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/

ALTRUISM & Are Evangelicals More Altruistic than Other Groups? Research shows …

by Ryan Burge, The Exchange, Christianity Today, 4/26/19.

… The General Social Survey asked respondents about acting in selfless ways in a number of scenarios both in 2012 and 2014. Here are the eleven situations that were asked about on the GSS: gave blood, gave food or money to a homeless person, returned money after getting too much change, allowed a stranger to go ahead of you in line, volunteered for a nonprofit, gave money to a charity, offered a seat to a stranger, looked after plants/pets for others while they are away, carried a stranger’s belongings, gave directions to a stranger, and let someone borrow an item of value.

Some of these actions are obviously more costly than other ones, but they all speak to a sense of genuine kindness and care for other people, which is something we should expect to see from Christians. So, how often do various religious traditions engage in each of these acts? The figure below tells an interesting story.

Note that there is not a lot of variation between the religious traditions.

…It may be helpful to look at places where evangelicals seem to do better than average. For instance, evangelicals are more likely to give money to charity than those who have no religious faith, but that seems like a somewhat unfair comparison because the offering plate is passed every week, while the nones have to take some initiative to make a donation.

This same is true for volunteering for a nonprofit. A significant departure also appears on the issue of giving extra money back to a cashier, where evangelicals are ten percent more likely to do so than religious nones.

There are other instances in which the nones are more likely to engage in altruism than evangelicals, though. For instance, nones are more likely to give up their seat to a stranger, as well as giving directions to someone. Taken together, it doesn’t look like people of faith significantly differentiate themselves from those who claim no religious affiliation.

To further test this, I compiled an altruism scale by adding up all 11 items and scaling them from 0 (meaning engaging in zero altruistic activities) and 100 (engaging in each of these activities multiple times a week).

…The biggest takeaway from this graph is what is not here: there is no real difference in how many acts of altruisms occur among people of faith versus those who have no religious affiliation.

I was thinking that maybe what is happening here is that nominal Catholics are being lumped in with faithfully attending Catholics or that evangelicals who go once a year to church are being grouped together with those who attend multiple times a week.

So, I had to test that idea: the more devoted one is to religious faith, the more likely one is to engage in acts of kindness to other people. The graph below splits each tradition into low-income and high-income groups because some of the acts would obviously be less costly to people who make more money (donating money, etc.).

As one moves from left to right we should expect to the line rise up, which would indicate higher scores on the altruism scale. That’s what we generally find—the more people attend services, the more altruism they engage in.

…However, the bottom right panel, which is those of no religion provides a startling result. First, note that for those nones who never attend, they act altruistically just as frequently as other Christian groups.

Read more at … https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2019/april/are-evangelicals-more-altruistic-than-other-groups.html

EVANGELICALS & Scholars Classify 5 Types: Which are you? #InfoGraphic #RNS

How can Christians support Donald Trump?” by Diane Winston, Religion News Service, 12/17/18.

…While conservative white evangelicals are a significant voting bloc and, as such, command cultural cachet, they’re not monolithic. Millions of evangelicals, notably those who aren’t white, didn’t support Trump.

The evangelical world is more complex than news coverage of Jerry Falwell Jr. and Franklin Graham would suggest. A handful of white conservative leaders, even if they don’t all agree, isn’t representative of American evangelicalism’s breadth.

That’s why a group of scholars, including evangelicals, former evangelicals and non-evangelicals who are black, white and brown, met regularly this fall to discuss and develop a typology that would describe the complexity of American evangelicalism. Those discussions eventually led my colleagues and me at the Center for Religion and Civic Culture at the University of Southern California to create a short guide on the varieties of American evangelicalism.

Illustrations classify five types of American evangelicalism. Image courtesy of USC

…The guide breaks evangelicals into five groups: Trump-vangelicals, Neo-Fundamentalist Evangelicals, iVangelicals, Kingdom Christians and Peace and Justice Evangelicals.

We used three sorting criteria.

First, each group shares a basic agreement on evangelical theology. Second, they each understand themselves as existing within the larger tradition of American evangelicalism, whether or not they refer to themselves, their churches and other organizations as “evangelical.”

Third, their theology motivates how they act in the world, including social and political activities, and their attitudes toward people who do not share their faith.

Trump-vangelicals are the most visible inheritors of the religious right’s mission to make America a Christian nation. The majority of this group is white, but some Latinos, Asians and African-Americans also belong. Many are not just concerned with electoral politics but also see their work as preparation for the Second Coming. Members stay connected through educational and media networks, including Fox News, and look to men like James Dobson, John Hagee and Franklin Graham for leadership.

Fundamentalist Evangelicals share the same worldview as Trump-vangelicals but cite moral and theological reasons for not supporting the president. However, they appreciate Trump’s making good on their agenda, and many voted for him, some holding their noses.

Unlike the Trump-vangelicals, neo-fundamentalists strive to be politically pure, motivated only by Christianity’s teachings. Notables include Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention and Tony Evans of the Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas.

iVangelicals, the largest division of American evangelicals, belong to megachurches. Mostly white, they also include Latinos, Asians and African-Americans. Though socially conservative, they are more concerned with church life than politics. Social change, they say, comes from individual conversion: people need to be saved before political structures change. Joel Osteen of Lakewood Church in Houston represents this group, as do T.D. Jakes of the Potter’s House Church of Dallas and the leadership of Hillsong.

