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I was a typical big sister growing up. The oldest of three, I saw myself as the guardian of tradition, the planner in an otherwise spontaneous family. Every Christmas Eve, if Dad forgot, I would round up the troops, lead the march to the carpet in ...

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Carlos Ramirez Trevino

December 28, 2013  4:12am

You know, this is an interesting conversation. As I was reading the comments, I started thinking of Christ's disciples. They were Jewish and there was no question or discussion about that. Yet, their focus didn't seem to be on traditions and movements. They were drawn to the person of Jesus. Clearly, God in the flesh drew people in to Himself like a magnet pulls metal filings. What was sitting with Jesus like? What a privilege. I remember when I had my first encounter with the living God and Jesus. I started going to church and reading the Bible, not because I wanted to understand or learn doctrine. I went because that was where Jesus was and I wanted to draw nearer to Him. As I became aware of issues, I drifted from my desire to be in His presence. In fact, I didn't know I was evangelical until I was told that I shared some common ideals, Biblical perspectives, attitudes, preferences, and theological leanings. As a Catholic, I felt I had transitioned into a more personal intimacy with Jesus. But it was still the same Jesus, the same baptism, the same Trinity, and the same faith. I didn’t know I had transitioned into a movement because I was more eager to tell people about how they too could have a personal relationship with Jesus. I wasn’t espousing evangelicalism, Catholicism, or any other ism. As a teenager, I stood on street corners in NYC with a loudspeaker trying to tell others that Jesus is wonderful and He could make their lives richer, fulfilling, worthwhile. It was all about Jesus and knowing God. How I long to go back to that; to go back to Jesus!

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Richard Magnus

December 17, 2013  10:53am

@Red Well - I think your comment is right that evangelical subculture doesn't do a good enough job preparing the young for the world. We're so focused on creating a safe place for children that we neglect to teach them about "the monsters under the bed." Part of the problem is that we lack the imagination for conceiving how bad people can really be. A Christian college will teach a young person to be a loyal employee with integrity and dedicated work performance. But will it teach them that many managers and executives are sociopaths who use slander, manipulation, and trickery to prevail? Or that some other groups favor their own, regardless of their actual merits, in the workplace? Is a young Christian prepared for the boss that demands sexual favors - or the HR departments that will side with the boss, simply because he is the boss? Or that social status is the #1 concern for most people? How do we prepare our children for a world that's become so dark?

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Shary Habuber

December 16, 2013  1:04pm

Laura you have emphasized the positives in the evangelical church and said we all should do likewise. What you have described should be the normal sad to say this is not what has been experienced by thousands who grew up in evangelical churches. Just wondering how many good friends do you talk to each day who are outside the evangelical circle about anything but trying to get them saved.

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D. McDonald

December 16, 2013  2:43am

Steve Page is right about stereotyping. I'm far from being one who thinks that NA Evangelicals are persecuted because of things like the "war on Xmas," or other petty things of that nature. But too many times we evangelicals are the victims (for a lack of a better term) of being lumped in with other "evangelicals" who cause harm to others--either physically or verbally. For example, I can't help it when a person who is a so-called evangelical murders an abortion doctor. Why is it that when virtually every evangelical would condemn this killing, we still get lumped in with the murderous fanatic simply because we are also pro-life? The same goes for us being seen in the same light as the Westboro Baptist Church, where we get criticized as being homophobic and hateful because of those monsters. If we adopt this judgment as a society, then I guess we will have to stereotype, for example, all atheists as those who condone mass genocide since Lenin was also an atheist.

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Dan elbers

December 15, 2013  6:06pm

Thank you Laura for this story. I'm always amazed at how people identify with those who hate and have contempt for them. When I read accounts of people who talk about the evangelical church it is just not reality. I would go as far as to say that it is just a parroting of the nonsense and ridicule of militant seculars. The good far exceeds the bad and I say this as someone who has experienced the bad. The real issue has been the rise in the status of secularism and the rise >2006 of leftist politics as a replacement for belief in God. The pied piper of leftism and secularism has done the same thing to the affluent children of evangelicals in the past decade that it did to a previous generation of fabulously successful (by the world's standard) children of the Student Volunteer movement who walked out on the faith of their parents after WW1. It is hard for the proud to come close to God.

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Red Well

December 15, 2013  3:39pm

Laura, I heartily agree, and I heartily disagree. Evangelical churches can be great places to connect with a genuinely caring community, in large part because they are adept at properly emphasizing Christ's love. Too many outside stereotypes and inside disappointments neglect this fact. In turn, those caricatures leave lots of people confused about why these churches remain vital and numerous. On the other hand, having lived a young life similar to yours, I have to say that the church left me and my cohort completely ill-prepared to interact with society. The cognitive dissonance between our Christian world and everything outside it was so great that all of them ended up appreciating the people and dropping the fellowship as soon as possible. In the end, Evangelicals are terrible at incorporating any but a small subset of their own young people--usually those fundamentally interested in "ministry," Christian teaching or family life.

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James Cowles

December 15, 2013  12:53pm

Bottom line is that there were -- and are -- too many things I'm in favor of (gay marriage, gun control, pro-choice, path to illegal immigrant citizenship, et al.) that are not opposed to conservative evangelical DOCTRINE, but that do run counter to conservative evangelical CULTURE, and part of that CILTURE is that one's position on cultural issues are seen, within that culture, as being as important as one's position on doctrine.

