An About Face

Will S. over at Patriactionary has a new post up wherein he dissects a claim by Russel Moore that young Evangelicals aren’t moving left, just rejecting the Christian right. Instead they are just “freakish. I don’t have much to say about the post, or the piece it covers. Instead, I wanted to throw in my thoughts on the change in the Evangelical movement.

You see, I have, in my (relatively) short lifetime observed a monumental shift in the Evangelical movement. In fact, from what I can tell, in the space of a single generation the Evangelical movement has made a near complete transformation. When I was younger my Evangelical friends were very much opposed to the world. They stood out from everyone else, and basically didn’t bother to fit in. I would even say that many enjoyed standing apart from everyone else.

That isn’t the case any longer. Now many of my Evangelical friends have become leftists to some degree or another. They hardly resemble the people I remember growing up. Now most are just pro-life liberals. And I’m not sure about even that any more. As far as I can tell they have all gone full Churchian. Of course, many were that way to begin with. But now they aren’t really hiding it anymore.

Frankly, the transformation has been shocking. It amazes me to think of how quickly a broad movement like that can shift so quickly. Especially given how influential it was in some quarters. Yet the change is there, especially amongst my generation. Given the troubles of the Catholic Church, and some rumors of feminization of the Orthodox Church here in the US, well… I dare say we are heading towards Remnant territory. Brace yourselves folks.



Filed under Christianity, Churchianity, The Church

29 responses to “An About Face

  1. Are young Southern Baptists, Missouri-Synod Lutherans, and PCA members still pretty conservative?

  2. Good post, Donal. I agree; the change has been really startling. Most don’t seem to care about obeying the Bible beyond social justice. Helping the poor is good and important, but pretending like the Bible doesn’t really mean that homosexuality is wrong or that God understands why sometimes we have to divorce our spouses or whatever is not helping anyone. For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? (Mark 8:36)

    This stems from a desire to fit in and be liked as often as not, but also from the misguided notion that maybe if we seem just like everyone else, then people won’t be afraid to maybe come to church and hear the gospel. This idea goes against what Jesus Himself taught, though: “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden;…” (Matthew 5:13-14)

    [DG: Spot on comment.]

  3. ballista74

    Good post, being seeing this for a lot of years actually. Two heads of the same snake, really. That’s been some of my personal frustration with churches. So many of them for so long have really made politics and the Republican party into a god (i.e. civil religion). Anything for the health and good of the party. Witness the paintings of Jon McNaughton for an example.

  4. Evangelicals have always, to some degree, tried to ape the world while staying apart from it: they developed their own popular music (popular in their circles, at least), and media, modelled consciously after that of the world, but with a Christian gloss.

    Now, though, while they still have all that, they’re nevertheless embracing the ways of the world to an unprecedented degree, not just in music styles, and the like, but unfortunately also in worldliness, overall.

    I think ballista74 hits on something important: having embraced worldly politics, that no doubt has been one avenue that has brought them more into contact with the world, as they bump shoulders with them online at conservative sites, and in real life at conventions, etc.

    But the internet in general probably is a big factor – it brings everyone together. Esp. social media…

  5. @ theasdgamer: The PCA and LCMS really aren’t evangelical, though; definitely not in terms of theology, liturgy, and worship styles (well, some PCA are, but many others are more traditionalist), and overall church culture.

    And as for the S.Baptists, they’re mixed, in their worship styles, theology, etc.

  6. ballista74

    @theasdgamer I considered a PCA church once and rather enjoyed going, but found pretty quickly that it was very liberal in terms of theology. For the Bible studies, if I wanted to do it, I would have had to sit under a woman (kind of dirty how that sounds now that I typed it, but probably another way to say that that I’m not thinking), and when I found out, I just kept deflecting her away from it in conversation since we had some commonality (just to try not being too rude about it). They replaced the preacher in the service with a woman not soon after I started visiting so I left.

    The Lutherans I see seem more concerned with social justice matters than anything else, though I haven’t visited it.

