Can Evangelicals Be Redeemed?

Empty Pews

“Wait a second, Mrs Whatsit! Weren’t you – and your spouse – raised evangelical? And now you’re both emphatically NOT? Didn’t you just answer your own question?”

See, here’s the thing: the plural of “anecdote” is not “data.”

A few weeks ago, Hecate had the opportunity to meet with a local campaign operative, to talk with him about what we can do to win in 2020. In the “getting to know you” portion of their lunch conversation, he revealed that he’d been raised evangelical (like me and my spouse), went to an evangelical college (also like me and my spouse) and, obviously, got out of that world (like me and my spouse).

This inspired Hecate to ask me: “It seems like evangelicals are unreachable, but is that really the case?”

Well, first, see above RE: anecdotes and data. Three cases does not a movement make.

All three of us had been sent by our parents to evangelical colleges, in an attempt to “protect” us from the depredations of state schools or Ivies. Liberal professors. Post-modernism. Beer. Co-ed dorms.

Thing is, if your raised-evangelical kid is mostly the unquestioning sort, that tends to work pretty well – they just keep swallowing the lies that world view foists upon them (see: my brother). If your kid is the type who questions authority and likes to follow facts and evidence, wherever they lead, BIG mistake. At State U, they’ll feel “attacked” for their religion and will be motivated to defend it, engaging in apologetics rather than genuine inquiry. Evangelical colleges present a “safe space” and are probably going to lead to that questioning kid’s first steps out the door of the church.

But upon further reflection, I do think there is a common thread: Each of us experienced a major, jarring incident that pits what you know at your core to be true against what you’re being told is true. That starts a whole line of questioning that can end in: “Wait – what if this entire worldview is bullshit?”

For Mr. Campaign Manager, he realized he was gay, and that world was always going to tell him that was an unforgivable sin. “Pass.”

For me, I was a little girl with “leadership abilities,” and the only role that world would ever offer me was second class citizenship, being “submissive” to my husband and every other adult male around me. “Nope.”

For my spouse, it was the hypocrisy of evangelicals spouting the Beatitudes and behaving exactly opposite. (Yes, spotted 25+ years ago. He’s highly perceptive.) “I’m outta here.”

For some people – not nearly enough – that’s been TrumPutin. And a few evangelicals are trying to save the movement by decoupling it from TrumPutin. “If we don’t reverse course now, will anyone take anything we say about justice and righteousness with any seriousness for decades to come?” Too late, my dude.

Hecate asked: Is there a window during which if someone speaks with evangelicals in the right way, they can be salvaged?

I’m not so sure that it’s a defined window, although in theory, late teens-early 20s would be the time frame, after you’re old enough to be thinking critically and before your personality and belief system become relatively fixed.

But I think it’s more about being alert to when that jarring incident happens for any given person and using that as an entry point.

To understand more about this work, I highly recommend checking out the Exvangelical movement, the #EmptyThePews hashtag, and Chrissy Stroop.

Image found here.

Like what you read? Follow me on Twitter @MrsWhatsit1.

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