CHURCH HISTORY & Christian Smith explains what happened in the 1990s that led to a surge in the “nones” – the religiously unaffiliated.

by

In the early 1990s, the historical tether between American identity and faith snapped. Religious non-affiliation in the U.S. started to rise—and rise, and rise. By the early 2000s, the share of Americans who said they didn’t associate with any established religion (also known as “nones”) had doubled. By the 2010s, this grab bag of atheists, agnostics, and spiritual dabblers had tripled in size.

Christian Smith, a sociology and religion professor at the University of Notre Dame, America’s nonreligious lurch has mostly been the result of three historical events: the association of the Republican Party with the Christian right, the end of the Cold War, and 9/11.

This story begins with the rise of the religious right in the 1970s. Alarmed by the spread of secular culture—including but not limited to the sexual revolution, the Roe v. Wade decision, the nationalization of no-fault divorce laws, and Bob Jones University losing its tax-exempt status over its ban on interracial dating—Christians became more politically active. The GOP welcomed them with open arms…

The marriage between the religious and political right delivered Reagan, Bush, and countless state and local victories. But it disgusted liberal Democrats, especially those with weak connections to the Church. It also shocked the conscience of moderates, who preferred a wide berth between their faith and their politics. Smith said it’s possible that young liberals and loosely affiliated Christians first registered their aversion to the Christian right in the early 1990s, after a decade of observing its powerful role in conservative politics.

Second, it may have felt unpatriotic to confess one’s ambivalence toward God while the U.S. was locked in a geopolitical showdown with a godless Evil Empire. In 1991, however, the Cold War ended. As the U.S.S.R. dissolved, so did atheism’s association with America’s nemesis. After that, “nones” could be forthright about their religious indifference, without worrying that it made them sound like Soviet apologists.

Third, America’s next geopolitical foe wasn’t a godless state. It was a God-fearing, stateless movement: radical Islamic terrorism. A series of bombings and attempted bombings in the 1990s by fundamentalist organizations such as al-Qaeda culminated in the 9/11 attacks. It would be a terrible oversimplification to suggest that the fall of the Twin Towers encouraged millions to leave their church, Smith said. But over time, al-Qaeda became a useful referent for atheists who wanted to argue that all religions were inherently destructive.

Read more at … https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/09/atheism-fastest-growing-religion-us/598843/

CHURCH HISTORY & Fundamentalism turns 100: What it is and why it is a landmark for the Christian Right

by  Professor of History, University of Dayton, The Conversation, 10/8/19.

These days, the term “fundamentalism” is often associated with a militant form of Islam.

But the original fundamentalist movement was actually Christian. And it was born in the United States a century ago this year.

Protestant fundamentalism is still very much alive. And, as Susan Trollinger and I discuss in our 2016 book, it has fueled today’s culture war over gender, sexual orientation, science and American religious identity.

Roots of Fundamentalism

Christian fundamentalism has roots in the 19th century, when Protestants were confronted by two challenges to traditional understandings of the Bible.

Throughout the century, scholars increasingly evaluated the Bible as a historical text. In the process they raised questions about its divine origins, given its seeming inconsistencies and errors.

In addition, Charles Darwin’s 1859 book “On the Origin of Species” – which laid out the theory of evolution by natural selection – raised profound questions about the Genesis account of creation.

Many American Protestants easily squared their Christian faith with these ideas. Others were horrified.

Conservative theologians responded by developing the doctrine of biblical inerrancy. Inerrancy asserts that the Bible is errorless and factually accurate in everything it says – including about science.

This doctrine became the theological touchstone of fundamentalism. Alongside inerrancy emerged a system of ideas, called apocalyptic or “dispensational premillennialism.”

Adherents of these ideas hold that reading the Bible literally – particularly the Book of Revelation – reveals that history will end soon with a ghastly apocalypse.

All those who are not true Christians will be slaughtered. In the wake of this violence, Christ will establish God’s millennial kingdom on Earth.

Setting the stage

A series of Bible and prophecy conferences spread these ideas to thousands of Protestants across the United States in the late 19th century.

But two early 20th-century publications were particularly key to their dissemination.

The first was author Cyrus Scofield’s 1909 Reference Bible. Scofield’s Bible included an overwhelming set of footnotes emphasizing that the errorless Bible predicts a violent end of history which only true Christians will survive.

