This title caught my attention. And while the content of the article is a long time in coming, it is not my purpose to critique it. Instead I offer my insights into what I can attest to first hand and offer this important dichotomy.
Religion can offer its adherents tremendous benefits in the here and now not just the ever after. At the same time, these rewards come with a price. While many believers remain blissful unaware of how psychologically crippling their faith has made them. They live their lives with the assurance of heaven while inflicting their rigid and at times regressive morality on others. Those born into the faith who are more intellectually curious offer a different perspective. Extricating yourself later in life from an ideology that builds emotional walls within its followers can cause immense pain and suffering.
Today in America we are seeing the delirious effects of evangelical ideology as it impinges on the rights and freedoms of those unsympathetic to its dogmas. The LGBTQ community, women’s advocacy groups, minorities, other religious groups, immigrants and children are among its primary targets. Also at risk is environmental viability and political stability. Being an evangelical is not a victimless crime, anymore if it ever was.
“Putting the fox in charge of the henhouse”
After leaving seminary I was convinced evangelicalism was a cult-like faith (I still do just not as pervasive as I once thought). Once home I began to contact the local colleges and universities to inform them of the dangers of on campus organizations which might be putting their students at risk. Shockingly, in most cases, I was connected with evangelical groups who were in charge of identifying and preventing cult groups from gaining a foothold on campus, as well as educating students on what to look for and avoid.
Why don’t members of cults see themselves as part of a cult? I am not saying evangelicalism is a cult. I am also not saying it doesn’t have cult-like tendencies. The reason people join cults is because their needs are being met regardless of what others might think. I know first hand the tremendous benefits I received from being an evangelical. I scoffed at those who told me I was in a cult. But I was!
The most, yes, most, important thing to understand about evangelicalism (and most religions past and present) is its faithful sincerely believe it offers a remedy for mankind’s greatest fear — death! Hope springs eternal, literally. Many evangelicals would say their faith brings comfort, strength, peace, guidance, meaning and a host of other things before death, but it is this promise of a future life of eternal bliss which resonates most with evangelicals.
The fact evangelicals believe their eternal security is guaranteed the moment they are “saved” has produced a weak and hypocritical style of faith because fear of judgment has been eliminated. If salvation was merit based, none of society’s ills would exist. Evangelicalism would be such a powerful force against poverty, homelessness, injustice, inequality and anything else imaginable, America would be heaven on earth. Everybody would want to be a part of this faith. Its ability to transform society would demand respect from all.
Evangelicalism is like most religions. There are fanatics, moderates and nominal believers with the overwhelming number comprising the latter two categories. This is most certainly true of evangelicals. However, evangelicalism has slowly been blurring the line between being an evangelical and being an American creating a religio-political brand of evangelicalism which is dangerous.
A poll taken showed many “evangelicals” who do not adhere to the central tenets of the faith label themselves as evangelical. And many who do subscribe to evangelical beliefs no longer call themselves evangelical. These apple pie Christians have militant tendencies when it comes to enforcing American values at home and abroad. For them,
When one hears the term “spiritual abuse” it conjures up images of priests in dimly lit backrooms with prepubescent altar boys. Yes, this is definitely spiritual abuse. So is any Christian leader who uses their position and authority to seduce or control those who place their trust in them. I applaud this despicable practice being exposed. I think there is a more subtle and pervasive form of spiritual abuse which is rarely talked about.
Herein lies the difficulty in “proving” a more subtle form of spiritual abuse which need never involve physical contact. For instance, children born into evangelical homes who are socialized and indoctrinated into a culture that breeds mistrust in science and reason. They are coerced into inheriting an ideology that is often sexist, misogynistic, racist, xenophobic, devalues intellectualism and science, downplays environmental concerns and foments political conflict. So powerful is its control and influence over children and teenagers, attempts to “escape” its hold during adulthood can cause severe psychological and emotional anxiety and guilt.
Decades of study and close monitoring of American evangelicalism especially has led me to the hypothesis the complacency and hypocrisy that permeates much of evangelicalism today is the result of one’s inability to fully extricate themselves from the faith. Instead they remain “loosely” attached to mollify feelings of shame and guilt while still living relatively normal lives in a secular world.
American evangelicalism is grossly superficial. Most adherents showing no difference from non believers despite a Bible that screams to be different and better than carnal sinners who are unregenerate. This style of noxious evangelicalism which pervades the religious landscape tacitly encourages its followers to try to change others if you can’t change yourselves. Moral responsibility is conveniently shifted onto others giving one a sense of doing God’s work while shirking their own sanctification.
Jesus described this as trying to remove a speck from your brother’s eye while having a plank in your own eye (Matthew 7:4,5). Indeed, this is at the core of hypocrisy. People are more inclined to judge others than themselves. Jesus condemned it then, and we should condemn it now.