Rethinking Evangelicalism Pt. 1

I had the absolute privilege of growing up Evangelical. I know saying this will probably have had a great deal of people closing this and writing me off. But, it’s true. I am grateful towards Evangelicals. They gave me a worldview. They gave me a sense of community. They gave me a belief structure. They gave me a moral foundation. How could I not be grateful for this?

Like some of my peers, and many more in the world, I have spent time hating Evangelicals. I have found them at times to be what Gabe Lyons and David Kinnaman wrote about in their book Unchristian, “Most people I meet assume that Christian means very conservative, entrenched in their thinking, antigay, anti-choice, angry, violent, illogical, empire builders; they want to convert everyone, and they generally cannot live peacefully with anyone who doesn’t believe what they believe.” I dislike the hate-filled religiosity, bible-thumping abuse, objectifying evangelism, and political warfare as much as everyone else. I don’t like being depicted like the character Hilary Faye from the movie saved either. But for all of the ill-welled, psychologically diseased evangelicals there are out there, how many more well-intentioned ones are there not being spoken of?

I spent my whole childhood constructing an evangelical worldview and life structure, and I have spent my entire adulthood deconstructing the same worldview and life structure. And, I am grateful because evangelicals allowed me to construct something to deconstruct. We can’t tear down something down, that we didn’t have help building in the first place. Now I ask myself, “how much longer can I keep beating the life out of something?” How much longer can I keep deconstructing something until I become a nihilistic human being?  How much longer can we keep deconstructing before we reconstruct? Evangelicals weren’t always hated, so where did we build false blocks off of the cornerstone ones? I have met so many people who have left their evangelical churches, hate-filled and worn out. I ask those of you who have followed  the same path as me, the people who have hated their traditions, do we want to be life-giving healers, or life-taking critics? Do we want to take the wisdom of Henri Nouwen and be wounded healers, or stay arrogant victims? Do you want to give your tradition over to the negative perception described by Lyons and Kinnaman, or do you want to be part of a Kingdom rebuilding?

We wrestle with the bigger questions of the Bible, the Church, ourselves, and the world. Do we not take this back? This does not mean that we forgive and forget the spiritual abuse of our tradition (all traditions do it), but we forgive and remember. We remember so we can move forward. Mother Teresa taught that we have to stick with our tradition and let it takes us the whole way.

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9 thoughts on “Rethinking Evangelicalism Pt. 1

  1. Thanks for this catalysing stuff. The British evangelical situation is a bit different to the US one I think. There is a much broader space which encompasses left and right, reformed, charismatic and pentecostal. Being a leader in that context makes it easier to deconstruct, reconstruct, reconfigure and challenge without necessarily leaving the broadly evangelical road. Is that impossible or unhelpful in the US context?

    • Mike Friesen says:

      Roger,
      Thanks for your reply. I think that is helpful. I heard N.T Wright once talk about how how people in Europe are able to set aside political ideology from Church theology. In America, conservative Christians are often conservative politically, he said that’s not the case in Europe. In Europe, he says, you don’t struggle with asking questions of faith, science, and politics and how they all integrate.

      Is that your understanding as well?

  2. Larry says:

    I think there isn’t anything wrong with being an Evangelical or a lot of thingsl. It becomes a problem when we promote our Ism, whatever it is.

  3. The journey from true-believer to vehement rejecter is the end of the Christian story for many. So good to go beyond that…

  4. your definition makes it sound like the foundation of what a Christian should be. do you consider yourself a christian?

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