The second was “The Fundamentals,” 12 volumes published between 1910 and 1915 which made the case for biblical inerrancy while simultaneously attacking socialism and affirming capitalism.

“The Fundamentals” provided the name of the future religious movement. But there was not yet a fundamentalist movement.

That came after World War I.

The birth of the Fundamentalist Movement

After Woodrow Wilson’s April 1917 declaration of war on Germany, the government mobilized a huge propaganda campaign designed to demonize the Germans as barbarous Huns who threatened Western civilization. Many conservative Protestants traced Germany’s devolution into depravity to its embrace of Darwinism and de-emphasis of the Bible’s divine origins.

Six months after the war’s end, William Bell Riley – pastor of Minneapolis’ First Baptist Church and a well-known speaker on the Bible’s prophecies regarding the end of history – organized and presided over the World’s Conference on Christian Fundamentals in Philadelphia.

This five-day May 1919 meeting attracted over 6,000 people and an all-star lineup of conservative Protestant speakers. It produced the World’s Christian Fundamentals Association, which birthed a movement that influences American political and social life today.

In summer and fall of 1919 Riley sent teams of speakers to spread the fundamentalist word across the U.S. In addition to promoting biblical inerrancy and apocalyptic premillennialism, they attacked socialism and Darwinism.

Soon, Riley and his newly minted fundamentalists began trying to capture control of major Protestant denominations and eliminate the teaching of Darwinian evolution from American public schools…

Understanding Christian America to be under deadly assault, in the late 1970s these politically conservative fundamentalists began to organize.

The emergent Christian Right attached itself to the Republican Party, which was more aligned with its members’ central commitments than the Democrats.

In the vanguard was Baptist preacher Jerry Falwell Sr. His “Moral Majority” sought to make America Christian again by electing “pro-family, pro-life, pro-Bible morality” candidates.

…Since the 1980s, the movement has become increasingly sophisticated. Christian Right organizations like Focus on the Family and Concerned Women of America push for laws that reflect the fundamentalist views on everything from abortion to sexual orientation.
By the time Falwell died, in 2007, the Christian Right had become the most important constituency in the Republican Party. It played a crucial role in electing Donald Trump in 2016.

After one century, Protestant fundamentalism is still very much alive in America. William Bell Riley, I wager, would be pleased.

Read more at … https://theconversation.com/fundamentalism-turns-100-a-landmark-for-the-christian-right-123651

 

EVANGELICALISM & where the term came from and why politics is now fracturing it.

by Alan Jacobs PhD, Baylor Univeristy, The Atlantic, 9/22/19.

The Scopes Trial—especially as reported by H. L. Mencken’s outraged mockery of William Jennings Bryan’s insistence that Darwinian theory and Christianity are incompatible—established evangelicals in the American public mind as ignorant yahoos who could safely be ignored. (That Mencken had great respect for more thoughtful evangelicals, including the conservative Presbyterian J. Gresham Machen, went unnoticed. It’s instructive to contrast Mencken’s obituary of Bryan with his obituary of Machen.) This general dismissal by journalists and intellectuals lasted until the rise of self-declared evangelical Jimmy Carter, which led to Time magazine declaring 1976 The Year of the Evangelical.

But this is where the strangest, and perhaps the most consequential, chapter in the history of American evangelicalism began. For in the 1980 election the newly confident evangelical movement, in their self-understanding as the Moral Majority, supported not their coreligionist Jimmy Carter but the divorced former Hollywood actor Ronald Reagan. And that inaugurated the affiliation of white American evangelicals with the Republican Party that has lasted to this day. As Kidd explains,

Forming the Moral Majority freed [Falwell] from tax regulations against direct political advocacy by churches. Unlike [Billy] Graham, Falwell did not begin by seeking access to the top levels of power. Instead, he sought to mobilize fundamentalists and evangelicals to change the occupants of political offices. He told Christians that it was sinful not to vote. Asking pastors to hold voter registration drives, Falwell told them that they needed to get people “saved, baptized, and registered” to vote. The agenda of the Republican evangelical insiders was born.

