Evangelicalism in the United States

Evangelicalism in the United States is an umbrella group of Protestant Christians who believe in the necessity of being born again, emphasize the importance of evangelism, and affirm traditional Protestant teachings on the authority and the historicity of the Bible .

QuotesEdit

 
The gravitational pull of white evangelicals has been less visible. But it could have far-reaching policy consequences.~ Julian Borger
 
For Pompeo’s audience, the rapture invoked an apocalyptical Christian vision of the future, a final battle between good and evil, and the second coming of Jesus Christ, when the faithful will ascend to heaven and the rest will go to hell. ~ Julian Borger
 
Evangelicals, in religious terminology, believe that Jesus Christ is the savior of humanity. They have a long history in America, and include a number of different groups, including Baptists, Pentecostals, Methodists and nondenominational churches. After the schism among the Baptists, Methodists and Presbyterians in the 1850s over slavery, conservative denominations like the Southern Baptists — who defended slavery through their readings of scripture — came into being. And because the primary schisms between northern and southern denominations was over the issues of slavery, in the pre- and post-Civil War years, African American Protestants formed their own denominations. ~ Anthea Butler
 
Evangelical denominations formed from these splits in the South were usually comprised of people who had made money from slavery or supported it. After the Civil War many were more likely to have supported the Ku Klux Klan and approved of (or participated in) lynching. The burning cross of the KKK, for instance, was a symbol of white Christian supremacy, designed both to put fear into the hearts of African Americans and to highlight the supposed Christian righteousness of the terrorist act. ~ Anthea Butler
 
White evangelicals, for example, are in general keenly alert to Trump's white nationalist, nativist leanings. When he orders families separated at the southern border, most white evangelicals are right there with him... When he invites children visiting the White House to help build his border wall with their own personalized bricks, his loyal white evangelicals are right there with him. ~ Neil Macdonald
 
He (Billy Graham) was not so much "America's pastor" as its greatest evangelical entrepreneur – the man who launched a whole separatist (and lucrative) Christian media culture, who laid the foundations for megachurches and prosperity ministries, who brought Jesus back into American politics. ~ Bob Moser
 
Many white Christian evangelicals in the United States have long believed that America has a God-given mission to save the world. ~ Jeffrey Sachs
 