Kingdom Christians are the most racially and ethnically diverse of the groups. Churches tend to be urban and hyper-local, and members are active in their communities, working for grassroots changes that mitigate human suffering. Because of their local orientation, few leaders are nationally known.

Peace and Justice Evangelicals make up a small but growing movement of older leaders, mostly white men, and young adherents who are racially and ethnically diverse. Though many are pro-life, they part company with other evangelicals by focusing on issues such as racial justice, gender equality, immigration reform and “creation care” — what the rest of America calls environmentalism.

Read more at … https://religionnews.com/2018/12/17/how-can-christians-support-donald-trump/

THEOLOGY & The “quadrilateral” … What it means and how its 4 distinctive qualities define “evangelical.” #Bebbington #AlanYeh

by Emma Green, The Atlantic Monthly, 3/12/18.

… Most of the writers in “Still Evangelical?” (ed. Alan Yeh, Biola Univ.) rely on a definition first published by the scholar David Bebbington in 1989, called a “quadrilateral” for its four distinctive qualities. According to Bebbington,

  • evangelicals place the truth of the Bible at the center of their faith;
  • they focus on Jesus’s atonement for sins on the cross;
  • they emphasize a personal experience of conversion or salvation;
  • and they believe they must actively share the gospel and do good in the world.

Read more at … https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/03/still-evangelical-trump/554831/

EVANGELICALS & What They Believe And Why They Are More Diverse Than You Probably Thought

by Aaron Earls, LifeWay, 11/11/16.

…To be classified as an evangelical, a person must strongly agree with four belief statements:

  • The Bible is the highest authority for what I believe
  • It is very important for me to personally engage non-Christians to trust Jesus Christ as their Savior.
  • Jesus Christ’s death on the cross is the only sacrifice that could remove the penalty of my sin.
  • Only those who trust in Jesus Christ alone as their Savior receive God’s free gift of eternal salvation.

Using this definition, American evangelicals are a diverse group. Only 3 in 5 (62 percent) are white. African Americans (18 percent), Hispanics (17 percent), and other ethnicities (4 percent) make up about 4 in 10 American evangelicals by belief.

ethnic makeup evangelical AmericanThis definition creates a way to see evangelicals primarily as a religious group, says Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research. “The evangelical label has picked up political and social overtones that mask any patterns that are actually tied to evangelical religious beliefs,” he says.

Focusing on beliefs ensures the discussion centers around “those who share common religious anchors,” McConnell says. “This is a clearly defined group of people who agree on core teachings.”

Some research organizations use self-identification or church attendance to define the term evangelical. However, those with evangelical beliefs often don’t refer to themselves as evangelicals. Others belong to denominations that may not be considered evangelical.

That is particularly true among African Americans.

More than 2 in 5 African Americans (44 percent) strongly agree with the four theological statements in LifeWay’s model, the largest percentage of any ethnic group. However, only 25 percent of African Americans with evangelical beliefs actually self-identify as evangelical.

Hispanics with evangelical beliefs are most likely to self-identify as evangelicals. Almost 4 in 5 Hispanics with evangelical beliefs (79 percent) call themselves evangelicals. Thirty percent of all Hispanic Americans hold to evangelical beliefs.

Read more at … http://factsandtrends.net/2016/11/11/evangelicals-remain-complicated/

RELIGION & What’s driving the changes seen in Pew’s Religious Landscape Study

by Pew Research Fact Tank, 5/28/15.

Based on more than 35,000 interviews, the Pew Research Center’s 2014 Religious Landscape Study presented a detailed portrait of an America where changes in religious affiliation have affected all regions of the country and many demographic groups.

The survey’s findings raise questions about why these changes are occurring.

Fact Tank sat down with David Campbell, a professor of political science at the University of Notre Dame, to explore what the new findings mean. Campbell is the author of a number of books on religion, including (along with Robert Putnam) “American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us.”

For you, what stands out as the most important new finding or findings in the Religious Landscape Study?

The rise of the religiously unaffiliated has rightly drawn a lot of attention, but it is worth pausing to consider what that rise tells us. For one thing, the secular surge demonstrates the fluid and dynamic nature of America’s religious ecosystem. Most of the people who say that their religion is “nothing in particular” or “none” were raised in a household that was at least nominally religious. In other words, the “nones” were once “somethings.” But, equally important, most of the “nones” are what we might call soft secularists. Most do not describe themselves as atheists or agnostics, which suggests that they are not totally disaffected from all aspects of religion, or from a belief in a God or higher power. In other words, this suggests that many of the “nones” are not actively opposed or hostile to religion, and that some of them might even be attracted to a new form of religion.

