"When I read Richard Weaver's 60-year-old critique of the modern world [Ideas Have Consequences] and translated it into my own experience," writes Warren Cole Smith, "a light bulb went on in my mind. Weaver was not describing a world from which evangelicalism offered deliverance. He was describing what evangelicalism had become!"
So Smith, who has been part and parcel of the evangelical movement for four decades, set out to describe what it's become in A Lover's Quarrel with the Evangelical Church (Authentic). Though he describes the book as a "lover's quarrel," the tone is more sad and wistful, more a quiet lament.
The book's strength lies in Smith's reporting, and in this, he plays to his strengths as a journalist. He has written widely for publications like World magazine, The Dallas Morning News, and Beliefnet. In this book, he names names, tells stories, and piles up the financial stats. Little of the material is new, but reading all this reporting in one place has its effect.
In talking about evangelical political power, he narrates the rise and fall of Jack Abramoff and Ralph Reed, and also how evangelicals learned to play the Washington power and spin games. In looking at the evangelical marketplace, he tallies the money flowing through large evangelical organizations (Promise Keepers, at its height, $100 million annually; Women of Faith, $50 million a year; and so on). The point is to demonstrate not that large budgets are intrinsically evil, but that "many of the worse elements of the modern world—materialism, empire building at the expense of community building, and the accumulation of power and money—have become some of the most recognizable attributes of American evangelicalism."
Chapter after chapter, ...