White evangelicals represent only around 17% of the US adult population, but comprise around 26% of voters. They vote overwhelmingly Republican (an estimated 81% in 2016), making them the party’s single most important voting bloc. ~ Jeffrey Sachs
  • No evangelical seriously argues that divorce isn’t bad; nor am I suggesting that evangelicals condone divorce. The issue is one of selective literalism. Most evangelicals worry very little about biblical proscriptions against usury or about Paul’s warning that “every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head.” Those admonitions, they claim, are culturally determined and therefore dismissible. But those evangelicals who still oppose the ordination of women, on the other hand, choose to interpret Paul’s instructions to Timothy literally: “I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.”
    The Religious Right takes similar tack on the matter of divorce. Evangelicals generally, and the Religious Right in particular, chose around 1980 to deemphasize radically the many New Testament denunciations of divorce and to shift their condemnations to abortion and, later, to homosexuality-all the while claiming to remain faithful to the immutable truths of the scriptures. The ruse of selective literalism allowed them to dismiss as culturally determined the New Testament prosciptions against divorce and women with uncovered heads, but they refused to read Paul’s apparent condemnations of homosexuality as similarly rooted in-and, arguably, in terms of application, limited to-the historical and social circumstances of the first century.
    One way to hart this transition is to look through the pages of ‘’Christianity Today’’, the flagship magazine of evangelicalism and the most reliable bellwether of evangelical sentiments, beginning in the 1970s and continuing through the 1980s. Over the course of those years, a remarkable change occurred. During the 1970s, by my count ‘’Christianity Today’’ ran eight articles and editorials decrying the growing rate of divorce among evangelicals; by the 1980s, however, after Ronald Reagan’s election, those denunciations ceased almost entirely as evangelical condemnations shifted to other more elusive targets: abortions and, eventually, homosexuality.
  • Initially, I found Weyrich’s admission jarring. He declared, in effect, that the origins of the Religious Right lay in ‘’Green v. Connally’’ rather than ‘’Roe v. Wade’’. I quickly concluded, however, that his story made a great deal of sense. When I was growing up within the evangelical subculture, there was an unmistakably defensive cast to evangelicalism. I recall many presidents of colleges or Bible institutes coming through our churches to recruit students and to raise money. One of their recurrent themes was, We don’t accept federal money, so the government can’t tell us how to run our shop-whom to hire of fire or what kind of rules to live by. The IRS attempt to deny tax-exempt status to segregated private schools, then, represented an assault on the evangelical subculture, something that raised an alarm among many evangelical leaders, who mobilized against it.
    For his part, Weyrich saw the evangelical discontent over the Bob Jones case as the opening he was looking for to start a new conservative movement using evangelicals as foot soldiers. Although both the ‘’green’’ decision of 1971 and the IRS action against Bob Jones University in 1975 predated Jimmy Carter’s presidency, Weyrich succeeded in blaming Carter for efforts to revoke the tax exempt status of segregated Christian schools. He recruited James Dobson and Jerry Falwell to the cause, the latter of whom complained, “In some states it’s easier open a massage parlor than to open a Christian school.”
  • The elaborate construction and propagation of the abortion myth, together with the ruse of selective literalism, which diverted evangelicals from their birthright of fidelity to the Bible suggests the perils of pandering for power. What should we read into the fact that evangelical conservatives dropped their longstanding denunciations of divorce about the same time they embraced Ronald Reagan, a divorced and remarried man, as their political savior in 1980?
  • "I don't find much that I recognize as Christian" in the religious right, says Balmer, a professor of religion at Barnard College, Columbia University and contributing editor to Christianity Today.
    He says blind allegiance to the Republican Party has distorted the faith of politically active evangelicals, leading them to misguided positions on issues such as abortion and homosexuality.
    "They have taken something that is lovely and redemptive and turned it into something that is ugly and retributive," Balmer says.
    He argues that modern evangelicals have abandoned the spirit of their movement, which was founded in 19th-century activism on issues that helped those on the fringes of society: abolition, women's suffrage and universal education.
    "I don't find any correlation in the agenda of the religious right today," Balmer says.
  • White evangelicals were conspicuous by their absence in the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Where were Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell and Billy Graham on August 28, 1963, during the March on Washington or on Sunday, March 7, 1965, when Martin Luther King Jr. and religious leaders from other traditions linked arms on the march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, to stare down the ugly face of racism?
