American Evangelicals

by Neil Rickert

I grew up in Australia, and I was a member of an evangelical church there. I later moved to USA as a graduate student in mathematics, and I left Christianity after a few months there (at around age 23). I originally saw “evangelical” as a theological term, referring to particular theologies — particularly those that arose from Luther’s reformation. At the time of my youth in Australia, that made sense.

In America, I made similar assumptions about the meaning of “evangelical”. But experience has shown me that this was a mistaken view. It turns out that it makes more sense to think of “evangelical”, at least in the USA, a referring to a political and cultural identity. For example, I often hear the news media distinguishing between “evangelicals” and “mainline protestants”. Yet many of the “mainline protestant” churches would fit my original Australian understanding of “evangelical”.

Are evangelicals Christian?

What I see coming from American evangelicals does not fit the understanding of Christianity that I had in my youth. Yes, they call themselves “Christian”. But what, exactly does that mean? To me, it meant following the teachings of Jesus, such as “love thy neighbor”. And that’s where American evangelicals seem to fall short.

Here’s a post written by Rodney Kennedy, who is apparently a progressive Christian in America:

Kennedy appears to have similar concerns on whether evangelicals are Christian. His post is well worth reading (h/t Bruce Gerencser).

Jesus and John Wayne

Not long after reading that post by Rodney Kennedy, I happened to see a post at the peaceful science forum. That post introduced me to a book by Kristin Du Mez, with the title “Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation”. Du Mez is an historian, and is herself a Christian. She is at Calvin University, a Christian college in Michigan.

A PBS interview with Kristin Du Mez
A discussion with Du Mez and two historians of religion

Those youtube videos were already very interesting, and help to give me a better perspective on American evangelicalism.

After watching the video, I purchased the book (Kindle edition), and started reading it. The book was an eye opener. I had never realized the extent to which there evangelical fingers in the pie of American policy.

I’ll suggest that you watch the videos, and then consider reading the book.

6 Comments to “American Evangelicals”

  1. This text needs a wider audience

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I was an evangelical Christian for about 6 weeks before I called it quits. That being said, evangelical Christians are saving the United States. I find them to be dumb as door nails when it comes to their faith. I asked a couple of them what is the greatest commandment according to Jesus. They couldn’t answer this very basic question.

    However, if you ever need help or get in a pinch, the evangelical Christian is the one to call. The reason they have become a political and cultural force is because they have suffered most during the last 30 years from government policies that sent their jobs overseas. Evangelicals fill the work forces of Walmart and Home Depot. They are the plumbers, carpenters, electricians and truckers. They have kids and work hard to raise them.

    In short, Christian Evangelicals are family oriented and make the world work. Elite, disconnected from reality leftists like the ones featured in this post have no idea what is really happening our here in the American hinterland. Consequently, they hallucinate their preferred version of reality and come up with ridiculous ideas like “Jesus and John Wayne.”

    However, President Trump does understand evangelical Christians. He sees the soul of America in them. And President Trump is their voice. I believe the next few years will bring cultural and political upheaval as Christian America joins in their existential battle against the Godless Progressive left.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Thankfully evangelicalism in it’s American form hasn’t taken hold in Aotearoa, although it does have a tiny toe hold. In fact even the traditional form of evangelicalism is not mainstream here. Even my son who is strongly a fundamentalist evangelical Christian cannot understand the mindset of American Evangelicals.. There’s nothing in the two videos above that is news to me. I think it’s obvious to anyone who is an observer of the US from a distance.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I would describe myself as an Evangelical from about 1973 thru 1984 (roughly mid-teens to mid-20s). But I am Canadian, and I was often put off by some of what I saw coming from south of the border — God is for American exceptionalism? (Kind of a non-starter if you’re not American). And capitalism? And more nukes? Really? What I saw in Jesus — like love your neighbour — seemed to me to point in a different direction.
    Now it seems to me that that side of American Evangelicalism has taken over completely. It’s become more of a tribal political identity than a theological stance — I wonder how many of the people waving crosses at Trump rallies could explain just what they believe about Jesus, or what he said in the Gospels.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Re: that last question … no doubt they would parrot the usual phrases that predominate in the evangelical churches … with absolutely NO clue as to what they’re actually saying.

      Liked by 1 person

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