Evangelicalism is an ideological delivery system for bigotry. An intransigent belief in the inerrancy of the Bible (divinely inspired and authoritative) breeds doctrinaire thinking on multiple issues such as homosexual and women’s rights, immigrants and other religions, environmental and global stability, liberalism and secularism and rationalism and science.
NOTE: This article is a rational not personal attack on evangelicalism. It is imperative one see the clear distinction and separate the two. Failure to do so results in misguided criticism that unfairly conflates the source (Bible) and the medium (certain evangelicals).
Imagine your brother is in a cult and you are trying to liberate him psychologically and perhaps physically. When you engage him, you are attempting to weaken the ideological grip the cult has on him resulting in specific behavioral changes. You are not trying to hurt him but persuade him he is blindly following a belief system with potentially dangerous consequences. He will see it as a personal attack on his own ability to judge for himself, but he is blinded by emotional attachment.
Evangelicalism’s popularity in America and growing influence in countries like China, Brazil and throughout Africa gives it undeserved status and respectability. Its growth is not evidence of its validity but of its attractiveness. Its rigid dogma, easy accessibility and unconditional promise of eternal life make it irresistible to many.
In America, the sacralism of evangelicalism and politics has created an evangelical Nationalism that attaches God’s blessings to its dominance. American Exceptionalism is linked to its Christian foundations and persistent extolling of traditional values over and against liberalism and secularism which are perceived as immoral and anti-God. This extends also to its unconditional support of Israel at the expense of Arab freedom which is seen as necessary to curry divine favor and guarantee future prosperity.
Evangelicalism is infectious. It begins by transmitting its teachings to its children through indoctrination and social immersion within the evangelical culture. It further spreads to the unwary, vulnerable, desperate and ignorant often through media sources or para-church groups. It offers easy believeism and instant salvation “no strings attached.” Once in, you’re in forever.
As one who was once steeped in the evangelical culture both academically and experientially, I can say definitively, rarely do evangelicals enter the faith through their heads but rather their hearts. It is fear based and faith driven. Most adherents enter with little or no understanding of the rational inconsistencies that prop it up. And most don’t care, are theologically ignorant or are not old enough to know to care.
Christianity from the beginning and Jesus himself trafficked in fear and false promises. It is no different today among evangelicals. Fear of death or divine punishment gets many into the faith. For others it’s the promise of deliverance from drugs, alcohol, depression, loneliness, financial distress or despair. Jesus offered healing and forgiveness of sins to escape a kingdom and judgment that never came. Evangelicals continue in his footsteps.
Belief comes with a price and that price is sometimes the rights and freedoms of others. Evangelicals are constantly looking for targets to validate their commitment to biblical teachings. Typically, the focus is on restricting or removing others rights while conveniently ignoring their own moral shortcomings. They cry for their own religious freedom while at the same time seeking to impede the personal liberties of others.
Individuals are entitled to their opinions insofar they are reason and not faith based. It is the difference between the rational and irrational. Stating unequivocally Jesus said something and therefore it is absolutely authoritative and morally binding because he is the eternal son of God is the height of presumption. If, however, we want to take his teaching or that of any biblical book as providing general moral or ethical guidelines restricted to the cultural biases of that day, so be it.
Those who used the Bible to “rubber stamp” their prejudices with divine authority must be challenged at every opportunity. Their source, the Bible, must be rigorously challenged and exposed for rational evaluation and analysis. The moment evangelicals brought their faith into the political arena, it became fair game for critical scrutiny no matter how unwelcome.
The days when the “Holy Bible” was assumed to be divinely inspired ended when Enlightenment thinking shone its bright light eventually vanquishing the primitivism of the Dark Ages. It was the emancipation of reason and the death of revelation, or at least it should have been.
Absolute authoritarianism, both secular (The divine right of kings) or sacred (The Pope and Catholic dogma) would be the greatest casualties with the dawning of rationality and modern science. Man (kind) began to take center stage on earth and in the heavens as God was reduced to the role of Cosmic Clockmaker. Rome’s once unquestioned authority in the spiritual fate of men and women was vigorously challenged for the first time.
Sadly and tragically, most evangelicals remain mired in pre-Enlightenment thinking which is celebrated as espousing a faith untainted by man’s reason. Belief in Christianity’s ancient superstition (the literal physical resurrection of Jesus from the dead) supersedes all scientific data contrariwise. This belief carries far greater weight in the present than merely a future hope. Herein lies the problem.
For an evangelical to secure his future place in heaven, he or she must maintain belief in the resurrection which is affirmed in the Bible. Therefore, they are obligated to give undo credence to its authority or jeopardize their hope. Evangelicals and Christians in general differ to the degree they extend this unwarranted authority. Inerrantists and literalists may place the entire corpus of biblical writings under the umbrella of divine inspiration while modernists only selected teachings. Regardless, anytime fantastical based thinking supersedes rational based thinking in influencing or determining right or wrong, good or bad, or fact or fiction is must be staunchly rejected.
It is unfortunate religion has long outlived the time when its benefits outweighed its atrocities as both history and current headlines suggest. The longer we continue to indulge the fears of those who cling to an irrational belief in Jesus’ resurrection and heaven, the slower is our collective progress as a society where individual rights and freedoms are championed above ancient myths.
It is time to retire religiosity and let rationality rule in the affairs of mankind. Our future may depend on it.
A final important word about evangelical Apocalypticism
In a nutshell American evangelicals see the world through the pessimistic lens of pre-millennial dispensationalism:
“The world is winding down. The end is near. Things will get bad not better, except for evangelicals. Expect wars, famines, disease, natural disasters, trials, tribulations, political strife and suffering.” These are evangelicals expectations for the future and the coming Great Tribulation (see Matthew 24) which will culminate in a cataclysmic conflagration called Armageddon.
Apocalypticism undergirds much of evangelical thinking about the environment and world affairs, particularly the Middle East. It along with the Rapture theory is a lethal combination which effectively exempts believers from global responsibility relegating them to the role of heavenly spectators of the Last Days.
Why care about a world you will soon vacate for a better one? Why resist God’s plan in bringing about Armageddon? It is better to align yourself with God’s purposes than oppose them by advocating for political peace, social reform or global stewardship.
Passivity is seen as complicity in being at counter purposes with God program for the world, as evangelicals see it. For this reason, evangelicals are marshaling support and preparing for political activism to ensure they are on the winning side.
The unholy union of President Trump with his evangelical base is a case of mutual manipulation and exploitation. Both know who the other is and consider compromise worth the benefits. For Trump it’s his political survival. For evangelicals the stakes are much higher. They think their ascendancy during the Trump presidency is divinely orchestrated to position them center stage politically where they will witness the arrival of, “The great and terrible day of the Lord.”
Evangelicals have “gone all in” mortgaging whatever moral clout they once had in the belief it will pay off when Jesus returns. Time will tell whether the cost to humanity will be much higher.
*Note to Reader: Evangelicalism has become anything but monolithic. The term itself when used assumes a “not all fall into the same category under discussion” perspective. Evangelical beliefs are constantly changing and shifting as expediency dictates. However, a substantial number do hold similar beliefs which is why this general term is used. It is the responsibility of the evangelical reader to determine his or her own applicability. The non evangelical “Christian” reader, as well, must decide whether their belief in the Bible qualifies as complicity in using the Bible to advance a moral or political agenda. To the atheist, agnostic or non Christian reader, this article is meant to provide insight into the evangelical mind as it pertains to the topics discussed.