I am an evangelical.
There, I said it.
Though, when I call myself evangelical, I do not mean it in the sense that I am this anti-science, homophobic, “God-fearing,” authoritarianistic conservative. I think we all know that this is not Christianity, nor is it representative of the Jesus who is the central figure of Christianity. When something is said to be “good news for all,” but the only people who preach it and believe in it are the only one’s who benefit from it, it’s safe to assume, it’s bullshit.
In the past they called this “Eurocentric colonization,” but recently we’ve just labeled it “Americanized Evangelicalism”. I’m sure this will be changed sooner or later, and just renamed, and repackaged differently when others start catching on.
I’m not going to lie, I am disgusted by the Church’s history. Acknowledging this past and history of my own personal heritage, it absolutely breaks my heart. At the risk of sounding judgmental, I must say Christopher Columbus, et al… do not represent the core of Christianity, that being Jesus Christ.
Then the question comes down to, “Why or How then can you still remain ‘Christian,’ let alone evangelical?”
Here’s the thing, I’ve spent the last 10 years of my life, off and on, considering this problem of religion, evangelicalism, and Christianity at large.
I’ve come to the conclusion the problem is not evangelicalism, the problem is authoritarianism.
We must differentiate as Christians between authoritarianism and evangelicalism.
The most dangerous part of Christianity is when we claim to “know” what other people need. It goes from a “learned set of beliefs” to buying into the idea that my set of beliefs should just be “common sense”. We’re convinced that what we know is the absolute truth, that if you don’t believe this or that you’re going to be eternally damned, but if you do believe this or that you’re going to receive eternal salvation. [side note: if you step back and think about that “logic” for a second, it doesn’t seem so logical anymore. Christianity, a religion that offers salvation based off of, not our actions, but Christ’s actions is now saying in order to receive the benefits from Christ’s action you must first think, or rather, “believe” this or that… convoluted, eh? But back on track…]
Authoritarianism, it turns a loving God into a spiteful monster.
It’s the difference of informing people of your personal set of beliefs and forcing your set of beliefs on people.
It seems that most of us, even myself at times, have taken on a means of presenting a manipulative ideology that is demanding all people to adhere to this “evangelical epistemological doctrine” or set of beliefs. To be fair – we as evangelicals are not the only one’s at fault for this, it just so happens that Christian America has had most of the “power” [or rather authority] in the last century.
I have no problem with Christianity, but I do have a problem with murdering mass amounts of people just because they don’t embrace Christianity (i.e. Constantine, the Crusades, Christopher Columbus, Martin Luther, et al). To not be disgusted by the things in which “Christians” have taken part of would be to willfully ignore grand scale historic injustice. Ignoring recorded, credibly documented history is almost as insane as creating some “alternate reality” in which natural law, empirical scientific evidence, and reasonable logic don’t exist… #creationism [but I’ve already written that post – so I’ll try and stay on topic]
This turning of a blind eye has become normative for our evangelical culture.
Let’s be honest – because in the past I’m not sure we’ve been honest – Jesus had power. Jesus had authority. But Jesus was not authoritarian. The people who disobeyed, disagreed, and refused to adhere to a law in which God Himself had set in place, Christ loved them regardless of their disobedience or life in which showed they were in direction rejection of his fathers teaching.
He did not take over the government and use his power to sway policy, law, or push his moral prerogative. He had the power, and the authority to do so but instead, He came, He loved, and He gave is life. His authority, the very reason His name today is still power is because He chose to love instead of force. Is this not a model of Church and “evangelicalism” that we must embody 2,000 years later? Is this not a witness to the cliché that in the end love wins.
Power and authority in the here and now is temporary, but love and kindness, this is for the here, now, and later… it’s eternal.
photo credit: Dustin Polston – flickr, cc
ANDY GILL is currently studying theology at Princeton Theological Seminary. He has no clue what he wants to do after that, but for now he pretty much lives in the library & Starbucks. His goal is to challenge the status quo of Christianity, and to encourage the church towards living an authentic, biblical faith, loving our neighbors, acknowledging the poor, and going out and making disciples, all while considering that not all of Christianity is meant to be lived so safely, comfortably, and securely.