The precise contours of what happened to evangelicals during the Carter administration are still hotly debated by historians. Certainly abortion rights—which Carter supported and Reagan did not—played a major role, even though that was a recent priority for evangelicals. More generally, the social conservatism of many evangelicals, especially in the South, made them feel less and less at home with the comparatively progressive sexual and racial politics of the Democratic Party. And the fact that Reagan could speak openly of God—in the Sixties, well after his divorce and remarriage, he had had some kind of religious awakening, and became a regular attender of Bel Air Presbyterian Church in Los Angeles—sweetened the pill.

But, it seems to me that, of all the traits that attracted evangelicals to Reagan, perhaps the most important was Reagan’s sunny and fervent patriotism. Already white American evangelicals had a tendency to associate Christianity closely with the American experiment, and to think of their country as a “Christian nation,” or at the very least actuated by “Judeo-Christian values.” But as the decades passed and American church leaders in almost all denominations became less interested in traditional Christian doctrines and more interested in what some scholars have come to call Moralistic Therapeutic Deism, a larger and larger proportion of white evangelicals became what Pew Research calls “God-and-Country Believers.” These folks, almost all of whom are white, may not attend church often or at all, and they may not be interested in, or even aware of, the beliefs that have typically characterized evangelical Christians, but they know this much: they believe in God, and they believe in America, they love Donald Trump because he speaks blunt Truth to culturally elite Power, and when asked by pollsters whether they are evangelicals they say Yes.

… there are many millions of non-white evangelicals in America, and not very many of them voted for Donald Trump. So we now have a peculiar situation in which people who don’t know what the term “evangelical” historically connotes and who massively distrust one another—God-and-Country Moralistic Therapeutic Deists on the one hand, and a press that simply doesn’t get religion on the other—have combined to take the term away from those of us who know and care about its history.

Read more of Evangelical Has Lost Its Meaning at …https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/09/the-end-of-evangelical/598423/

SYMBOLS & St. Augustine’s evangelistic rationale for depicting Christ on the crucifix

by Phil Kozlowski, Aleteia, 3/22/19.

St. Augustine in the 4th century offered a perfect summary of why Catholics use a crucifix.

The death of the Lord our God should not be a cause of shame for us; rather, it should be our greatest hope, our greatest glory. In taking upon himself the death that he found in us, he has most faithfully promised to give us life in him, such as we cannot have of ourselves.

He loved us so much that, sinless himself, he suffered for us sinners the punishment we deserved for our sins. How then can he fail to give us the reward we deserve for our righteousness, for he is the source of righteousness? How can he, whose promises are true, fail to reward the saints when he bore the punishment of sinners, though without sin himself?

Brethren, let us then fearlessly acknowledge, and even openly proclaim, that Christ was crucified for us; let us confess it, not in fear but in joy, not in shame but in glory.

Read more at … https://aleteia.org/2019/03/22/why-do-catholics-use-crucifixes-that-show-jesus-on-the-cross/

CHURCH HISTORY & A Video Introduction to Chuck Smith of Calvary Chapel, Costa Mesa, CA and the Beginnings of the Calvary Chapel denomination.

(produced by Calvary Productions 2013)

Watch more at … https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JSy6UpiAtXw

CHURCH HISTORY & A Timeline of the Jesus Movement

by Larry Eskridge, World Religions & Spirituality Project, Virginia Commonwealth University, 10/15/16.

JESUS PEOPLE MOVEMENT TIMELINE (See a more detailed timeline here)

1965-1966:  The counterculture emerged within bohemian districts in several American cities, particularly in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood of San Francisco.

1967:  The Evangelical Concerns non-profit was established in the Bay Area to promote work among hippies; opening of Living Room mission center in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury and “House of Acts” commune in Novato, California, the first recognized appearance of “hippie Christians.”

1968:  Evangelical outreaches to the countercultural and drug culture youth emerged in Southern California. These included David Berg’s “Teens for Christ” (Huntington Beach), Arthur Blessitt’s Sunset Strip mission His Place (Los Angeles), Don Williams’ Salt Company coffeehouse (Los Angeles).

1968:  Chuck Smith, pastor of the Calvary Chapel, a middling-sized church in Costa Mesa, CA connected with the Living Room’s Lonnie and Connie Frisbee. Along with John Higgins, they open the House of Miracles, the first of numerous communal homes in Orange County.

1969:  The Christian World Liberation Front (CWLF) was established in Berkeley, California by former Campus Crusade for Christ staffers.