    Falwell and others who eventually became leaders of the Religious Right, in fact, explicitly condemned the civil rights movement. "Believing the Bible as I do," Falwell proclaimed in 1965, "I would find it impossible to stop preaching the pure saving gospel of Jesus Christ, and begin doing anything else—including fighting Communism, or participating in civil-rights reforms." This makes all the more outrageous the occasional attempts by leaders of the Religious Right to portray themselves as the "new abolitionists" in an effort to link their campaign against abortion to the nineteenth century crusade against slavery.
  • The gravitational pull of white evangelicals has been less visible. But it could have far-reaching policy consequences. Vice President Mike Pence and Pompeo both cite evangelical theology as a powerful motivating force.
    Just as he did in Cairo, Pompeo called on the congregation of a Kansan megachurch three years ago to join a fight of good against evil.
    “We will continue to fight these battles,” the then congressman said at the Summit church in Wichita. “It is a never-ending struggle … until the rapture. Be part of it. Be in the fight.”
    For Pompeo’s audience, the rapture invoked an apocalyptical Christian vision of the future, a final battle between good and evil, and the second coming of Jesus Christ, when the faithful will ascend to heaven and the rest will go to hell.
  • Evangelicalism is on a collision course with a culture that is rapidly liberalizing on two areas that define evangelical theology: their view of homosexuality and the role of women in the life of the church. Nearly 80% of Americans under the age of 35 support same-sex marriage, and just 8.8% believe that women should not be able to preach. That leaves the white evangelical church a choice. First, it could stand on doctrine and say that fidelity to orthodox evangelicalism is worth the price of potentially shrinking in size. There is integrity in this path. I’ve had many evangelicals tell me, “God does not care about public opinion polls.” As a social scientist who is also a pastor, I’m sympathetic to the view that God can change hearts.
    Alternatively, evangelicalism could begin to slowly shift its stance on issues like women pastors and same-sex relations. There is some evidence that, on the issue of homosexuality, there has already been some softening. Work by Paul Djupe found that while 90% of evangelicals believed that their house of worship forbade homosexuality in 2007, that has dropped to 65% in 2020.
  • Evangelicals, in religious terminology, believe that Jesus Christ is the savior of humanity. They have a long history in America, and include a number of different groups, including Baptists, Pentecostals, Methodists and nondenominational churches. After the schism among the Baptists, Methodists and Presbyterians in the 1850s over slavery, conservative denominations like the Southern Baptists — who defended slavery through their readings of scripture — came into being. And because the primary schisms between northern and southern denominations was over the issues of slavery, in the pre- and post-Civil War years, African American Protestants formed their own denominations.
    Evangelical denominations formed from these splits in the South were usually comprised of people who had made money from slavery or supported it. After the Civil War many were more likely to have supported the Ku Klux Klan and approved of (or participated in) lynching. The burning cross of the KKK, for instance, was a symbol of white Christian supremacy, designed both to put fear into the hearts of African Americans and to highlight the supposed Christian righteousness of the terrorist act.
    During the civil rights movement, many white evangelicals either outright opposed Martin Luther King Jr. or, like Billy Graham, believed that racial harmony would only come about when the nation turned to God. in the 1970s, evangelicalism became synonymous with being "born again" and also against abortion and, with the rise of the Moral Majority in the late 1970s, they began to seek not only moral, but political power.
  • After 9/11, many evangelicals vilified Islam and created cottage industries and ministries promoting Islamophobia. And when Barack Obama was elected president, they regrouped, bought guns and became Tea Partiers who promoted fiscal responsibility and indulged in birtherism, promoted by no less than the son of Billy Graham, Franklin.
    Still, evangelicals have worked to make a good show of repenting for racism. From the racial reconciliation meetings of the 1990s to today, they have dutifully declared racism a sin, and Southern Baptists have apologized again for their role in American slavery — most recently in 2018 via a document outlining their role.