    The Southern Baptists I’ve dealt with are perhaps the bellwether of the old Christian right movement, but I perhaps saw this change in them first. Regardless, while keeping the veneer that they are anything Biblical and Godly, they are perhaps driving this the most (most of the “man-up” preachers come from there), and are the most steeped in civil religion. I mentioned over on my own blog a McNaughton painting hanging in a church. It was a Southern Baptist one.

  7. ballista74

    Perhaps though, this civil religion drive is the natural conclusion of the 501c3 and so many churches going that route?

  8. Having an evangelical background myself, I have often noticed the trends you are talking about. I attribute a lot of it to the seeker-friendly movement. Being “relevant” and “emerging” has trumped the Gospel in a lot of cases, in a desire, as SSM said, to be liked and to fill up the seats. Quantity in numbers has become more important than the quality of sanctified believers a church is turning out.

    Incidentally, aren’t the PCA and Lutheran denominations mainline Protestant, not evangelical? Mainline churches, on the whole, are quite liberal IME.

  9. No; the PC(USA) is mainline, and the ELCA is evangelical, basically; the PCA is Reformed, and the LCMS is confessionally Lutheran.

  10. I think a part of it was an overcorrection. There was a lot of preaching with no practical help for the poor etc. But now we’ve gone the other way. The thing about social justice – you can’t have the kingdom without the king.

  11. Elspeth

    Part of the issue is the way the church has embraced the world’s way of ministering to youth.

    The church I grew up in (a small, black missionary Baptist church) has never had a youth ministry. There is Sunday School, but worship is corporate. I left there with a lot Bible imprinted on me (in perfect KJV if that matters) and with no excuses for the mistakes i made in life.

    The church we attend now, while the teaching is far superior to the church I grew up in, has a network of youth ministries that basically separates the kids from the parents as soon as they get out of the car.

    Our children have never participated in it, and our girls are noticeably more modest and less “teenagery” than the other kids in our church. So basically for the past 20 you’ve young people who attended piublic school all week long, extracurriculars after school, tons of homework, events to attend with teenagers on the weekend. Then on Sunday they go to church to “worship” with other teenagers and be “taught” by a 25-year-old who has lived the same trajectory.

    With no significant amount of exposure to older godly people, not significant amount of time spent with parents, and heaping doses of pop culture get you this result.

    Jesus’ words about the blind leading the blind into the ditch spring to mind immediately when I consider the state of young evangelicals.

  12. Then on Sunday they go to church to “worship” with other teenagers and be “taught” by a 25-year-old who has lived the same trajectory.

    Pretty much lol. My brother is a 25-year-old youth pastor, and he told me once that even though he and his wife are part of that *youth system* in their church, it doesn’t really work too well. At 25 and 23, married two years with a baby on the way, they are hardly equipped to make disciples out of the kids in their youth group (Elihu nonwithstanding lol). But he’s a good preacher, works like a dog, and is full of good ideas for exciting events and outreaches to increase the youth numbers. I can tell he gets a little jaded sometimes that the emphasis isn’t on growing in Christ, at least where he’s worked.

  13. Sorry for the formatting; forgot the line again lol!

  14. Elspeth, I agree. Separating children from the parents all the time is exactly what our culture is doing. The things is–is that these children are still learning, but from whom? Certainly not their parents. I will also say that college and public schools play a big role in this. Public school (especially today) is not very a wise decision. I went to public school for elementary and middle school and then a catholic school in high school. There is a stark difference.
    Not to mention the average parent doesn’t prepare their children for what they will have to face in college. This is why so many Christians who were raised in the church come out of college as fornicators, homosexual, atheist, etc.

  15. I went to Germany while I was in high school (for a short exchange program) and as you already know, homeschooling is illegal in Germany. The youth there (and my host family was somewhat wealthy and sent their kids to a prestigious school) were very worldly. While they may have carried Louis Vuitton bags as backpacks, they slept at boy’s houses and being groped in public…in front of teachers! The adults just didn’t care and some of these girls were in the 15-18 range?!

