Helping front office teams grow better

Why are people "deconstructing" and becoming "exvangelical"? - #378

It's Holy Week. So let's talk about the American Religion.

It's been almost a year since I read up Jon Ward's book Testimony and wrote about its resonance with my religious background and journey. It takes its place on my shelf somewhere between Jesusland, In the Land of the Believers, and Half Broke HorsesThere are a few more entrants on that shelf, especially if you expand the shelf to include the authors questioning the overlay of religious fundamentalism and rightwing politics. (And with the way my double-stacked shelves go, you really have to expand the categories.)

This week I noticed that a few pundits whom I have vaguely followed published religious-political memoirs. The one I linked to below pulls a thread the Jon Ward's book got close to, but didn't quite address:

I wonder if the identity of "evangelical," promoted by figures such as Billy Graham and institutions like Christianity Today as a kinder, gentler alternative to "fundamentalist," is fading.

A lesson that I intuited from Jon's book and that resonates through many of these other books is that the line between fundamentalism and the modern evangelical project disappeared. Maybe it never was a line of demarcation: Graham & co could've been wrong all along. Or, maybe, things changed: at some point after Evangelicalism "won" and also became stridently rightwing in its politics, fundamentalism crowded back in. Either way, what people like Jon and the author of the book reviewed below describe as evangelical upbringings seem really fundamentalist.

Fundamentalists were rooted in religious expression from pre-1920s. Their creationism, ancient biblical translations, and attire were reactionary in their own way. If we can analogize the Scopes Trial to Roe vs. Wade, then maybe the movements really did converge. Evangelicals ended up taking their own stand on cultural issues increasingly outside the realm of religious practice. There's little practical difference in how these movements ended up standing purposefully outside of and opposed to society.

The damage the anti-social aspects of religious fundamentalism accomplish starts with its adherents, as these memoirs crushingly make clear. Those of us who have the privilege of just being made to rethink our views and practices got off easy: a whole lot of people suffered irreversible abuse and damage. From where I sit, that's why the children of the evangelicals aren't embracing the religious practice and politics of the last generation. It seems pretty defensible.

As we enter Holy Week, the thought in my mind is to sort through what my traditions have given me. There's much to be thankful for; and, there's a fair amount to discard before it does more damage. I think that's what my tradition's Ash Wednesday prayer means when it says: "create and make in us new and contrite hearts." We should be open to newness and to discarding those things from our past that we have learned to be wrong. It's never too late to get it right.


The Exvangelical plight 

'Hurting because we followed the rules'