  • The study of religion’s role as a political force in American politics presents an intriguing puzzle. Why are conservative Christians perceived as such a potent electoral force when their rates of political participation are often lower than what is observed in the general population? From the writings of both political scientists and pundits, one might be led to believe that white evangelical Protestants are a wildly participatory religious group. For example, the standard account of the recent history of how religion and politics intersect in the U.S. generally includes the assertion that evangelical Christians were awakened from political quiescence some time in the late 1970s (Dionne,1991; Wald, 2003; Wilcox, 1996) In the words of Guth and Green, ‘‘The common view is that clergy and lay activists in theologically conservative Protestant churches represent a large, hyperactive and newly mobilized cadre of traditionalists’’(1996, p. 118). However, while there has indisputably been a rise in the role religiously conservative groups play in contemporary politics, this has simply not been accompanied by an increase in the political participation of individual religious conservatives (Miller and Shanks, 1996, P. 231).
  • While there are many ways to distinguish among America’s myriad religious denominations, one that has been demonstrated to have particular utility is there cognition that there is a sharp divide among Protestants between those who belong to evangelical and mainline denominations. The key differences are described by Steensland et al. (2000):Mainline denominations have typically emphasized an accommodating stance toward modernity, a proactive view on issues of social and economic justice, and pluralism in their tolerance of varied individual beliefs. Evangelical denominations have typically sought to more separation from the broader culture, emphasized missionary activity and individual conversion, and taught strict adherence to particular religious doctrines.
  • Mostly forgotten is the fact that, as recently as one hundred years ago, it was American Evangelical Protestants who waged the most aggressive and effective campaigns against the practice of birth control within the United States; Roman Catholics quietly applauded on the sidelines It was evangelicals who-starting in 1873-successfully built a web of federal and state laws that equated contraception with abortion, suppressed the spread of birth control information and devices, and even criminalized the use of contraceptives. And it was Evangelicals who attempted to jail early twentieth-century birth control crusaders such as Margaret Sanger. All the same, by 1973-the year the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the abortion laws of all fifty states-American Evangelical leaders had not only given a blessing to birth control; many would also welcome the court’s decision in ‘’Roe v Wade’’ as a blow for religious liberty. This book traces the transformation of American Evangelical leadership from fervent foes to quiet friends of the birth control cause. It examines, in particular, the shift in motives for this change over time: from a sweeping culture war against all forms of vice; to a desperate effort to salvage dreams of Protestant world empire; to swelling anti-Catholicism; to fear of “population explosion,” and surrender to a newly dominant culture.
  • Since Jesus came to the earth the first time 2,000 years ago as a Jewish male, many evangelicals believe the Antichrist will, by necessity, be a Jewish male. This belief is 2,000 years old and has no anti-Semitic roots. This is simply historic and prophetic orthodox Christian doctrine that many theologians, Christian and non-Christian, have understood for two millennia.
    • Jerry Falwell, Quoted in "Religion, Politics a Potent Mix for Jerry Falwell" by Steve Inskeep in Morning Edition on NPR (30 June 2006)
  • A notable fact in 2016 was that exit polls showed about 80% of white evangelical Christians supported Trump in spite of his unfamiliarity with the Bible, his divorces, his vulgar rhetoric and his association with porn stars. Trump's reputation in moral terms hasn't changed all that much during his time in office, but there is little evidence of slippage among these faith voters.
    Surveys of early voters and exit polls this year showed between 76 and 81% of white evangelical and "born again" voters supporting Trump, according to the National Election Pool and AP/Votecast.
    "We essentially have White evangelicals, somewhere around 8 in 10, supporting the president, standing by their candidate, standing by their man," says Jones.
  • "I think the Democrats should stop thinking about white evangelicals entirely," Burge says. "And I think the Republicans should take them for granted. At some point, it's like, what can you do to make them change — on the Democratic side or the Republican side?"
  • Look closely. Those are evangelical leaders and pastors — people who represent America's various streams of fundamentalist Christianity — venerating a president who, I think it's safe to say, reflects none of the qualities Jesus is believed to have embodied.
    It has become almost banal to recite Trump's ugly, vulgar, misogynist, racist mendacity, and yet here he is in an official White House photo, an image clearly meant to invoke the Last Supper, in the midst of an ecstatic laying on of hands.
    It is no exaggeration to say many evangelicals consider Trump an anointed figure; a clearly venal man somehow chosen by their God to rescue America from venality. Eighty-one per cent of white evangelicals voted for him in 2016.
