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Featured Has Evangelicalism Become an Essentially Negative, Fear-Based Form of Human Religiosity?

Discussion in 'General Religious Debates' started by Sunstone, Sep 24, 2020.

  1. Sunstone

    Sunstone De Diablo Del Fora
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    Has Evangelicalism become an essentially negative, fear-based form or expression of human religiosity? Why or why not?


    Here's why I ask the question...

    I grew up in a small, Midwestern town during the 1960s and 70s. At that time and place, the highest compliment you could give someone's morals and character was to call them, "A true Christian".

    That term was taken quite seriously by nearly everyone of my acquaintance, and it meant someone with exemplary human decency, compassionate morals, generosity of heart and means, etc. who treated everyone -- high and low, saint and sinner, Black and White, etc -- with the same respect, compassion, and caring kindness. You honestly could not earn a higher accolade in my home town than to be called "a true Christian". It was a powerful ideal and I knew people who were not especially religious -- and sometimes not even Christian at all -- who aspired to that ideal in their own lives.

    All that began to change sometime during the 1970s around the same time that droves of up-until-then politically apathetic Evangelicals became politically active in order to vote for Jimmy Carter during his first run for office. As the 70s turned into the 80s, the term "a true Christian" progressively lost its former status and meaning. Eventually, it fell into disuse among just about everyone except the Evangelicals. One day in the mid-90s, an old woman asked me if I could recall the time that term "meant something". We put our heads together and realized that neither one of use could remember the last time we had heard it used in its former meaning.

    Now, I think at least three things might have happened to crush the idea that 'true Christians' have exemplary morals. First, the leaders of the Evangelical movement into politics seem to have had a largely negative agenda. Down with women's rights. Down with LGBTQ+ rights. Down with political liberalism. Down with the separation of church and state, etc. etc. etc. Conversely, they do not seem to have had much in the way of a positive agenda, except in terms of window dressing for their core negative agenda.

    Second, those same leaders tended to drum up support for their agenda largely through promoting fear and hatred of the groups that opposed their negative agenda. They were unremarkable in promoting compassion, understanding, and kindness towards those who disagreed with them, to put it mildly.

    Last, for much of the American public, they (and their followers) came to represent the face of Christianity. That is, the term 'Christian' came to be almost synonymous for many people with the term 'Evangelical' or (until 9/11) 'Fundamentalist'.

    In combination, those three developments destroyed the traditional meaning of the phrase, "a true Christian" outside of the Evangelical community itself. Today, I believe it has been over 20 years since I last heard anyone who was not an Evangelical praise someone as "a true Christian".

    All of which leads me to wonder if Evangelicalism is an essentially negative, fear-based form of religiosity? If not, why do Evangelical leaders -- and so very many Evangelical followers -- seem preoccupied -- or, more than preoccupied. Obsessed. -- with who they fear and hate? Is that impression of Evangelicals an illusion, or is there any substance to it?


     
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  2. Wild Fox

    Wild Fox Well-Known Member

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    They are using their anti-science rhetoric to support their ability to negate what any evidence shows and to create a separate reality regardless of the truth.
     
  3. sun rise

    sun rise "This is the Hour of God"
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    I think you nailed it quite well but I'd also add seeking the media to loudly trumpet their perspective.

    One additional reflection: I've come to appreciate Pope Francis. I don't need to agree with Catholic theology to consider him a "true Christian" in the original sense of the word.

    There are others who operate outside the media circus who are doing their best to help "the least" because that is what their hearts tell them to do. In my local community these are people who try to help "the least" without any fanfare or press agents.
     
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  4. viole

    viole Metaphysical Naturalist
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    Here in Europe, most evangelicals are actually quite liberal. Things like allowing gay marriage in churches, prohibiting creationism at school, etc. are usually supported, and even encouraged.

    Ciao

    - viole
     
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  5. osgart

    osgart Nothing my eye, Something for sure

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    Evangelical could mean anything from where I sit. Currently I have had no good experience with the word. It has come to represent charismatic, feel good gospel stuff that draws a lot of wealth to the preachers who practice it. It could also mean old time fire and brimstone sermons like a Billy Graham. One thing is for sure, it draws an income of security for those who do whatever it is.
     
  6. Altfish

    Altfish Veteran Member

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    I would add that there are a few outliers which most of the population treat as nut-jobs.
     
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  7. PureX

    PureX Veteran Member

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    I think there have always been a small segment of Christians that leaned toward fear and control and self-righteousness rather than toward love and compassion and generosity. The difference is that as the republican party became more and more the 'party of the rich', and needed to find a way to get some poor people to vote for their candidates, anyway, they discovered that this angry, fear-driven, disgruntles subgroup of Christians were ripe for their manipulation. And boy were they ever right! As soon as the republican party began to pander to them, they responded with wild enthusiasm. Preachers who wallowed in threats and loathing and bigotry from their pulpits, that had been until then mostly ignored by mainstream Christianity suddenly found themselves in the media limelight, and they LOVED it! They couldn't get enough of it. And so did their 'flocks'. So they happily ran to the polls to vote for any and every republican candidate because it made them feel vindicated. Important. Powerful. And in control. And these were very important feelings for people who had been craving them on the sidelines for so long.

    The results have been terrible for everyone. The republicans have become little more then a band of criminals who know that lying and cheating can win them elections, and once won, their candidates can do whatever they please without fear of losing their "base". This subgroup of angry, resentful, hateful Christians have become totally and hopeless addicted to their grotesque notoriety. They love it and wallow in it and do whatever they can to stick it in the faces of those other Christians that used to ignore them. (And everyone else, too.) And as America has watched the republican party win election after election by fostering greed, and ignorance, and disunity to the point of people absolutely loathing each other, they've lost all hope for a positive correction.
     
