Letters to the Editor
Readers write about whether evangelicalism in America is on the verge of collapse.
Is evangelical Christianity on the way out in America?
Regarding the March 10 Opinion piece, "The coming evangelical collapse": This commentary refers to "the arrival of an anti-Christian chapter of the post-Christian West," yet provides no evidence of how this development might be experienced in (for example) contemporary Europe, where religious believers and secularists are engaged in a complex yet civilized debate about the origin and future of mankind.
The commentary is too simplistic to provide a solid foundation for reform and renewal in the evangelical movement. Christianity has always confronted resistance and persecution, and will continue to do so in the 21st century. It is in the courageous response to such persecution that the strength and vitality of Christian faith and practice is revealed.
This is a thoughtful article by a thoughtful person, but it misses the real reason why evangelical Christianity is dying: It's in the name. It's evangelical. Its adherents feel the need to "evangelize," to "bring people to the faith." That is the thing that people are going to resist in the 21st century.
While it may be true that the secularization of society may lead to increased persecution of Evangelicals, it does not follow that evangelicalism will collapse. Michael Spencer has a very limited perspective of what he views as "the evangelical" church. It is not all consumer-driven megachurches, dying churches, or fragile churches. While it once could be said that evangelicalism has been preoccupied with politics and social issues, this is no longer the case. It is far from perfect, but the evangelical church is thriving.
This commentary accurately addresses many of the weaknesses of evangelical Christianity. But it underestimates evangelicalism's strengths. If the conservative agenda has taken a hit recently, it would be unwise of Evangelicals to "adapt" to the new situation by hiding their principles as well as their Christian identity. If Evangelicals are converting to Orthodox and Roman Catholic denominations, it is not an abandonment of evangelical principles, but rather a discovery of the fact that these ancient faiths have the deep-rootedness that Mr. Spencer recommends to the evangelical community. If Christianity has largely succeeded in terms of its social impact, it is because we have always put a premium on personal sanctity over public policy.
The reason the Evangelicals are self-destructing is that instead of serving, they wanted to rule. This commentary is full of ideas for how Evangelicals can still come out on top. That's not a very Christian attitude.
Perhaps the evangelical collapse that Mr. Spencer predicts is justified. Evangelicals spend their resources picking political battles rather than focusing on nonpartisan acts of Christianity. This is not the message of Christ. One should not go to church in hopes of "getting something out of it." Christians go to church to worship and be humbled, not to be elevated as culture warriors. I hope that a new church rises, focusing on the humble rather than the combative.
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