Christianity historically has been a capacious body. There’s room for difference (think, for example, of the four gospels, each with a different telling of the narrative of Jesus).
Sometimes the very back-and-forth of dialogical discernment of truth itself becomes part of that body (think for example of the letters of Paul to the Corinthians, or the Lutheran Augsburg Confession and the Apology to it, where the confession of the faith records the call and response of disputation and clarification).
At some point, certain viewpoints are so at odds with Christianity, so at odds with the good news of Jesus Christ, so at odds with truth they need to be rejected altogether. Christian responsibility at that point is to vote with your feet.
The co-optation of evangelicalism and various strains of populist Christianity by “Christian nationalism” is such a moment.
It’s no longer that the evangelicals have one truth, and the Catholics another, and mainline Protestants another.
Conservative evangelicalism has left the building. If you’re still affiliating with it, it’s time for you to leave.
I’m certainly aware that many faithful people in evangelical churches oppose at least some of the harmful views of the majority. I hear the pain from those evangelicals, struggling as they are to find their way in a religious movement that is drifting further and further away from them.
But at this point, evangelicalism (and the various strains of populist Christianity that ride alongside it, like Southern Baptists, mega-churches, etc.) is so beholden to forces antithetical to the gospel of Christ, I believe there is nothing there to reform, and so many ways to get to healthier spaces.
Remaining means propping up an establishment that is doing immeasurable harm to our world, our nation, and the faith itself.
You can’t really say “I’m inclusive and support LGBTQ+ people” if you continue to give financially to churches who exclude LGBTQ+ from the pulpit and church leadership.
And you can’t really say you are truly for immigrants and others in harms way of Christian nationalism if you keep propping up with your presence and your membership an institution that offers cover for, or actively encourages, arguing for us to become a nation of just one religion (or arguing, as many do, that we always were a “Christian” nation).
This is now the moment when John Hagee’s worship leaders are leading chants with a few thousand worshippers of “Let’s Go Brandon!”
This is the movement that fails to speak out publicly in condemnation of someone like Michael Flynn, who recently said:
Make no mistake, this is the Christo-fascist goal of the majority of Republicans. If it weren’t, Republicans and prominent evangelical voices would be condemning Flynn. They aren’t.
And in my experience, this is how conservative evangelical Christians actually operate in public spaces. If I attend quorum court meetings or other public events led by evangelicals, they force everyone there to pray “in the name of Jesus,” living out an apparent fiction that everyone present will identify with their prayers.
As I said, Christo-fascism.
I wish I could encourage those in conservative churches to remain and work for change, but I’m afraid there’s honestly nothing redeeming left.
When Christians start putting an American flag inside the fish symbol and affixing it to their cars, it’s clear both they do not comprehend the irony of such an act, and they also truly believe that Christianity and America are essentially the same thing.
This is idolatry. Generally speaking nobody needs to stay in an idolatrous space and fix it. The appropriate response to idolatry is to walk away.
For those who are thinking about leaving, I have a couple of pastoral encouragements for you. I guess they are prayers, in a sense.
First, I pray you’ll have time to be yourself for a while. I’m not trying to get you to come join my church or one like mine. That would be perpetuating the same kind of manipulative proselytization endemic in evangelical circles. It’s okay to just be yourself. You don’t have to be instrumentalized as someone else’s salvation project.
Second, there are increasing tools around to do this work, the necessary work of recalibrating away from harmful religious beliefs and communities. Check out deconstruction videos on TikTok if this interests you, or just do some independent reading on your own in the Scriptures with which you’re already familiar, but be open to the idea that Scripture doesn’t actually say much or most of what evangelicals believe and practice.
Third, lots of love to you. Leaving is hard work. There are many relationships there that will have to change.
But if you want to do the work of justice, if you want to live into the kingdom of God, part of that living into necessarily means first putting up boundaries to exclude practices and organizations currently operating in opposition to God’s kin-dom.
There’s a path forward. But it may first necessitate a leaving.