Evangelicalism and ‘time wasted in disabuse’

Evangelicalism and ‘time wasted in disabuse’ July 26, 2012

Ta-Nehisi Coates is discussing an unrelated topic here, but his analogy captures the frustration with the evangelical subculture that caused me to leave my work in that world 12 years ago:

Consider this: what if you were a medievalist and the majority of your public simply refused to accept that Charlemagne ever existed. Indeed, what if they felt their prosperity was contingent on not acknowledging it. And thus all your medievalist friends spent a great deal of time proving that Charlemagne did exist.

Think about all the other interesting questions you might never get to ask, because you were spending all your energy in refutation of myth. And this would be frustrating because surely you had true questions, questions which you actually didn’t have answers for. But every time you presented your work before an audience you felt called back to 800 AD all over again.

I think about how the climate scientist, or the evolutionary biologist living in Tennessee must feel, and I find some sympathy. So much of black intellectual life is wasted in disabuse, in explaining yourself to other people, as opposed to yourself.

Yes. I walked away from the career I was building as a card-carrying member of the Evangelical Press Association because so much of my time was “wasted in disabuse.” And because one could never, ever, advance beyond Step 1 and Square 1. Every time you tried to move beyond that in the direction of Step 2 or Square 2, “you felt called back to 800 AD all over again.”

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Jamelle Bouie says that Rick Warren’s “reactionary moralism — and willingness to pander to the prejudices of well-off suburbanites — is emblematic of what’s wrong with American evangelicalism.”

That seems a bit harsh. I respect Jamelle Bouie and I don’t want to seem overly critical in my response here, but I think this kind of sweeping, unqualified criticism is uncalled for and inappropriate.

Sometimes one needs to just take a step back and cool down so that one is able to provide a more level-headed and accurate assessment.

So let me disagree with Bouie’s statement here and instead say this: Rick Warren’s reactionary moralism and willingness to pander to the prejudices of well-off suburbanites is emblematic of some of what’s wrong with American evangelicalism.

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Two upsetting things in this story from the Associated Baptist Press: “Church expelled after affirming gays.”

An American Baptist church in Ohio has been excommunicated from its association and state region after going on record as welcoming and affirming gays.

Tommy Faris, pastor of University Baptist Church in Columbus, Ohio, said the church has received a letter from the Columbus Baptist Association informing them they have been removed from fellowship. Since congregations affiliate with the American Baptist Churches of Ohio through their association, he said, the decision effectively expels University from that group as well.

A past issue of the church newsletter indicated that members of the congregation knew it might result in separation from the association and region when they voted Oct. 30, 2011, to join the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists, an organization of about 75 mostly American Baptist churches that extend full membership to persons regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

First: Dismaying to learn that most Baptists in Ohio’s capital are anti-gay. That doesn’t reflect well on those Baptists or on Ohio.

Second: Disappointing to see that ABP thinks Baptists can be “excommunicated.” How is that supposed to work, exactly? Does the Baptist pope proclaim that they can no longer receive the Baptist Eucharist?

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The official position of the evangelical tribe is that the Affordable Care Act is bad. This is the official position of the evangelical tribe because this is the official position of the Republican Party.

It is not, however, a unanimous position among evangelicals. Some of them, it turns out, are not wealthy and healthy. And if you’re not both wealthy and healthy, then the Affordable Care Act starts to look like a Very Good Thing — even to a conservative evangelical.

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