Having exited evangelicalism, I can, I admit, find it easy to point and to ruminate in ill-considered ways, about a tradition to which I in fact owe much. I hope yesterday’s post was not ill-considered.
Evangelicals, old and new, as a rule far more than an exception, are generous and good-hearted and kind. If there is kindness in me it is largely because of my dear old German Baptist mother. If there is generosity in me, it is because of my late, low-key Evangelical-Mennonite-Baptist Russian father. And if I’m occasionally found riding a goodwill curve, it is because of the good-natured self-critique, church-critique, pretension-piercing ability of the quiet agile mind of my father and the gentle hands of my mother, as well as the mimetic spill-over from my siblings.
But I am left wondering what my father would have thought of my "exiting." Still, I’m confident that if he were alive today he would have embraced today’s neo-evangelical thrust. And so I could have at least had an interesting discussion with him. I would have loved the opportunity with fear and trembling.
Neo-evangelicals (using the term in its broadest sense, not merely post-fundamentalist) as a body, are proof that evangelicals are often enough their own best critics. The "Emergent Church" in all its amorphousness, the open-mindedness of "Red-letter" Christians, and "Progressive Evangelicals," are all responses to an evangelicalism whose shelf-life is up. The old Evangelicalism’s stress on a highly individualistic understanding of salvation, the absence of environmental concern, the stress on the soul to the lamentable determent of the social, are the larger issues that these newer strains are correcting.
For this, I thank God.