A college friend, Dave Lester, posted a few thoughts on secular humanism. Dave is sort of a post-evangelical, of sorts. He still considers himself an evangelical but unlike most evangelicals, Dave remains truly engaged, both intellectually and emotionally, with “the world.”
I post a good bit about evangelical Christians. I’d rather not, but I do. I do it because evangelicals are some of the real movers and shakers within Cult Trump and are more or less responsible for this den of thieves that is otherwise known as the Republican Party. (And of course, I’m a former evangelical m’self.) You can ignore them, but evangelicals are the engine driving the Trump Train forward, pushing the United States toward the edge of the cliff.
So, back to my friend Dave. Here’s a paragraph that caught my eye:
Ross Douthat, a New York Times columnist (and one of my favorites by the way), commented on the psychology of the Evangelical movement in America by exploring the ideas of Christian Smith: “About 20 years ago, the eminent sociologist of religion Christian Smith coined a useful and resonant phrase, describing evangelical Christianity in the post-1960s United States as both ‘embattled and thriving.’ By this Smith meant that evangelicals had maintained an identity in a secularizing country that was neither separatist nor assimilated, but somehow mainstream and countercultural at once.” In other words, Evangelical Christianity wielded a surprising amount of influence and power and yet was able to communicate a message to those of us within the ranks that we were being attacked. The assault often portrayed as being carried out by those secular humanists lurking in the shadows and anxious to destroy our sacred faith. (emphasis added) see Jesus and Secular Humanism: A Discourse
Amen, I say — as a former evangelical I can testify! Evangelicals have fully embraced capitalism, making a lot of money and stridently defending the system. They’ve used that wealth and power to influence politics and to try to build their own institutions (schools, museums, etc.) Yet despite the scope of their power, most maintain that they are a persecuted minority. This isn’t without basis. The greater culture has, in fact, moved beyond “traditional values,” on sexuality, primarily.
[Franklin] Graham told a reporter from the evangelical magazine World that the persecution Christians face in the U.S. is “maybe not having your head cut off,” which is what happens to religious minorities in the Middle East. But “there’s not too big of a difference here.”
Hence, evangelicals are essentially of the world (in the worst sense, imo) but not in the world.
This is strictly my observation from being in the evangelical fold, but from my experience, many of the older evangelicals often see themselves as smarter than everyone else — they have fully invested in capitalism and succeeded at playing the game, and yet at the same time they see themselvs as countercultural, as persecuted, and as needing to battle back, against the secular/liberal forces that they see as lined against them and against the Bible and against God himself. Hence, Trump is an unlikely savior but a hero nonetheless, a big talking tough-guy sent by God to beat back the tide of liberalism.
I don’t see evangelicals changing any time soon, at least not the old guard — and the old guard Baby Boomers have a death grip on the movement. It will probably get worse before it gets better. As capitalism increasingly comes under attack, and as more and more disillusioned younger evangelicals leave the fold, I see old guard evangelicals as entrenching further, seeing themselves as the last hope, the great defenders of the faith and of all that’s decent in the world.
Unfortunately, this means that there will continue to be a significant voting block supporting Cult Trump, and doing so with religious zeal. I had hoped that after leaving evangelicalism, I could be done with it — but god dammit 2016 happened.
“I think Donald Trump has changed. I think God is working on his heart and in his life. But people have to make up their own mind.” (Franklin Graham)
Further Reading: The Atlantic recently did an in-depth on Franklin Graham, Franklin Graham is the Evangelical Id