Why I Dropped the Label of Evangelical and Why You Should Too
On January 17, Ron Sider, an evangelical theologian famous for his insistence that rich Christians make work of addressing poverty, posted on a piece on his blog titled “ STILL EVANGELICAL IN SPITE OF PRESIDENT TRUMP’S EVANGELICAL SUPPORTERS? “ In this blogpost Sider outlines why he still calls himself an evangelical in spite of the Evangelical sell-out to Trump.
While I greatly respect Sider for his work, I think the times and context in which we live require us to abandon the term evangelical. I acknowledge Sider’s emphasis of rootedness in historical Christianity but I’m afraid that late 19th and20th century evangelicalism has undergone developments and made certain fatal decisions that set it apart from earlier forms of evangelicalism. The movement basically set itself up for the apostasy that is currently happening in American Evangelicalism.
Three Major Developments
Three major developments took place that changed the evangelicalism of the socially engaged abolitionist movements of the 19th centuries into something unrecognizably different. American evangelicalism may be carrying the same name as the evangelicalism that went before but it is something else. And that else has now born fruit into its current support for president Trump.
The first of these three developments is that the evangelical movement became obsessed with the end times. An extreme focus on the book of Revelation and an interpretation of world affairs from the perspective of Revelation caused believers to have a sense of immediacy and urgency. The Lord was returning soon and people needed to be saved. Images of fire and brimstone, cataclysmic disasters and widespread catastrophes filled the imagination of evangelical believers.
The focus away from ameliorating things on earth in the light of impending doom was exacerbated by the second development early in the 20th century, namely the fundamentalist turn. The traditional emphasis on the Bible as the word of God turned, as part of a desire to stem the tide of theological liberalism, into a literal reading of the Bible as plenary inerrant. Assent to inerrancy became the litmus test for faith. Right doctrine rather than love for the neighbor became the rallying cry for the movement.