Peter Wehner’s article in The Atlantic, Evangelicalism is Falling Apart provides no new insights to the ongoing cultural struggle for the heart of the Evangelical Church, but it has eloquently packaged together a handful of critical issues facing Evangelicalism in America.
We might well look back on this season and see Evangelicalism in the throes of what has already been labeled by some as a post-Evangelical season. Dave Tomlinson wrote about the struggle of The Post Evangelicals in 1995 as he defined and talked to those who were leaving the fold to remain faithful to God.
Is the current refocus upon this the result of the Trump season and the rise of political interests over the foundational Evangelical concern for the salvation of souls? Perhaps, but Molly Worthen’s book Apostles of Reason outlines other earlier political tensions American Evangelicalism was torn by. The dynamics of the pro-life movement, and the Religious Right did their best to simultaneously martial Evangelical forces, and divide the church, but today, things seem even angrier than the 80s to many of us who were there. Issues of Women’s rights and equality are outlined in Wehner’s piece and those topics continue to be foundational to the Evangelical struggles. Of course, it may be that the church will be most deeply affected by a post-COVID season.
But perhaps, as some have suggested, these many and competing experiences are simply highlighting and bringing to light the problems already inherent to the system. Wehner’s article highlights the fact that the contributing external forces to Evangelicalism’s crumbling state is already found in ourselves. Perhaps we are responsible for the momentum toward a post-Evangelical America, and Evangelicalism is the largest contributing factor to its own demise.
There are many of us who have felt that we did not leave Evangelicalism as much as Evangelicalism left us. I am one of those. Even while I championed its most valuable resources in the small churches across America, and the ability to navigate cross cultural relationships for the purpose of introducing the Nazarene to a new generation of spiritual but not religious people, I was treated as a heretic for calling us back to our roots of radical relational evangelism. I was not alone in being rejected, and discovering that there were powerful forces in the leadership of the church afraid to live like our Evangelical and Early Christian forefathers.
If you are one of those who is ready to give up, because the people in the pews and the leaders in the lodges of power seem to have moved away from the simplicity of Christ, welcome back home. There are a number of us out here in the desert, and we will gladly welcome you in.