Goodbye, Evangelicalism

Rachel Held Evans sees the passage of Amendment 1 in North Carolina yesterday as another nail in the coffin of the evangelical church and its relevance to millennials.

When I speak at Christian colleges, I often take time to chat with students in the cafeteria.  When I ask them what issues are most important to them, they consistently report that they are frustrated by how the Church has treated their gay and lesbian friends.  Some of these students would say they most identify with what groups like the Gay Christian Network term “Side A” (they believe homosexual relationships have the same value as heterosexual relations in the sight of God). Others better identify with “Side B” (they believe only male/female relationship in marriage is God’s intent for sexuality). But every single student I have spoken with believes that the Church has mishandled its response to homosexuality.

Most have close gay and lesbian friends.

Most feel that the Church’s response to homosexuality is partly responsible for high rates of depression and suicide among their gay and lesbian friends, particularly those who are gay and Christian.

Most are highly suspicious of “ex-gay” ministries that encourage men and women with same-sex attractions to marry members of the opposite sex in spite of their feelings.

Most feel that the church is complicit, at least at some level, in anti-gay bullying.

And most…I daresay all…have expressed to me passionate opposition to legislative action against gays and lesbians.

READ THE REST: Rachel Held Evans | How to win a culture war and lose a generation.

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  • Curtis

    Any impersonal look at the numbers clearly indicate that churches who teach anti-gay rhetoric are destined to be backwaters of worship in the next 10 to 20 years. They probably have another good 5 to 10 years where the can thrive and teach their hate at the same time, but the numbers will eventually catch up to them. I guess they’re planning on making a good run on the last five to ten years they have left, then change their message. Or become worship centers for gray-haired seniors or something. I’m not sure what they are planning, but the numbers seem pretty clear.

    • Frank

      I disagree. The young will mature and their idealism, like every other previous generation, will evolve to include the reality of sinful behaviors and their consequences. We are simply in a self-serving phase where people want to try and find a way to live how they choose, not in the way God desires for them. This too shall pass.

    • Curtis, have you considered that perhaps your vitriolic speech is hate?

      • Curtis

        Pointing out that Evangelicals are on the wrong side of the numbers trend on this issue is hardly vitriolic. Evangelicals have been making similar number arguments against mainline churches for decades. And saying that Evangelicals hate homosexual behavior, and teach this hate, is not vitriolic. That is their belief. Speculating how Evangelicals will respond to the numbers trend is not vitriolic either. I’m genuinely curious. The Mormons have been on an interesting message management campaign over the last few years, with growing acceptance of “gay Mormons” in the church, as long as they remain celibate. The Mormons have probably the best-funded PR unit of any religion in history, so it is not surprising to see them respond to this clear trend in an active way. I imagine some Evangelical churches may try to move toward this quasi-acceptance of gays so they can call themselves “gay friendly” as well.

        Given the numbers, it is clear Evangelical churches will have to respond in some way. Either dig themselves into a hole of denial, or try to manage their public image somehow. Either that or change their beliefs about homosexuality.

        • Curtis, I don’t think that you are dealing with the issue. You had pejoratively claimed that evangelical churches “teach their hate” against gays. I have been around the evangelical scene for 35 years now and never once have I heard anything resembling hate towards gays coming from the pulpit or even a Bible study. This is why I insinuated that it was you who engaged in hate speech.

          Of course, we believe that any sexual intercourse outside of heterosexual marriage is wrong, and it appears that alarming stats regarding suicide, depression, and substance abuse are inseparable from the gay lifestyle, no matter at which country we look.

          In light of all this, perhaps it’s the loving thing to not encourage this evidently self-destructive lifestyle.

          • Evelyn

            Let me put it simply about why not accepting gays into your church is about “hate”: The only stance on sexuality that Jesus advocates in the Gospels is celibacy. The church has historically accepted Augustine’s position on heterosexuality leading to childbirth as “original sin”. Hence, theologically, ANY type of sexual act is sinful be it homosexual, heterosexual, or heterosexual for the purposes of producing a child. The church should NOT be advocating ANY type of sexuality.

            Traditionally, the church has recognized the fact that human beings are sexual. They have offered two means for people to contain that sexuality: celibacy and marriage (btw, marriage can be considered a type of celibacy given that two people make a vow to have sexual relations with no others besides themselves). The church does not advocate sex for pleasure evidenced by the fact that they think those who are unmarried should remain celibate.

            Offering marriage to heterosexual couples but not homosexual couples is a double standard. It is therefor a form of discrimination which most people would classify as “hate”. If two consenting adults want to make a loving, exclusive commitment to each other, they should be allowed to do so. If the church does not want to support homosexual marriage, they have theological support for staying out of the marriage/sexuality game altogether. They don’t need to offer a sacrament to one person on the basis of his/her sexual identity but not offer it to another on the same basis given that the only thing they SHOULD be advocating is celibacy.

          • Curtis

            Please be honest. Evagelicals hate homosexual behavior. And they teach their kids to hate homosexual behavior.

          • Frank

            Please be honest. God advocates against homosexual behavior.

          • Curtis

            God advocates against hundreds of things. So now we are back where we started. Don’t you ever get tired of talking in circles?

          • Frank

            No its just the truth doesn’t change despite your best efforts.

  • The unanimity among the Christian college students regarding the acceptability of the homosexual lifestyle tends to suggest that the universities are no longer institutions that encourage freedom of thought and logical thinking, but instead, conformity. How else can we explain their high level of agreement? Perhaps, as one past political candidate asserted, the universities have become little more than propaganda mills.

    • Frank

      Or maybe they actually believe what the bible says.

    • Larry Barber

      I suspect that you can explain the unanimity the same one you can explain their unanimity on the position of the earth or on the moral status of slavery. The institutional church has been wrong in the past, to be expected, but has almost never admitted the mistake until succeeding generations. It seems that the church only advances one funeral at a time.

      • And perhaps all of this unanimity reflects back upon the non-diverse influence of the university. To use Biblical slavery – not the slavery practiced in this country or others – as an example, it can easily be argued that this institution was far more just and humane than imprisonment or cutting off hands.

        The very fact that people throw out this example to prove the Bible wrong is once again symptomatic of the fact that they evidently haven’t seriously pondered the issue, but have been swayed by pervasive cultural sound bites.

        • Larry Barber

          Great, another slavery supporter. And you guys wonder why nobody outside of your fundamentalist ghetto takes you seriously on moral matters? I suspect if you were on the receiving end of “Biblical” slavery you wouldn’t think it such a benign thing.

          Another thing, just because someone disagrees with your interpretation of scripture doesn’t mean that they have spent less time studying it and contemplating it than you.

  • Chase

    If anyone is interested, I speak a bit more about the issue here (and provide a bunch of links to read more.)

  • Richard Jones

    Evans refers repeatedly to “the church” as if there was only one kind. Like she did in her post on why she left church. Doesn’t she know (or is she just playing dumb to get our attention and sell books) that there are THOUSANDS of churches that do NOT prescribe to the positions she finds unpalatable? Al Mohler or Mark Driscoll doesn’t preach at every church.

    • I’m with you, Richard. I wish that RHE would expand her church experience beyond evangelicalism.