Jesus’s worst enemy was not Rome, it was His own people – the religious leaders.
In 1741 evangelical preacher Jonathan Edwards preached a sermon titled “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” His sermon outlined the various ways in which his people were disobeying God. The sermon was meant to convict and empower the people to make changes and follow God. The sermon was later published and became a classic within American Christianity.
It is important to write a note of clarification before starting this list. First, although many conservative evangelical leaders have not been very nice towards those outside of the church regarding sin, my goal is to be as courteous and respectful as possible given the subject matter. It is not my intent to show malice of any kind. Instead, I care deeply for evangelicalism and wish this to be understood in a spirit of reform.
We all sin. So, this is not just a list of sins. Many of the theses that are listed here are there because they represent the extent to which conservative evangelicals perpetuate certain egregious sins against God. Below are eight theses on the sins of conservative evangelicalism, as well as a concise explanation for each.
1. Conservative evangelicals have failed to live up to the ideal of the reformation to “always be reforming” and as a result exists in an echo chamber of their own making.
“Ecclesia Semper Reformanda est” or “The Church should always be reformed” was a popular axiom proclaimed by Augustine and then again later by Karl Barth. It’s a phrase that goes directly to the problem in conservative evangelicalism that it refuses to accept criticism both externally and internally. More times than not conservative evangelicalism sees any criticism as an attack and, therefore, dig their heels in to hold their position instead of humbly considering whether the criticism has any validity.
The goal of being in a state of reform means that one is constantly evaluating and re-evaluating their beliefs and positions. Instead, much of conservative evangelicalism exists in an echo chamber which is meant to reassure them of their beliefs no matter how incorrect or unbiblical they might be.
Because most conservative evangelicals exist in an echo chamber, they neglect the critical thinking necessary to escape their recycled scholarship. Unfortunately, many evangelical educational institutions perpetuate this problem by teaching ideologies instead of critical thinking. This is creating generation after generation of ideologues that are unable to properly interact with the culture they are attempting to minister within.
2. Conservative evangelicals have sacrificed the Gospel for political power and influence over culture.
Conservative evangelicals have fallen into the same trap as the medieval Catholic Church. Conservative evangelicalism has waged a culture war that has convinced its constituents that it is necessary for conservative evangelicals to be elected to political office so that the Church’s conservative beliefs can be protected.
The immediate consequence of this propaganda is the confluence of religion and government. This confluence is none the more evident than with the overwhelming support that conservative evangelicals provided Donald Trump for President of the U.S.
Conservative evangelicals cared more about securing their political power within the Republican Party than they did following the Gospel. The Gospel message contradicts the vast majority of what Donald Trump was about. As a result, those who voted for him were complicit in his lies, propaganda, and his inhumane treatment of people.
If that wasn’t bad enough conservative evangelicals didn’t learn their lesson and returned in 2020 to try and get him elected again. Regardless of the fact that he was of low moral character and competency, more evangelicals voted for Trump in 2020 (81%) than they did in 2016 (79%).
3. Conservative evangelicals lack inclusivity and tolerance.
Conservative evangelical churches have largely become social clubs where those who already fit a specific mold can join. Have you ever wondered why nearly everyone who attends church is a Christian? No? Where are the agnostics and atheists? Where are all of the people who are searching for meaning in their lives, but don’t have any relationship to Jesus? If the Church were truly acting like it was intended, churches would be filled with these seekers. Instead, the Church has become an echo chamber of propaganda.
Conservative evangelical churches are largely intolerant of people who view the world differently. I cannot tell you how many people I know who were ostracized by a conservative evangelical church because they were agnostic or atheistic – which, by the way, they became that way because of the Church. A large contingent of Progressive Christianity is filled with people who were ostracized because of their doubt.
Where are all of the people who are LGBT+? Even if you view those within that group to be “sinning”, they still should be a part of the Church if they want to, shouldn’t they? The whole church is filled with sinners. Why are people from that group singled out?