1969:  John Higgins moved to Oregon and began the Shiloh Youth Revival Center commune near Eugene.

1969:  David Berg’s group abandoned Huntington Beach and took to the road, picking up the name “Children of God.”

1970:  A distinct Jesus People “scene” took root in Southern California with well over one hundred churches, coffeehouses, centers, and communal homes identifying with the movement.

1970:  Significant Jesus People centers emerged in Atlanta, Kansas City, Wichita, Buffalo, Norfolk, Akron, Fort Wayne, Cincinnati, Milwaukee, suburban Chicago, suburban New York City, and other scattered cities across the country.

1971:  Evangelist Billy Graham publicized the Jesus People presence at the Tournament of Roses parade; a flood of national coverage ensues and the movement becomes strong in the Midwest.

1971:  The Oregon-based Shiloh Youth Revival Centers had over 1,000 full-time members in its communal homes across the country.

1971:  The Associated Press named the Jesus People one of its “Top Ten Stories of 1971.”

1972 (June):  Campus Crusade for Christ held a youth evangelism conference in Dallas that featured Jesus People themes and musical artists. EXPLO ‘72 attracted 85,000 and a culminated music rally draws an estimated 180,000.

1973:  By the end of 1972, over fifty books on, by, or connected with, the Jesus People movement have been published.

1973:  Jesus People USA arrived on Chicago’s North Side and set up a permanent base of operations.

1976:  Jesus Music festivals proliferated across the country during the summer of 1975.

1976:  The Bay Area’s Evangelical Concerns, Inc., underwriter of the Living Room mission back in 1967, decided to close down.

1979:  The Hollywood Free Paper ceased publication.

1980:  Shiloh closed its doors.

FOUNDER/MOVEMENT HISTORY 

The Jesus People was an amorphous, youth-centered, Pentecostal and fundamentalist-leaning religious movement that sprang up all around North America in the late 1960s as the result of interactions between members of the hippie counterculture and evangelical pastors and youth workers. The movement spread across the country in the early 1970s, but by the end of the decade it had largely disappeared. While the movement’s enduring institutional footprint was minimal (and in such cases as the Calvary Chapel network, often overlooked), its ongoing impact upon the evangelical subculture in terms of music, worship, and the relationship to youth and popular culture were pervasive.

With the development of the counterculture and the attendant rise of a new drug culture in the mid-1960s, contact between hippies and evangelical “straights” was inevitable. Tracing its precise beginnings is difficult, but ongoing evangelistic outreach to bohemian youth and drug users, greatly stimulated by the publication of David Wilkerson’s 1963 book The Cross and the Switchblade (Bustraan 2014:68-70), resulted in relatively unpublicized local ministries in Detroit, Fort Lauderdale, Norfolk, and other cities with bohemian youth populations that resembled what later came to be labeled “Jesus People.”

Read more here … https://wrldrels.org/2016/10/24/jesus-people-movement/

CHURCH HISTORY & A Timeline of the Association of Vineyard Churches via Virginia Commonwealth University

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: While earning my first doctorate, a Doctor of Ministry at Fuller Theological Seminary, one of my professors was the renowned practical theologian (and co-founder of the singing group “The Righteous Brothers“): John Wimber.

He gave me the opportunity to analyze the growth of a new denomination he was leading: The Association of Vineyard Churches. During my research, I noticed how the movement eventually lost some of the innovation and momentum from which it was born.

In an effort to avoid such missteps in church planting, venue launches and start-up ministries, I conducted Doctor of Ministry research. Here is a helpful introduction to the Vineyard denomination researched by the scholars at Virginia Commonwealth University.

ASSOCIATION OF VINEYARD CHURCHES TIMELINE  

by John C. Peterson, World Religions and Spirituality Project, 9/4/16.

1934 (February 25):  John Wimber was born in Kirksville, Missouri or Peoria, Illinois.

c1940:  Wimber received his first saxophone.

c1946:  Wimber and his mother moved to California.

1949:  Wimber made his first professional appearance.

1955:  Wimber met his future wife, Carol, a member of The Paramours, her prom band. The couple was married seven months later. The Paramours would work the Las Vegas circuit for the next five years. Wimber (as Johnny Wimber) played keyboards.