The pattern of growing “none”-ism also reminds us that the U.S. version of secularism is different than what we have observed in Western Europe. There, secularism has grown steadily through a process of generational replacement — each generation is more secular than the last. Here, secularism has grown rapidly, which means it cannot be explained by generational turnover. But, as I noted, the growth has largely been in soft secularism. Given the highly innovative and entrepreneurial nature of American religion, it is probable that we will see a response by religious leaders to bring those soft secularists back. Whether they will succeed is an open question, but the U.S. has gone through other periods where secularism seemed to be on the rise, only to see religion respond and stem the tide of secularism. For example, religious influence in U.S. society was waning in the 1960s, but was on the rebound by the late 1970s.

Why have mainline Protestants continued to decline dramatically, while evangelical Protestants have shown only small declines?

Evangelicalism can hold on to its adherents because it is as much a subculture as a religion. While evangelicals are typically defined by more than the church they attend on Sunday, they are also bound by mutually reinforcing expressions of culture — the schools their children attend, the movies they watch, the websites they visit, the music they listen to. The deeper someone’s immersion into such a subculture, the more their religion is an integral part of their identity, and thus hard to leave. Furthermore, evangelicalism — both as a religion and a subculture — is highly innovative, entrepreneurial, and adaptable. Evangelical congregations are often engaged in “creative destruction” by regularly introducing such things as new forms of church organization and types of worship.

In contrast, mainline Protestantism is much less likely to be all-encompassing, largely because over most of American history, the national culture had a mainline Protestant accent. Thus, there was no need for mainline Protestants to develop the sort of subculture found among evangelicals. Similarly, while there are some notable exceptions, mainline congregations are generally steeped in more tradition than their evangelical counterparts, making it more difficult to innovate…

Read more at … http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/05/27/qa-a-look-at-whats-driving-the-changes-seen-in-our-religious-landscape-study/

RELIGION & Lesbian, gay and bisexual Americans differ from general public in their religious affiliations #PewResearch

by CARYLE MURPHY, Pew Research, 5/26/15.

Although many lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) adults feel that most major faiths are unwelcoming to their community, a majority of LGB adults are religiously affiliated, according to a new Pew Research Center study. But they are much less likely to be Christian than the general public and are more drawn to smaller, non-Christian denominations.

About 5% of the 2014 Religious Landscape Study’s 35,000-plus respondents identified themselves as members of the LGB population. Of that group, 59% said they are religiously affiliated. But only 48% of them reported belonging to a Christian faith group, compared with 71% of the general public.

Religious Composition by Self-Reported Sexual Identity

In another contrast, while only 6% of the general public affiliates with a non-Christian faith, almost twice as many (11%) gay, lesbian and bisexual adults do so. And almost half of these gay, lesbian and bisexual adults (or 5% of adults overall) said they belong to one of the smaller faith groups, including Unitarian and other liberal faith traditions (2.9%) and New Age groups (2.4%), such as Wiccans and pagans. The Jewish and Buddhist faiths also attracted small percentages (2% each) of LGB adults.

Read more at … http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/05/26/lesbian-gay-and-bisexual-americans-differ-from-general-public-in-their-religious-affiliations/

EVANGELICALS & Compared with other Christian groups, evangelicals’ dropoff is less steep

by DAVID MASCI, Pew Research, 5/15/15

Number of Evangelical Protestants GrowingUnlike some other groups of Christians in the U.S., evangelical Protestants have not declined much as a share of the U.S. population in recent years, according to a major new Pew Research Center study.

Our 2014 Religious Landscape Study finds that since 2007, when a similar survey was conducted, the share of evangelical Protestants has fallen only modestly, from 26.3% of the adult population to 25.4%. By contrast, both Roman Catholics and mainline Protestants have declined by more than three percentage points during the same period.

Looking at the raw numbers, the evangelical population actually appears to have grown slightly over the last seven years, rising from roughly 60 million to about 62 million. Again, this contrasts with mainline Protestants and Catholics, who together have lost several million adherents during the same time period.

Evangelicals Make Small Gains Through Religious Switching

Read more at … http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/05/15/compared-with-other-christian-groups-evangelicals-dropoff-is-less-steep/

RELIGION & Americans’ Feelings About Major Religious Groups

republicans democrats feelings towards muslimsBY MICHAEL LIPKA, Pew Research, 1/28/15.

Read more at … http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/01/29/the-political-divide-on-views-toward-muslims-and-islam/

RELIGIONS: Atheists & Agnostics Score Better on Religious Knowledge Survey than Evangelicals. #PewResearch

religious-knowledge-01 10-09-28U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey (executive summary)

by Pew Research Center

“Atheists and agnostics, Jews and Mormons are among the highest-scoring groups on a new survey of religious knowledge, outperforming evangelical Protestants, mainline Protestants and Catholics on questions about the core teachings, history and leading figures of major world religions.

On average, Americans correctly answer 16 of the 32 religious knowledge questions on the survey by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life. Atheists and agnostics average 20.9 correct answers. Jews and Mormons do about as well, averaging 20.5 and 20.3 correct answers, respectively. Protestants as a whole average 16 correct answers; Catholics as a whole, 14.7. Atheists and agnostics, Jews and Mormons perform better than other groups on the survey even after controlling for differing levels of education.”

Read more at … http://www.pewforum.org/2010/09/28/u-s-religious-knowledge-survey/