Image by Ryan Ashton
We are not living in a world where all roads are radii of a circle and where all, if followed long enough, will therefore draw gradually nearer and finally meet at the centre: rather in a world where every road, after a few miles, forks into two, and each of those into two again, and at each fork, you must make a decision. C.S. Lewis
The Christian Post featured 5 types of American evangelicals; new report contributes to ‘what is evangelicalism?’ debate.This article was based on a report of the Center for Religion and Civic Culture: The Varieties of American Evangelicalism.
The report identifies the differences between these groups.
Group 1: Trump-vangelicals:
- The key to this demographic is political power: access to it, holding it, excluding other groups from it and using it to advance a conservative, nationalistic vision of evangelical Christianity, particularly around abortion and “religious freedom.
- Trump is often referred to as Cyrus, the Persian king who freed the Israelites from their captivity in Babylon and enabled the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem. The fact that Trump is the 45th president, and Cyrus’ actions are recounted in Isaiah, chapter 45, is seen as having prophetic significance. Like Cyrus, Trump is an ungodly ruler who is nonetheless guided by the hand of God to bring biblical prophecy into reality.
- Pat Robertson, Franklin Graham, Jerry Falwell
Group 2: Neo-Fundamentalist Evangelicals
- Neo-fundamentalists are evangelicals who are no less theologically and politically conservative than Trump-vangelicals, but who maintain a purist approach to theology and morality that determines which people or groups they will cooperate with to achieve their aims.
- seek to maintain the most restrictive forms of relationships, not only with other Christians but also with the leaders of other religious, social and political groups. Further, they tend to focus less on mobilizing for political ends than preaching a pure and unadulterated form of Christian belief and morals.
- Neo-fundamentalists claim authority as morally and religiously “pure” Christians and make their views known through and within their institutions. For instance, the students at Liberty University sought to distance themselves from Trump as a moral representative, but not from his domestic policies and global political perspective.
- Russell Moore, Al Mohler, John MacArthur
Group 3: iVangelicals
- iVangelicals are concentrated in the evangelical megachurch movement and focus on reaching large numbers of people through popular worship services, a wide range of programs and small group ministries.
- Because of their institutional concentration in megachurches (minimum size of 2,000 regular weekly attenders, with many megachurches reaching upwards of 20,000 members or more), iVangelicals represent probably the largest segment of American evangelical
- the Sunday worship service is the core religious experience
- iVangelical churches are administered on a corporate model with a board of elders led by the senior pastor, easily memorable mission and vision statements, strategic goals and corporate-style budgets
- Tim Keller, Joel Osten, T.D.Jakes (ed: I’m having a chuckle over this one.)
Group 4: Kingdom Christians
- Congregations of Kingdom Christians strive to mirror the demographic and socioeconomic mix of the urban neighborhoods where they are rooted. They often include a more diverse mix of Asian, Latino and Black members than other evangelical institutions, where ethnic diversity is largely aspirational and whites compose majorities and hold the organizational power.
- often critique the economic and political systems that produce poverty and racial injustice, the focus of their efforts is on creating relationships in the local community and shaping policy through engagement with local officials. The ethos of Kingdom Christians thus reflects an inclusive form of Kingdom Theology that is marked by a keenly localized concern for human flourishing and the systemic sources of suffering.
- Neither mainstream political party accurately mirrors Kingdom Christians’ commitment to local human development work, and communities of Kingdom Christians also tend to be non-ideological. For example, while they may be reluctant to promote same-sex marriage, members are also averse to efforts to discriminate against LGBTQ people under the guise of “religious freedom.”
- Kevin Haah, Rev Lee de Leon, Alongsiders Church
Group 5: Peace and Justice Evangelicals
- The Peace and Justice wing of evangelicalism is a loose network of evangelical pastors, non-profit leaders, professors and activists.
- The key political issues they seek to address are poverty, racial justice, gender equality, immigration reform, criminal justice reform, war and militarism and “creation care” (i.e. environmental protection). Some are beginning to move toward LGBTQ equality, but are treading carefully because of resistance inside their institutions. Most are pro-life on the issue of abortion,
- This group tends to adhere to Anabaptist or Wesleyan theology rather than Calvinism or Dispensationalism. They see themselves as the inheritors of the Tolstoy/Gandhi/King/Chavez tradition of nonviolent resistance, and many are pacifist and deeply suspicious of nationalist impulses in American government, which they often analogize with the Roman Empire in the Bible. Many are also suspicious of or opposed to capitalism as an economic system
- Jim Wallis, Ron Sider, Tony Campolo, Stanley Hauerwas
The above Christian Post article discusses the evangelical effort to define itself.
The National Association of Evangelicals also sought to clarify the confusion over evangelical identity in the Trump era with a May 28 statement, “Evangelicals — Shared Faith in Broad Diversity.”
“Because there are millions of us in the United States and far more of us in other countries around the world, there are subgroups identified by where we live, how we vote, the level of our education or even our local cultural expressions,” the statement read. “Each has distinctive beliefs and practices that may be unfamiliar or uncomfortable to one another. Sometimes these subgroups or their leaders are identified as typical of all evangelicals even though there is no consensus, connection or communication between them.”
Evangelicals are identified by four basic truths, regardless of political beliefs, the NAE statement continued. Those are:
-The Bible is the highest authority for what I believe.
-It is very important for me personally to encourage 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.