1960:  The Wimbers faced a marriage crisis and separated. The separation ended when each cried out to God for help. The couple remarried in the Roman Catholic Church. They also attended a Friends Meeting and Bible studies. Carol began Bible studies in their home.

1962:  The Wimbers recruited Bobby Hatfield and Bill Medley for The Paramours. The group later became The Righteous Brothers, originally with Wimber on keyboards.

1962:  Through Paramours‘ drummer Dick Heyling, the Wimbers met Quaker lay evangelist Gunner Payne and began attending Payne’s Bible studies at Heyling’s home.

1963:  John and Carol Wimber had near-simultaneous conversion experiences at one of Payne’s Bible studies. The Wimbers continued leadership involvement with Bible study groups through the Friends Meeting, with Gunner Payne at the Heylings, and in their own home, beginning a period of intense evangelism.

c1967:  John Wimber felt called to leave the music business and enrolled in Azusa Pacific University to study the Bible for three years.

1970:  Upon graduation, Wimber was “registered” (ordained) by Society of Friends. He became assistant pastor of Yorba Linda Friends meeting and continued to lead a number of Bible studies which became increasingly intense and well attended. They came to the attention of the Southern California religious community.

1974:  John and Carol Wimber and forty of their Bible study students were asked to leave the Friends Meeting. John was invited by C. Peter Wagner to help found the new Fuller Institute for Church Growth.

1975-1978:  Wimber taught church growth and planting as an adjunct faculty at Fuller while continuing to lead growing Bible studies.

1977:  Bible studies grew and were incorporated as a congregation of Calvary Chapel.

1979:  Wimber met Ken Gullicksen, another member of the Calvary Chapel movement, at a retreat.

1980:  Lonnie Frisbee preached to Wimber’s congregation on Mother’s Day, triggering an outpouring of charismatic phenomena.

1982-1986:  Wimber and Wagner taught a Signs, Wonders, and Church Growth course at Fuller.

1982:  Wimber broke with Calvary Chapel over Wimber’s increasing emphasis on charismatic phenomena, and, with several other Calvary Chapel groups, joined with Gullicksen’s group of Vineyard churches. Gullicksen asked Wimber to take the lead.

1982:  Vineyard Christian Fellowship of Anaheim was incorporated.

1984:  Vineyard Ministries International was established.

1985:  The Association of Vineyard Churches incorporated. Mercy Music (later Vineyard Music) was established.

1986:  Wimber published his book Power Evangelism. 

1986:  Wimber suffered a heart attack.

1988:  Wimber established close relationships with prophetic figures of the Kansas City Fellowship (which was renamed The Kansas City Vineyard).

1991:  Wimber became disillusioned with the Kansas City “prophets” and broke off the relationship.

1994:  The “Toronto Blessing” revival broke out at Toronto Airport Vineyard Church. It drew international attention to extreme charismatic phenomena.

1993-1995:  Wimber received cancer diagnosis and suffered a stroke.

1995:  Wimber observed the “Toronto Blessing” revival and cuts ties with it.

1997 (July):  Wimber installed Todd Hunter as National Coordinator of The Association of Vineyard Churches.

1997 (November):  Wimber died of massive brain hemorrhage.

2000:  Hunter resigned his position. The board named Bert Waggoner of Sugarland, Texas, to succeed him.

2011:  Waggoner retired and was replaced by Phil Strout of Maine.

FOUNDER/GROUP HISTORY 

The Association of Vineyard Churches (or the Vineyard movement) grew out of the Jesus movement that developed within the “hippie” culture of Southern California in the 1960s. This movement was built more around gifted evangelists working mostly through home-based Bible study groups rather than through established churches. Many of these groups involved music scene figures, some of whom were fairly prominent.

Three of those evangelists who were exceptionally successful ended up involved in the creation of two new denominations: Chuck Smith turned his Bible study groups into the Calvary Chapel movement (Chapel on the Vine 2015), and Ken Gullicksen turned his groups into what would become the Vineyard Churches. The third, the very gifted Lonnie Frisbee, was a key figure in both movements, but he is rarely mentioned today because of his struggle with homosexuality (Randles n.d.). A fourth key figure in the Bible study phenomenon was John Wimber.

Read more at … https://wrldrels.org/2016/10/08/association-of-vineyard-churches/