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  8. Brian2

    Brian2 Well-Known Member

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    I think the term evangelical has come to represent something different in the US than elsewhere.
    From outside of the US I would say that what you describe looks fairly true and it probably did start when society began to change fast and grow more liberal in the 60s probably.
    The sad part about it would be that most evangelicals are probably true Christians and wanting to do what is right even if teachings from the leadership probably has turned the focus also into areas that seem to be trying to defend what they saw as being a Christian country in the past. This certainly would appeal to the American Patriotism which seems from the outside to be quite strong.
    Defending these things for the good of all may be fine and is probably seen that way, but it can turn into an us versus them situation and they may want to fight the battle in politics and in opposition to those they see as the "them".
    There are Christians in Australia who seem to have a similar political focus, for the good of society of course. Sounds good to Christians who are concerned about society, but is it the way Jesus would have wanted Christians to go?
     
  9. thomas t

    thomas t happy Christian

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    Hi Sunstone,
    yeah that anti-gay ranting stuff is truely horrible, they are called "mentally ill" and so on. It's horrible. The moment you want to expose... you get accused of "disturbing the peace".
    A true Christian is one truely loved by the Lord. One that is saved.
    Thomas
     
  10. Jayhawker Soule

    Jayhawker Soule <yawn> ignore </yawn>
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    ^ a valuable post
     
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  11. Vinayaka

    Vinayaka devotee
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    I'm not sure. We learn about what we hear or read about. My gut tells me there is a silent majority within evangelical churches just going about their business of being good Christians but saying little, so we are unaware of them.
     
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  12. Windwalker

    Windwalker Integralist
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    They are at their core fear-based. Otherism defines their religious approach. That is of course, the opposite of what historical Christianity was about.
     
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  13. 9-10ths_Penguin

    9-10ths_Penguin 1/10 Subway Stalinist
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    There are plenty of stories in my family of my Evangelical relatives - Baptists and Methodists, mainly - being motivated by hate and fear long before the 70s.
     
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  14. KenS

    KenS Veteran Member
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    I don't quite follow your sequence logic.

    1) It isn't fear based (God has not given us a spirit of fear-Paul to Timothy) - perfect love cast out fear (John)
    2) A true Christian (in today's lingo- a real Christian) - is one who exemplifies God's love and character
    3) Being a Republican doesn't make you a Christian and being a Democrat doesn't make you a non-Christian (and visa versa)

    Religiosity defined by Christians is basically one who has no room for grace. (very simplified version)
     
  15. Sirona

    Sirona Hindu Wannabe

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    In German, there are two words for Evangelical, "evangelisch" and "evangelikal". Don't want to generalize, but "evangelisch" describes moderate, traditionalist, mostly Lutheran Christians, whereas the term "evangelikal" refers to fundamentalist, relatively recent Christian groups mostly from American origin. "Evangelische" Christians often are "left-wing", interested in ecology and often very tolerant, whereas "Evangelikale" mostly have the opposite political opinion.
     
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  16. viole

    viole Metaphysical Naturalist
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    Danke sehr

    ciao

    - ciole
     
  17. Saint Frankenstein

    Saint Frankenstein Ov Fire and the Void
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    Most Evangelicalism in the US has been very nasty for decades. They are some who are trying to change it but they seem to be fighting an uphill battle.
     
  18. 9-10ths_Penguin

    9-10ths_Penguin 1/10 Subway Stalinist
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    As big a factor, I think: diversity.

    Before the 70s in many parts of both of our countries, it was uncommon to encounter "out" non-Christians. Immigration was mostly from predominantly Christian countries in Europe; atheists had to stay in the closet for the most part. A Christian could very well assume that everyone around them 1) was Christian like they were and 2) thought that being a Christian was a good thing.

    Starting in the 60s and then increasing in the 70s, you see a few trends in parallel:

    - predominantly non-Christian countries start making up a much larger proportional share of the immigrants coming in,

    - atheists get more comfortable being out of the closet.

    - non-Christian religions (e.g. Buddhism, Wicca) become more popular among white Americans (and Canadians).

    All this means that calling someone a "true Christian" is less likely to be accepted as a positive thing, and it's much harder to ignore how chauvinistic the epithet was all along.
     
  19. Fool

    Fool ALL in all
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    service to self in opposition to service to ALL as SELF, uses division to create. fear is a very great motivator to the destruction of illusion. he who overcomes this fear can only do so through love.


    love is the beginning of understanding. hate, destruction leads to chaos


    the children of love/light in service to suffering await the call to go out for God. there has to be the seeking, the questioning, the questing. like moths to a flame, they come to be consumed and consume.


    gather yourselves for the supper of god
     
  20. Windwalker

    Windwalker Integralist
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    It is fear-based. And this verse does not apply to them, as they are stuck in otherism. They are not in perfected love. If they were, you wouldn't have them engaging in a war on culture. That is not love.

    That is true in all generations. In fact, there's no need to call them a "true Christian". If they go by the name Christian, they should be true. If I'm going to make a distinction myself, I'll say "Fake Christians", alluding to Jesus' wolves in sheeps clothing reference. It's not even immature Christians. It's anti-Christian to hate, and claim Christ's name. Trump for instance, is antichrist.

    Absolutely correct. By their fruits you shall know them, not by their political views, be those conservative or liberal. But by how they treat their fellow man. Declaring war on culture, is not the fruits of a Christ-centered life, in any way, shape or form. That's the fruits of fear and hatred. By those fruits, you shall know them too.

    Correct. And that's what this thread is about.

    Evangelicalism has basically destroyed the Christian image of love and grace, support and compassion in the world. Just doing that for those of like-mind, is not the measure of Christian love at all.

    If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.​
     
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