  16. Some years ago, a young mother who had recently gone through RCIA and was confirmed as a Catholic asked me what to do with her children. In her previous denomination, the children attended separate services from their parents, but that’s not what Catholics do. And while our Parish has a nursery ministry for parents with very young (mostly toddler aged) children, most parents choose to have their children with them in the Mass.

    Anyway, this poor lady felt that she was being pushed to have her children in the nursery and she was made to uncomfortable about having them at Mass (her children were baptized along with her; her husband was Catholic). So I told her that her children had every right to be there with her (and pointed out that lots of us had our kids with us); that her children were not provisional members, but were received into fully communion with the Catholic faith at Baptism; and that the Mass was for them as well and she should do whatever felt best to her. And that if anyone gave her grief she should just tell them to pack sand (so to speak). I also mentioned to her that the only way children learn the Mass and learn how to behave at Mass is by actually being there. If you don’t have your children attending Mass until they’re 5 or 6, you can’t be surprised when they don’t know what’s going on and don’t know when to kneel or stand and don’t know any of the prayers.

    It all starts with the parents.

    (And while we do have religious instruction for the children, it’s between the Sunday Masses and it not ever to be confused as a substitute to going to Mass).

  17. The problem stems from professional preachers, pastors and the like. These are all nerds, physically weak, spiritually/ emotionally weak men. Which is why they spend all their time in books vs doing something useful. This problem goes way, way way back and caught up to us about 100 years ago.

  18. Sean


    Newly Returned to the Fold here.

    Was introduced to a “church” where I live by someone whose Christianity I have high respect for. End up going to the first service and am a little stuck by the familiarity: casual attire (really casual), etc. Pastor gets up to speak: 5’10, 150 soaking wet, long hair, goatee. Okay, fine, young group of attendees, young pastor. Lots of “Jesus is my bf/bff” worship songs.

    Went again, gave the benefit of the doubt. Same sort of “Jesus is my bf” worship songs, sermon on Lamentations. Something still not sitting well with me after quoting The Message in the sermon.

    Third service I attend: youngish female “lead group” member speaking. Short hair, open sweater, tank top with jeans. I immediately walk out.

    There wasn’t a manly guy in the chairs at all. “Lead team” member had his wife doing the infamous back-circles during sermons. The new breed of Christianity is being introduced to Churchianity and it’s not pretty: pastor is also pro-gay and laissez faire on abortion.

    There is much to be afraid of when it comes to the New Church. :s

  19. Thanks for the comments everyone.

    @ Elspeth

    The way that youth are taught and “socialized” in the church is definitely a problem. I think that while there are some instances in which they should be taught separately, they otherwise should not be kept segregated from the body of the Church.

    @ Lovelylelblanc7

    I went to Germany while I was in high school (for a short exchange program) and as you already know, homeschooling is illegal in Germany. The youth there (and my host family was somewhat wealthy and sent their kids to a prestigious school) were very worldly. While they may have carried Louis Vuitton bags as backpacks, they slept at boy’s houses and being groped in public…in front of teachers! The adults just didn’t care and some of these girls were in the 15-18 range?!

    That is disturbing, yet unsurprising. Europe, at least, Western Europe, is most definitely post-Christian. Of course, so too is the US these days.

    @ Maeve

    Yup, that is my experience as well. Mass is for everyone.

  20. mdavid

    I guess I’m more amused at this post than anything. Where culture leads, religion always follows. It’s obvious. What the heck is an “Evangelical” anyway? Even Martin Luther claimed the name, and his practical beliefs were far more like the culture he lived in than a modern self-described Evangelical. Each Tom Dick and Harry claims the name, each one swears they hold the definition from the bible or whatever, and it soon they all disagree and it means nothing. Proof: examine every traditional Christian teaching, and one by one they slip away. Some teachings have been dropped for so long (say gluttony, danger of wealth, male headship, divorce, birth control, church authority) they have literally faded from modern memory and people look at you like you’re Amish or something when you mention them. Because the Amish, frozen in time, are indeed the only ones preserving them as a group. Once again, culture, not intellectual religion, always holds sway. The faith is passed on by living, not by intellectual exercise. Indeed, the best name for the typical self-described follower of Christ today is Moralistic Therapeutic Deist.

