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  • Lance Mannion
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Lance, it seems to me, sadly, that you've been exposed to a rather limited and unrepresentative form of evangelical Christianity. Perhaps it's just semantics, but in the South and West (as opposed to the places you mention), evangelicals are distinctly different from fundamentalists....there is a large and growing movement of independent and/or non-denominational churches that primarily base their theology on the Bible and teach it quite thoroughly. These folks tend to better understand that salvation is a gift of grace, and are passionate about loving God and their neighbors. Not perfectly, but much more attractively than the Anita Byants and Jerry Fallwells of the world. I agree that the Bible is a great work of literature and history, but it's also a great love story for those of us who cling to the message of God pursuing and rescuing mankind throughout the centuries. Thank you for your post.

Robert L Bell

SMcCoy said most of what I had to say, so thanks for that.

Let me simply add that a great deal of mischief derives from the similarity of "evangelical" to "evangelistic." Evangelical refers to the doctrine that every man has a direct connection to God, in explicit contrast to the Catholic Church that places a priestly caste between the two. Thus the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), which is quite mainstream and quite liberal, and the headsplitting stupidity of "evangelical Catholics." Charismatics Catholics are a real thing, but not evangelical. The crowning indignity is how some fundamentalists, having noticed that fundamentalism now carries a stench of judgmental rigidity and extremism, have labored long and hard to coopt the word evangelical to their own purposes.


I teach in Arkansas, which is fairly Southern, and my experience with Evangelicals matches that of Lance's.

My students all claim to be Christian, and all claim they have read the Bible, every word of it -- some claim they have read it multiple times -- and yet when we are reading literature, and we come across Biblical allusions: even very obvious ones, like the fall of a sparrow, or references to Cain and Abel, they will not recognize them. Recently, in a Global Literature class, I had a class of 30 students not recognize a quotation from the Sermon on the Mount, the bit about turning the other cheek. (We read the entire Sermon for the very next class.)


Some years ago, I was engaged in an internet discussion with a Christian. I forget the exact issue, but had reason to point out that Paul never knew Jesus. My respondent took this in stride in the context of our discussion, and assured me that Paul must have researched things extensively before becoming a believer. What did I think, he wanted to know, that maybe Paul had been struck by lightning one day?


I'm glad delurking made his point; I had considered mentioning to Lance that we probably shouldn't put much weight on the spiritual disciplines of college students when considering whether God is real or not! Heck, many of them can't find France on a map of Europe. My observation is we often tend to take our faith - and our searching - much more seriously as we get older, have kids, and begin facing our own immortality. Maybe this supports the idea that religion is some sort of crutch, but I think it speaks more to the longing God puts in us to find our way back to him. I'm not trying to suggest that there's some secret multitude of Bible reading saints among us. It's pretty obvious that there are many proclaimed Christians who don't seem to practice their faith very well... and unfortunately they do great damage by repelling others from God rather than attracting them to him. I hope to encourage Lance and his readers, in some small way, to focus on what God says and does instead of what his broken, flawed followers manage to portray.

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