NYT suggests evangelicalism needs to be more liberal to save itself

David Brooks had a piece in the New York Times under the headline: “The Dissenters Trying to Save Evangelicalism From Itself.”

Brooks talks of the divide within evangelicalism. Early in the article, Brooks suggests: “There have been three big issues that have profoundly divided them: the white evangelical embrace of Donald Trump, sex abuse scandals in evangelical churches and parachurch organizations, and attitudes about race relations, especially after the killing of George Floyd.”

I’ve read this same basic piece several times in the last couple years in trying to diagnose the problems with evangelicalism in America. 

Brooks interviews a familiar cast of characters. Russell Moore and Beth Moore (no relation to each other) who were recently popular figures in evangelical circles but have become critics of the movement. He interviews Kristin Kobes Du Mez, the author of “Jesus and John Wayne,” which is a one-sided rant against evangelicalism which only looks at the bad and overlooks any redeeming qualities in the movement. He mentions Tim Dalrymple, the president of Christianity Today who said Trump should have been removed from office.

There’s a lot fo discourse on the problems of evangelicalism but I feel like I never see similar critiques of liberal and progressive Christianity. These articles get preoccupied with evangelical support of Trump, and that always gets framed as if it’s some obvious scourge on the gospel. 

My question is: what in the world is so good about liberalism? What are they doing right now to benefit our country? These articles want to criticize churches for being too conservative. As if there are not thousands of churches in America that are liberal, that support values that are not Biblical values such as the LGBT movement and abortion. Liberal churches who undermine the Bible. Those churches get a pass. 

It’s the churches who support Trump and who are not woke social justice warriors who are the problem. Basically the problem with evangelicals is that they’re not liberals. And if they embrace liberal ideologies, then they’ll be doing the Lord’s work.

Conservative evangelicalism is an easy target because our culture institutions are increasingly liberal. The mainstream media, Hollywood, big business, big tech, pro sports, the federal government, higher education, public education, healthcare, and on and on. It’s ok to be liberal. It’s not ok to be conservative. 

And the focus needs to be that evangelicals don’t have a big enough tent. Brooks has the audacity to frame it as if evangelicals are not welcoming enough to other points of view. Is a conservative welcome in a progressive church? Is a belief in traditional marriage, traditional gender roles, the inherency of the Bible welcome in a progressive church? 

There are problems with evangelicalism. There are far too many powerful people in influential ministries who are corrupt and who have no accountability. That’s an issue. Brooks mentions the scandal involving Ravi Zacharias and a scandal involving Willow Creek Church. I’ve written about both. They were terrible. I’ve written about Jerry Falwell, Jr, and James MacDonald, and the Southern Baptist Convention sexual assualt scandal.

I think too many evangelical churches have done a poor job about teaching the Bible and focus on easy to listen to messages and appealing to cultural trends and having watered down youth ministries that are not teaching kids the Bible. Again, there are problems in evangelicalism.

There are churches and pastors who might call themselves “evangelical” with whom I would greatly disagree. But evangelicalism is a broad movement. I think we should call out people when they’re in the wrong. But I don’t think that American evangelicalism has the inherent problems that progressivism poses to the church. Progressive churches fall right in line with that ideology. I see that as the bigger threat on our culture and on the gospel.

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