.

Zack Hunt, Baptist News Global, Evangelicalism isn’t dying; it’s already dead, January 24, 2022

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Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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4 Comments

  1. Avatar
    John Arthur

    The best book to read to create non Evangelicals is the bible. This barbaric book is full of bigotry and hatred. It is a book written by ancient and ignorant savages. Its god, Yaweh, is full of violence, vengeance and hatred towards compassionate persons who do not follow his violent ways.

    This religious text that Evangelicals imagine is the Word of God is promoting misery for those caught up in its Fundamentalist propaganda. The sooner people flee this kind of religion the better for them.

    Droves of young people in American Evangelicalism are leaving these churches. Thank goodness.

    Over here, in Australia, about 8 percent of the population attend church. Most of our churches are Evangelical or Catholic. The ordinary folk who do not attend church are kind, considerate and humane persons and do not mind differences of opinion.

    Fundamentalist idiots, like Spaniard 8, have assinged all decent people to hell. I rejoice in the U.S. trend of decling Evangelicalism. Many thanks for this post, Bruce

  2. Avatar
    MJ Lisbeth

    In my own admittedly semi-informed opinion, the death of Evangelicalism, or any other fundamentalist or orthodox version of any religion, is the death of that religion itself—at least in Western or Westernized religion.

    As Zach Hunt points out, young people who were raised as Evangelicals or Fundamentalists see it for what is. But, just as important (again, at least in my own semi-informed opinion), those same young people, and those raised in more mainstream churches (like the mainline Protestant and Roman Catholic) simply don’t see what such churches—even the more “progressive “ ones—can offer them in terms of existential meaning, or even simple guidance, that a good, coherent system of ethics—one based on compassion and reason—can’t. Moreover, they can find social companionship in all sorts of other ways.

    The end of Christianity, or even Evangelicalism, probably won’t come in my lifetime. (I’m almost the same age as Bruce.) But it will come for the reasons I’ve mentioned and because no religion lasts forever.* Do you know anyone who believes in Ba’al?

    *—If Nietzsche had been an ancient Athenian, would he have declared that Zeus is dead? Was
    Socrates born 2500’years too soon?

  3. Avatar
    ObstacleChick

    I have friends I grew up with in evangelical church (fellow Gen X who are in the 50-year old range) who are struggling with this and leaving evangelical churches. Some of them, their kids already left.

    Is evangelicalism dying? Probably. It’s louder and more obnoxious than ever, grabbing power as it struggles to remain viable.

    Good riddance. 👍

    • Avatar
      Karuna Gal

      Zack Hunt, the author of this essay, went to Yale Divinity School and also attended a Nazarene college. Now, talk about opposite ends of the Christian educational spectrum! I thought the essay was excellent; he made a lot of good points.

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Bruce Gerencser