    And then examine traditional churches: sure, they may give lip service to their traditional doctrine, but nobody in the pews believes it anymore. The pastors know that if they were to preach traditional Christianity – or read sermons we still have written down from 400 AD or so – the flock would cringe and drift away from such moral absolutes. We moderns just don’t want such stuff anymore. Even Pope Benedict said: the Church must grow smaller. He was right.

  21. @ballista74: Interestingly, I have some friends in a PCA church that I visit regularly (though I am not part of the “Reformed” faith-set). Their church is very patriarchal, women do not teach men at all, and the men are quite clearly the leaders of their families. Multiple families with 10+ children, too.

    I personally, believe very strongly in youth ministry, but not in the way that it is done on Sunday mornings. I used to be on staff at a youth group, and it was entirely an evangelistic group, reaching out to kids to didn’t go to church and/or had parents who were not believers. For the kids that were already good, strong Christians, we equipped them to reach out to their peers at school and bring them to Christ. I saw a great many lives changed there, and I still see many of those kids living for the Lord today as adults.

  22. ballista74

    @thehapproject I guess YMMV on everything, even churches you would think would be strict hierarchical setups.

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  24. The (conservative) Mennonite congregations have not yet drifted into leftism. (Basically any congregation that refuses to participate in the MCC)

    In order to become a member in good standing, you men will have to become pacifists, which will keep all you macho alpha types out, and you women would have to wear head coverings, which will keep you out because oh my gosh they’re just being so *legalist*.

    Plenty of youth end up drifting away into worldly behaviour–good riddance.

  25. mdavid

    aaronthejust, …and you women would have to wear head coverings, which will keep you out because oh my gosh they’re just being so *legalist*.

    1 Cor 11:5-6: …any woman who prays or prophesies with her head unveiled dishonors her head—it is the same as if her head were shaven. For if a woman will not veil herself, then she should cut off her hair; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her wear a veil.

    ‘Tis rather amusing to listen to the, “Well, I follow the bible alone!” crowd navigate this one. Again, culture leads and justifications follow…

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  27. ChevalierdeJohnstone

    You say, “Given the troubles of the Catholic Church, and some rumors of feminization of the Orthodox Church…”

    This is Leftist Cant. What troubles are you talking about? What rumors? Are they true?

    You’re mis-referencing Isaiah as well. The “remnant” refers to those who remain faithful to God. So who is that? You’ve catalogued several groups who, in your opinion, are not remaining true followers of Christ. So who is left? What is the population of this “Remnant Territory” whereof you speak? Other than yourself, of course.

  28. @ ChevalierdeJohnstone

    This is Leftist Cant. What troubles are you talking about? What rumors? Are they true?

    If you don’t know at least some of the troubles I’m talking about, then I just don’t know what to say. You clearly have the internet, so its not like you couldn’t have been aware of them. Setting aside all the lawsuits and coverups, the Western Church is imploding. Membership is falling off dramatically. Now, if it were just the “cafeteria Catholic” types who were leaving, I wouldn’t mind so much. But many of them are staying. Its the youth who are leaving and not returning. Thank the Lord of the Latin Mass churches out there.

    As for the Orthodox Church, I should have mentioned some of them in the post itself. Basically, some months back when I was looking into the Orthodox Church I was read a number of stories online about how both the laity and the priesthood in the OC was becoming increasingly feminist. Especially the laity. This bodes ill, as the future leaders of the church are being reared by those feminist parents.

    I guess I was less than clear about the remnant. What I meant was that those who remain faithful will become few in number. I would expect (setting aside denominational disagreements of theology) that the more traditional members of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches will keep to the faith, as well as some of the most conservative Protestant groups. But those numbers will be (proportionally) very small.

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