Exvangelicals: the growing movement that rejects the rigid political ideology of the conservative faith
A sharp drop in the number of Americans identifying as evangelical white was revealed in the Public Religion Research Institute’s 2020 U.S. Religion Census. In 2006, nearly a quarter of the American population identified as evangelical white, but only 14.5% of the population does so today.
Evangelical is an umbrella category within Protestant Christianity. The category of evangelicals is complicated; unlike Catholics, who have centralized authority, evangelicals do not maintain a single spokesperson or institution. Instead, evangelicalism in the United States today is made up of several institutions, churches, and a network of largely conservative spokespersons.
Therefore, there are a variety of churches, theologies, and practices within evangelism. They include certain groups such as Baptists, Methodists, and non-denominational churches, among others, many of whom are members of the National Association of Evangelicals. So what constitutes an evangelical, or what is evangelism in America today?
Conversion and conversion
A starting point is historian David Bebbington’s four-part definition of evangelism. In his 1989 book, Bebbington argued that evangelicals share a recognition of the Bible as the ultimate authority, focus on the work of Jesus’ crucifixion in human salvation, share a born again experience, and are socially active in the reform of society.
Most Christians recognize the authority of the biblical text and the centrality of the crucifixion of Jesus. The born-again conversion experience and a special kind of social commitment separate evangelicals from other types of Christians in the United States. For evangelicals, the experience of being born again is the only way for an individual to gain access to paradise in the Hereafter. All other religious alternatives are rejected.
Born-again represents a new life that evangelical converts gain when they recognize the redemptive power of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Usually, the experience of being born again is staged when individuals recite the “sinner’s prayer”. This simple religious ritual recognizes the imperfection of the individual in this life, a request to be guided by God for the rest of the individual’s life, and a promise of a happy life after death.
For most evangelicals, the time of the new birth means a new beginning or a cleansing of the soul – old mistakes are forgotten by the divine. Then baptism, a ritual purification of water, follows. One expectation for all new evangelical converts is that they eventually participate in evangelism – sharing their Christian experience with others in the hope of leading others to a birth again experience.
There are some theologically specific differences within evangelism. Internal debates focus on topics such as speaking in tongues or the role of women in leadership. Speaking in tongues is viewed by charismatic or Pentecostal evangelicals as the ability to speak in different or angelic tongues to convey a message from the divine.
Like a diversity of ideas related to speaking in tongues, some denominations deny that women can be pastors or ministers while others ordain women in ministry. There are popular evangelical writers, such as Joyce Meyer, and televangelists, such as Paula White, spiritual advisor to former President Donald Trump.
As a scholar of religion in America, I have seen how evangelicalism in the United States is generally recognized for its political allegiances with the Republican Party. Since the Ronald Reagan era, evangelicals have overwhelmingly supported Republican presidential candidates. It’s ironic, because President Jimmy Carter, who identified himself as a born again Christian, lost evangelical support for Reagan, who identified himself as a Christian. But as religious scholar Randall Balmer noted, Reagan “seemed a little uncomfortable with the label” evangelical. “
Evangelism in the United States is made up of institutions and networks of conservative Christians working to disseminate its ideologies in the political sphere. Organizations like Evangelical author James Dobson’s Focus on the Family, as well as pressure groups like political consultant Ralph Reed’s Faith & Freedom Coalition, continue to exert influence in an attempt to shape the U.S. government into a vision of the United States. evangelical world.
Politically, evangelicals are extremely active in promoting anti-abortion, anti-same-sex marriage and “family values” positions in an effort to restore the country to its perceived Christian roots. But not all evangelicals agree on the policy. Within evangelism there are racial differences. Numerous sociological projects highlight political distinctions in voting patterns and on social issues between white and black evangelicals.
Exiles, marginalized and ‘facts’
Some people brought up in evangelism today reject the rigid limits and constraints of faith. There are a growing number of “evangelicals” – those who were initiates who no longer fit the parameters. Many within the evangelical movement have voluntarily left. However, others describe their departure as exile or as having been forced to leave because of their opinions and way of life.
Using forms of social media, many evangelicals share their stories and expose the theology and practices of the church that negatively affect their lives.
Changes in theology often lead to political changes as well. For example, evangelical podcaster and blogger Blake Chastain wrote: “As more and more people question the teachings of their evangelical white churches, they will inevitably consider the consequences of its social and political actions. Many young evangelicals reject, for example, evangelical resistance to the expansion of immigration and same-sex marriage.
Some brought up in evangelicalism remain on the fringes of evangelism. Liberal forms of evangelism exist – albeit in the minority – including some featuring progressive evangelical churches that accept members of the LGBTQ community, question the reality of hell, and read the Bible less literally. Some within these circles question whether the evangelical label is redeemable, while others reject the nickname entirely.
The future of evangelicalism in the United States is indeterminate, but some within the tradition call for serious reflection on the political positions of evangelism. For example, some evangelicals criticize the Christian nationalism of white evangelicals, which is defined as “a set of beliefs and ideals aimed at the national preservation of a supposedly unique Christian identity.” Others question political allegiances and race relations.