Perhaps you’ve seen this bumper sticker before, or a variant thereof. I saw one in Lexington recently that said ‘Born Once: Doing O.K.’ What we are talking about here is just another manifestation of the rising tide of ire, frustration with, and outright rejection of Evangelical Christianity in America. And while a rising tide may not float all boats, it is certainly true that you have a variety of people riding the wave of growing opposition to Evangelicalism in our increasingly post-Christian culture, and making good money doing it. What is especially interesting is that it is a variety of people taking their rejection of Evangelicalism to the bank through publishing and/or TV including: 1) former Evangelicals like Bart Ehrman and Jennifer Knust, 2) atheists like Dawkins and Hitchens, 3) TV pundits like John Stewart, 4) shock jocks like Howard Stern and many others.
It’s now open season on Evangelicals at least in some quarters, and they are being accused of: 1) racism, 2) sexism, 3) bigotry, 4) homophobia, 5) general intolerance of other religions and ethnicities, 6) being somewhere right of Attila the Hun politically, 7) being too good to be true, 8) being hypocrites (n.b. it can’t be both 7 and 8), 9) having an overly literal way of reading the Bible, and 10) being xenophobic whilst amalgamating Americanism with Evangelicalism.
It must be admitted that some of this criticism has a basis in reality. For example, the majority of Evangelicals do tend to be politically conservative (i.e. Republicans or Libertarians), though by no means all of them. Or again, many American Evangelicals have a hard time distinguishing between, or indeed enjoy amalgamating their patriotic fervor for America with their Christian values. Or again many Evangelicals don’t see the inherent contradiction between proclaiming oneself ‘pro life’ but then being in favor of capital punishment and war in various forms.
Of course the stereotype or critique of such Evangelicals is that they are pro-birth, rather than being truly pro-life. Or again many Evangelicals are accused of being escapist and blindly Zionistic– being pro rapture and pro Israel, regardless of the policies of the Israeli government when it comes to Christians, especially Palestinian Christians in Israel/Palestine.
In this election season of course, all these religious and political juices get flowing again, and as one African American Christian friend of mine said— ‘It looks like white Evangelicals will have to choose between their latent racism and their dislike of Christological heresies like Mormonism.’ Sadly, there is some truth in this analysis. Interestingly, we seem to have less problems with the heresy.
Make no mistake, we may have thought it was a new day four years ago when a bi-racial man (with a white mother, and a non-white father) was elected President, but it will be a truly new day if we elect a man who is a product of a uniquely American offshoot religion from Christianity, namely Mormonism. Up to now, we have had only Protestant or Catholic Presidents (or in the case of a couple of the Founding Fathers, probably Deists).
Anyone who has actually taken time to read the Book of Mormon side by side with the Bible knows that the Mormons, in terms of their official credo, are certainly not Evangelical Christians, however they may present themselves. Indeed, there are sadly many things in the Book of Mormon simply incompatible with Christianity of whatever flavor (Protestant, Catholic, or Orthodox), but that is a post for another day.
Americans may wear their credo on their bumper stickers, but right now, we appear to be unsure what our American credo is or should be vis a vis any sort of orthodox Christianity, including Evangelicalism. And truth be told— we are deeply religiously confused. It is a bad day when we can more clearly see and say what we oppose, what we stand against, than being able to articulate in what and in whom we truly place our faith. Looks like we do need to be born twice…. or at least reborn once.