O, That Again: Another Book about Evangelicalism

O, That Again: Another Book about Evangelicalism March 23, 2024

O, That Again: Another Book about Evangelicalism

No, this time I’m not going to name the book or the author. If you’re paying close attention, you either know it now or will hear of it. The author has been all over social media and mainstream media (being interviewed)—touting her book about why she is leaving or has left evangelicalism.

What do I think? I think the recent assault on “evangelical Christianity” in America by mostly left-leaning post-evangelical critics is partly a result of the left-leaning, secular media’s assault on evangelical Christianity.

There have always been people who grew up evangelical and left the movement, shed the ethos, for a variety of reasons. A major reason has been growing up in extremely conservative evangelical, probably fundamentalist or Pentecostal (or similar) churches and families that were legalistic to an extreme and the exiles believe they were somehow abused by them when they were children, teens and young adults.

I can sympathize—up to a point, anyway. I doubt that any American evangelical grew up in a more legalistic church ethos than I. Many of this new crop of critics, “ex-evangelicals,” are women and believe they were emotionally abused by things like “purity culture” where they say they, girls and women, were shame and blamed for allegedly being potential sexual sirens luring boys into fornication, if they did not follow the rules.

Well, I don’t hate to tell them, but when I was growing up evangelical, at least in the particular type of evangelical, it was boys who were singled out, from girls, for allegedly being sexual predators in the making. But I won’t go into all the details. I just well remember many of the “talks” we boys were subjected to in church, in denominational retreats, in “youth letters” from HQ, at camps, etc.

Surprise, surprise! I remember being told never, never to kiss a girl without asking her first. And not to wear clothes that might signal sexual desire (e.g., tight pants). And certainly not to swim with girls! (I can’t name some of the things we were told we would go to hell for doing that all boys did that didn’t hurt anyone.)

Did any boys leave evangelical Christianity over THAT expression of purity culture that was aimed at us? I don’t recall that ever being the case.

And, I really don’t regret the rules I grew up under because even if some of them were ridiculous, they did keep me from falling into sins and errors that could have been extremely harmful. I was sheltered and protected even as I was oppressed and abused. As I look back on it now, knowing what I know about many of my “Christian” school friends who grew up “Christian” but not in my style of that, I am glad I adhered to the rules.

Now, “patriarchy” is another reason some women are giving for leaving evangelicalism. That I cannot deny; much of evangelical Christianity in America has been and some still is strongly patriarchal. But not the church and denomination in which I grew up. We had women evangelists, missionaries, church planters, pastors, even denominational leaders. And the wives of some of the executives were clearly as powerful if not more than their husbands. I know this because my mother, my stepmother, my aunts, my wife, worked in the HQ.

Still, yes, across the board, patriarchy has haunted much of American evangelicalism. But women are rising in the ranks, especially in some segments of American evangelical Christianity. Do liberated women have to shed the evangelical spiritual-theological ethos to become liberated from patriarchy? I don’t think so. There are many refuges for woman that have a an evangelical spiritual-theological ethos. I could list here evangelical denominations that have women pastors, women leaders, women presidents of colleges and universities.

In other words, my message to evangelical women who feel oppressed by evangelical patriarchy is: You don’t have to shed your evangelical spiritual-theological ethos anymore than I had to. I grew up in an extremely oppressive, spiritually abusive denomination. At some point, I simply left it. But I didn’t shed my evangelical spiritual-theological ethos. And I have never joined a church that would not allow women to have leadership roles. There was one in which I discovered, much to my dismay, that the church’s leaders (the Board of Stewards) were all men. I left and joined a Baptist church that had a women pastor! I have had three women pastors and the evangelical church I now attend has women elders and does not have any problem with women preaching.

I think there are some bitter post- or ex-evangelicals, both men and women, who are taking advantage of the media’s all-out assault on evangelicalism to announce their bitterness toward their own experiences of oppression and abuse and project that onto evangelical Christianity without making a distinction between their particular church or denomination and evangelical Christianity as a whole or evangelical Christianity as a spiritual-theological ethos.

*Note: If you choose to comment, make sure your comment is relatively brief (no more than 100 words), on topic, addressed to me, civil and respectful (not hostile or argumentative) and devoid of pictures or links.*

 

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