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There is in the soul of American evangelicals a feverish anxiety. If our faith in Christ does not lead to our moral uplift, we jumpstart a new spiritual formation regimen that promises to lift us. If the church is not making a difference in the world, we shame ourselves to become more socially relevant and evangelistically effective.

A great deal of the literature we produce is a variation on this theme—from the fevered poll taking of our movement's politics and spiritual state, to the many jeremiads (left and right) about our lack of personal holiness and social concern, to the call to reframe the Christian faith so that we can address the great social issues of the day.

Still, the anxiety remains mostly personal. It is a deep longing for transformation, and it is evident in the responses to my last, and unfortunately controversial, column, in which I argued that it is not our transformed lives but the crucified Christ who offers something to the world. Note three comments (the caps are in the originals):

Christ's death not only freed us from the penalty of sin, but from the power of sin in this life. I am a witness. CHANGE HAPPENS.
Grace causes us to have changed lives. Or maybe u haven't read Ephesians 2 really well.
My concern must be to live the life GOD called me to live AT THIS MOMENT! I CAN CHANGE!!

Such comments suggest that the Christian faith is meaningful for many primarily because it promises to produce moral change. We are fed up with the tragedy of our lives—the failures and flaws, the coarse habits and endless addictions, the inability to do the good that we long to do consistently and sincerely. In pragmatic, practical America we look for a faith that can solve this problem—what good is a religion ...

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The Great Evangelical Anxiety
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July 2009

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