  • There are only two reasonable explanations for this. Trump is the white evangelicals' version of V.I. Lenin's useful idiot, a character who is helping achieve their apocalyptic fever dreams, but who will perish along with the rest of us as the faithful perch in the clouds. Or the white evangelical version of Christianity is a darker, uglier thing than the smiles and the welcoming hugs and the blessings would have you believe.
    When he proposes removing protections from transgender people, surely among the most vulnerable of us, they're A-OK.
    When he invites children visiting the White House to help build his border wall with their own personalized bricks, his loyal white evangelicals are right there with him.
  • He (Billy Graham) was not so much "America's pastor" as its greatest evangelical entrepreneur – the man who launched a whole separatist (and lucrative) Christian media culture, who laid the foundations for megachurches and prosperity ministries, who brought Jesus back into American politics. He was a public-relations savant, a shameless sycophant who whispered sweet nothings to power in lieu of hard truths. He demonstrated what fortunes could be made, and what human glory could be attained, by transforming evangelical Christianity into a patriotic corporate entity. If that's not American, by God, what is?
    • Bob Moser, The Soul-Crushing Legacy of Billy Graham, in Rolling Stone, (23 February 2018)
  • Many white Christian evangelicals in the United States have long believed that America has a God-given mission to save the world. Under the influence of this crusading mentality, US foreign policy has often swerved from diplomacy to war. It is in danger of doing so again.
  • White evangelicals represent only around 17% of the US adult population, but comprise around 26% of voters. They vote overwhelmingly Republican (an estimated 81% in 2016), making them the party’s single most important voting bloc. That gives them powerful influence on Republican policy, and in particular on foreign policy when Republicans control the White House and Senate (with its treaty-ratifying powers). Fully 99% of Republican congressmen are Christian, of whom around 70% are Protestant, including a significant though unknown proportion of evangelicals.
  • In addition to the more personally oriented religious revival in the early nineteenth century, evangelical leaders such as Lyman Beecher initiated campaigns for social reform. Beecher expected the United States to lead the world in moral and political liberation. He hoped that the country would be an example for all others, replacing violence with intelligence and virtue (Gamble 2003, 19). For instance Alexander Hamiltons death in a duel at the hands of Aaron Burr in 1804 precipitated a crusade against dueling, and Christian luminaries took the lead in this movement. Beecher preached a well-publicized sermon against dueling, and Yale president and prominent evangelical Christian Timothy Dwight also spoke out against the practice. Although instances of dueling continued, public opinion began to shift against the increasingly archaic means of resolving personal conflicts. In 1839, after two congressmen participated in a duel in which one of them was killed, Congress finally enacted legislation making dueling illegal in the District of Columbia.
  • A major evangelical Christian concern during the 1830s was the preservation of the Christian Sabbath as a day of rest. In 1810, Congress had enacted legislation that required post offices to remain open all seven days of the week. In 1828 evangelicals established the general Union for Promoting the Observance of the Christian Sabbath to oppose this policy. One point of contention was that the federal government, by requiring the mails to run on Sunday, had overruled the state and local ordinances against breaking the Sabbath. In addition, those opposed to the Sunday mails argued that the federal government was violating the right of conscience by requiring employees to choose between keeping their jobs with the post office by working on Sundays and thus violating their conscience or observing the Sabbath according to their own religious beliefs, thereby risking the loss of their jobs. Therefore, the group argued, the First Amendment protection of free religious practice required the federal government to cease Sunday mail delivery. Supporting the compelling state interest standard, evangelicals argued that the government should refrain from limiting th free exercise of religion in the absence of an overriding reason to o otherwise. Those supporting the Sunday mails publicly accused their opponents of attempting to impair republican government and of restricting religious liberty by imposing a particular day of the week on all citizens as an official day of rest (West 1996, 157). Although the attempt to stop the Sunday mails failed, by the 1840s, many Sunday mail routes had been terminated anyway ue to improved systems of communication and transportation.
  • Surveys done in the past to examine the political participation of evangelical Protestants found low levels of participation and a tendency for this group to identify themselves as Democrats. However, analysis of denominational data in the process of writing this book indicates that voter turnout among Christian fundamentalists since the 1990s has been largely on part with the rest of the American electorate and that the Christian right has shifted from a propensity to support Democratic candidates toward greater support for Republican candidates.

See alsoEdit