Focusing on the Fringe

Focusing on the Fringe February 21, 2022

Take any issue and at the far edge to the right, you’ll find a few who seem to be out of touch with the reality of the situation. And with the same issue, there will be those on the far left who occupy a different sphere.

In the middle is where most of us reside. We may lean left. We may lean right. But we have this in common – we reject the fringe.

But thanks to social media, it’s quite easy to find them. The Google search engine can easily find pastors who sport “Let’s Go Brandon T-shirts” at the church picnic, or tired preachers stirring the old racial pot.

I am particularly offended when I am lumped in with these fringe players, especially when it comes to the Evangelical Church.

There are 380,000 evangelical churches in America and about 90 million Americans can be classified as Evangelical. That’s 25 percent of the population.

It’s intellectually dishonest to take the actions of the fringe and broad-brush them to the entire Evangelical population.

Pulpit
Photo by Adrien Olichon on Unsplash

David French and the Fringe

The voices in the middle are far and few between. In the past, conservative thinker David French has been one of those, and his column for many years resided in this very space. He and his wife helped my early journey at Patheos. I’ve always regarded him as thoughtful, reasonable, and not easily swayed. I don’t always agree with the conclusion, but I respect his mind and admittedly, his words often check my enthusiasm and keep me grounded.

Recently he’s been focusing on the more radical elements of the church, especially those who bang the drum a little too loudly for Trump or have suspect racial politics.

Respected thought leaders in the Evangelical church who are taking umbrage at French’s words regarding these fringe players. Megan Basham, one-time contributor to World Magazine and currently writing for the Daily Wire outlined the concerns in her article, “ Major Pastors Rebuke David French Over His Repeated Criticism Of Churches And ‘White Evangelicals.”

She referenced an article French wrote, in which he asked, “Where are America’s most dangerous political radicals.” The answer was “in churches, by the thousands, in city after city. In church after church.”

Basham quotes Jonathan Leeman, Kevin DeYoung, Todd Pruitt, Albert Mohler, and Carl Trueman who as individuals avoid the radical side of any argument. But all of these leaders are concerned about this spotlight on those who cling to the most radical ideas.

I have had my share of church experiences in many traditions and both modern and traditional expressions. Even in today’s hyper-partisan world, I’ve never heard a message or a study that crossed into these radical paths. With millions of adherents, I’ve no doubt shared a pew with fringe players on either side of any issue. It’s simply not an issue. We are there to worship Jesus and little else matters. That’s the beauty of the gospel.

In French’s article, he does circle back. “It’s possible to overreact to this, to paint with too broad a brush, he says. Millions of Republican Evangelicals “are legitimately aggrieved when they’re lumped into a movement and an ethos they find strange and appalling.”

Despite the criticism, I appreciate that he sees me – and scores of other believers who simply want to serve God in simplicity and truth.

That’s not who Evangelicals are

We do have a duty to call out sin and especially deviation from the gospel message within our churches and our leadership. And yes, to David French’s point, we have a moral obligation to root out the bad and replace it with the righteous, true gospel of Jesus.

But I reject the notion that some try to use that Evangelical Churches are racist. I reject the notion that Evangelicals are guilty by association of trying to overthrow the government because of a few, out-of-control rioters on Jan. 6. I reject the principle that politics have infused our pulpits.

Most of these people are making these accusations against the Church are basing their beliefs on presumptions. And those presumptive biases are illustrated and confirmed by a few bad actors.

We have seen the nation’s civility devolve which also corresponds with the pervasiveness of social media.  Admittedly, I am too often drawn to stories that are shocking. I mean, SHOCKING!   And I often go down the path of pushing people into the same clown car of craziness.  Left-wing rioters held Portland under siege for months last year. But is it fair to hold my Democrat friends complicit for these crimes? Should I make them equally guilty and responsible?

But the reality is that “they” are not all that way.

Neither should Bible-believing Christians be presumptively characterized.  The vast majority of Evangelicals are moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas, business people, lay people, hard workers who are your neighbors simply looking for a better way to live.

And if you doubt me, I challenge you to spend a few Sundays in church and you can judge for yourself.

Photo by James Barr on Unsplash
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