The collapse of US evangelicalism

John S. Dickerson, senior pastor of Cornerstone Church and author of The Great Evangelical Recession writes in the New York Times:

In 2012 we witnessed a collapse in American evangelicalism. The old religious right largely failed to affect the Republican primaries, much less the presidential election. Last month, Americans voted in favor of same-sex marriage in four states, while Florida voters rejected an amendment to restrict abortion.

Much has been said about conservative Christians and their need to retool politically. But that is a smaller story, riding on the back of a larger reality: Evangelicalism as we knew it in the 20th century is disintegrating.

In 2011 the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life polled church leaders from around the world. Evangelical ministers from the United States reported a greater loss of influence than church leaders from any other country — with some 82 percent indicating that their movement was losing ground.


I believe the cultural backlash against evangelical Christianity has less to do with our views — many observant Muslims and Jews, for example, also view homosexual sex as wrong, while Catholics have been at the vanguard of the movement to protect the lives of the unborn — and more to do with our posture. The Scripture calls us “aliens and exiles” (1 Peter 2:11), but American evangelicals have not acted with the humility and homesickness of aliens. The proper response to our sexualized and hedonistic culture is not to chastise, but to “conduct yourselves honorably among the Gentiles, so that, though they malign you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God” (1 Peter 2:12).

This does not mean we whitewash unpopular doctrines like the belief that we are all sinners but that we re-emphasize the free forgiveness available to all who believe in Jesus Christ.

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  1. tgflux

    The proper response to our sexualized and hedonistic culture is not to chastise

    Speaking for the “sexualized and hedonistic”, really feeling the non-chastisement here! *


    This kind of BAD News (mislabeled “Evangelicalism”) hasn’t collapsed enough, IMO.

    JC Fisher

    * By his definition, my being a queer-affirming queer.

  2. Michael Russell

    And not a moment too soon. Like many conservatives he is in denial about the message being sent. People are tired of judgmental mean spirited expressions of faith.

    The Fundagelical enamoration with the gilded gospel has allied them with financial predators and their odd sense of triumphal American exceptionalism has allied them with the worst wingnuts in America.

    This is good news as the fundagelical abuse of scripture has smeared all of Christianity. It is not that the culture has left the faith. but that the faith they hold is itself an aberration.

  3. Ben

    All I can say is thanks be to God. Thanks be to God that the scales are falling from our eyes and we are seeing a God of hate as so vehemently preached by so called evangelicals, is according to my Bible, and experience, a God of love. To align Christianity with a political party, as evangelicals so love to do, is a grave error.

    I only pray the harm already done by evangelicals doesn’t extend its influence any further. ~Ben

    [Editor’s note: Thanks for the comment. Please leave your full name next time.]

  4. Erik Campano

    Please, take a breath and keep your words gentle. Even if you consider some evangelicals egregiously erroneous in their interpretation of scripture or their public behavior, you don’t have to return what you perceive as hate with speech that borders on hateful. Labels like “Fundagelical” remind me of “feminazi”: the kind of stuff Rush Limbaugh would use. And “wingnut” to describe a conservative is no less demonizing than “moonbat” to describe a liberal.

    For goodness’ sake, we Episcopalians claim to be a church of tolerance — a “faith for thinking people”. Great thinking doesn’t resort to ad hominems or bully rhetoric.

    I honor your anger. Furthermore, I bear personal witness to the fact that posting rhetoric like this in an internet forum may help people air this anger. Their indignation is often justified and righteous.

    This language does not, however, ultimately contribute to our communal goal to be thoughtful people of Christ. It also does nothing advance reconciliation between denominations — which, I posit, our Savior would have us do – even with our evangelical brothers and sisters.

    Like you, I find repugnant both homophobia and what passes for conservative politics in the US. But some of my friends are people who call themselves “conservative evangelicals” and, unlike me, strongly oppose gay marriage or support the Republican party. A lot of them can give very nuanced, intelligent, and reasonable defenses of their viewpoint. They are people of conscience; we pray together; and I can myself testify that they don’t worship a “God of hate”.

    Matthew 5:46 —

    Erik Campano

  5. IT

    All you have to do is look at the Evangelical spokesmen who are claiming that the Sandy Hook massacre was because of gay marriage, or the lack of prayer in schools.

    As Susan Russell wrote over on her blog, the idea that God would murder children because He is peeved that gay folks are marrying is hardly a Christian view of God–and no kind of “Christian witness”.

    That’s the kind of thing that is (finally) leading to de-emphasis of Evangelical views. Of course, it’s probably a major contributor to the rise of the “nones” who want no part of religion. Because of course, the media has allowed the Evangelicals to claim that they alone are Christians.

    –Susan Forsburg

  6. Bob Patrick

    About time!

  7. Peter Pearson

    Their presence in the media and politics could not go away fast enough for me. Can we also make it retroactive? Please?

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