The bottom line is that the Church should be a refuge for those in need of hope, not a gathering place for elite Christians.
4. Conservative evangelicals are not protecting women and children from sexual abuse.
There exists a relationship between how men perceive the role of women in church and society and how those women are treated by these men and the communities in which they live. The #MeToo movement has brought to light thousands of women and children who have been sexually abused by leaders in conservative evangelical churches.
Individual leaders like:
…and countless others who are not as well known.
This is not just a problem within conservative evangelicalism, of course, but Christianity in general. However, for whatever reason, those within conservative evangelicalism are much slower to implement any protocols at the denomination level. And in cases where protocols are implemented, they are largely insufficient. This forces most evangelical churches to formulate their own policies regarding sexual abuse.
Perhaps the most difficult to comprehend about this issue is the lack of understanding and accountability that exists at the denomination level of these churches. The problem has become such that in a recent poll conducted by LifeWay shows:
1 in 10 people between the ages of 19-34 have left the Church because of insufficient protocols related to sexual abuse.
Not only is sexual abuse a significant issue for conservative evangelicalism, but so is the Boy’s Club culture that exists. In the majority of the cases above most of them were done with some other person in authority aware of it. This means a culture of covering up sexual abuse has been created that is no different than what we see in corporate America.
5. Conservative evangelicals have made Scripture into an idol.
Many conservative evangelicals have made the Bible into an idol because they don’t appreciate to what extent God is already present with them. Conservative evangelicals defend the authority of Scripture with the same fervor that they defend God, Himself. To say anything contrary to Scripture is to blaspheme.
When conservative evangelicals use inerrancy to describe Scripture, what they are doing is placing upon the book a divine attribute. They are making the book coequal to Jesus who, according to the Apostle John, IS the eternal Word of God.
You do not have to have songs of praise to worship something. You simply have to attribute divinity to something through adoration. Having this level of adoration for Scripture means that those who hold these positions worship Scripture.
To say that a book represents God’s words necessarily implies (ontologically) that the book is divine. This is the very definition of idolatry.
6. Conservative evangelicals are treating those outside of the church as enemies.
Instead of viewing American culture as a mission field ripe with people who need to possess the hope of Christ, conservative evangelicalism largely views those within the culture as their enemy. That those outside of the church are part of a larger conspiracy to kick religious values out of our country. This paranoia has resulted in an “us versus them” anti-culture worldview that has damaged the testimony of Jesus Christ.
7. Conservative evangelicals are consistently supporting legislation that harms and discriminates against others.
Because conservative evangelicals have politically capitulated to the Republican Party, they are unable to support candidates who believe in being socially responsible – as does Scripture. This capitulation is largely a result of overwhelming support for anti-abortion legislation and those candidates who support that single social issue.
Perhaps even worse than not being a part of a party that doesn’t believe that the government should support important social programs is being a part of a party that actively legislates against such programs.
8. Conservative evangelicals act like bigots towards those within the LGBT+ community.
You don’t have to agree with what the LGBT+ community believes. But, if you are a follower of Jesus, you do have to treat them with respect and Jesus would even say LOVE. But those in the LGBT+ community are largely demonized by many in the Church. When this happens, it illustrates just how much conservative evangelicals have given in to the passions of their bigotry – and just how far they’ve strayed from the heart of Jesus.
Proof of this bigotry can be illustrated in the fact that there are very, very few openly LGBT+ people in conservative evangelical churches. Why? Because these churches would insist on a change before those within that community could participate in worship. Of course, these churches wouldn’t have the same requirement for anyone else. That is bigotry!
In general, sin is between the individual and God and is not the responsibility of the Church to police. We have been commanded to love all people no matter who they are, what they have done, or what they do. It’s pretty simple. But because conservative evangelicalism has largely become political it largely views those people through the evil eye of politics instead of through the loving eyes of Jesus.