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James Cowles

December 15, 2013  8:35am

@ Steve Page ... "The problem is that parts of the Church confronts sin with venom and not love. It's not hard for me to see why gays reject Christ, many Christians have often rejected and not loved them. We Christians are often like John the Baptist when we should be like Jesus. Often we confront people as Jesus confronted deceivers rather than how he dealt with the woman at the well. To me the Moral Majority (and other groups) seemed to be more about power and control than love and mercy and I see the harm they do." Yes. Exactly. Precisely. I kept telling myself what some of you have already said: I mustn't stereotype because individual churches are different. So I kept looking for the exception. But I never found it. All I ever found were CONFIRMATIONS, "data points" CONFIRMING the exception. So I gave up. I figured that if God was not like that, that God had no interest in talking to me. So I became a "functional atheist".

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Khalil Mansour

December 14, 2013  11:51pm

Thank you for this short, but excellent article Laura. I came to Christ out of a totally secular background as a student at Berkeley in the 60’s. Our generation at Berkeley and many other places was against almost everything traditional. Some of this was right-on, and the Jesus Revolution attests to this. While I am thankful that I did not come to the faith with a lot of senseless taboos, a restricted world-view, and a warped conservative political stance that many evangelicals have , I also recognize a lot of the bad baggage that I carried into the faith. I did not have the sound background that many, many evangelicals grow up with. I do tire of the non-ending attacks from within Christianity and without on evangelicalism, and I thank God for thousands of solid evangelical churches all over America. One of my first opportunities to give my testimony to a large group was right there at Berkeley in 1966 with Billy Graham only a few feet away—how cool is that!

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Steve Page

December 14, 2013  7:06am

@Richard M "As far as evangelicalism's attitude towards outsiders...The Protestant majority responded by declaring that the immigrants taking their jobs were loved by God and should be saved..." It's easy to overlook those things. The real problem is sin and how a sinner chooses to deal with their own sin. When confronted with our sin we may choose to rebel against whoever or whatever is confronting us or we may choose to repent and be baptized. The problem is that parts of the Church confronts sin with venom and not love. It's not hard for me to see why gays reject Christ, many Christians have often rejected and not loved them. We Christians are often like John the Baptist when we should be like Jesus. Often we confront people as Jesus confronted deceivers rather than how he dealt with the woman at the well. To me the Moral Majority (and other groups) seemed to be more about power and control than love and mercy and I see the harm they do.

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Steve Page

December 14, 2013  6:22am

James C. fundamentalism and evangelicalism aren't always the same, all evangelicals are not fundamentalists. Also you are doing a lot of stereotyping, the same thing that you obviously disliked about your parent's church or the church you grew up in. Much of what you say is true of the fundamentalists is true, for example some behavior of the Christian Coalition and groups like them deserve to be criticized at times. (Jesus wouldn't have taken the Pharisees to court to stop persecution and Paul wouldn't have organized a protest. ) But what you've done is the same thing thing you've accused evangelicals of doing, you painted with a broad brush and developed the bad habit of picking on others you have never met, in whose shoes you have never walked, and whose hearts you haven't tried to understand. I really don't see much difference between your heart disease and theirs. If what you think about your home church is true, it appears that none of you ever took the time to know Jesus

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Richard Magnus

December 13, 2013  8:09pm

@James. If an evangelical church is using the 2nd Amendment or a political wedge issue as a test of fellowship, that church is messed up. And I have no doubt that occurs. I'm not convinced something like this wouldn't happen in any group of people, though - reared in Judaism, I'd never dare contradict a left-liberal ideology in my synogogue. Given the failure of both political parties, though, I think we can dismiss the culture wars as an artifact of an earlier day (we both failed and trusted the wrong people) and get on with the cure for all our issues...getting local, toppling the global banking cabal, saving the middle class, etc. That's good for left and right alike. Let's get there and figure out the othrr stuff later.

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James Cowles

December 13, 2013  6:11pm

Just to clarify ... what I'm saying about the issue of "adiaphora" vs. the essentials is by way of a question. On what basis should people be accepted into a church community? On the basis of essential doctrine ("essential" being defined by whatever denominational criteria)? Or on the basis of essential doctrine ... PLUS ... issues that are "adiaphora" in the sense of being outside the essential -- and therefore, by definition, optional / non-essential, i.e., issues on which honorable people can disagree honorably. E.g., if being pro-life is essential, then the community should say that up front. Ditto opposed to gay marriage. Etc., etc. I think the reason many evangelical communities come across as very eccentric is because they are -- please bear with my candor -- not altogether honest about what it takes to be an "insider". Essential doctrinal issues are intermixed with "adiaphora" issues -- in the sense that the latter are not in the written confessions of faith.

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James Cowles

December 13, 2013  6:06pm

... (cont) in a church community often extend beyond issues of ESSENTIAL doctrine, i.e., issues that Augustine would have called "adiaphora". Which is interesting, in light of the great emphasis evangelical churches place on what the Bible says. I'm not aware of where the Bible says, e.g., that the 2nd Amendment is on the same level as "saved by grace". So if our hypothetical immigrants had been right on all the doctrine, yet wrong on the social and "cultural" issues, they still would not have been accepted. " ... quantum physics has largely obliterated the Newtonian world view on which many such ideas were based ... " Nothing in quantum theory has invalidated Newtonian mechanics. Instead, it has given physicists a means of accounting for phenomena otherwise intractable in Newtonian terms, e.g., the precession of Mercury's perihelion. How to INTERPRET that is THE hot topic in phil of physics these days. "much science is corporate funded" ... yeah ... which troubles me, too.

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James Cowles

December 13, 2013  5:59pm

@ Richard Magnus ... "And since "Left Behind" was published by a Christian bookseller and sold in Christian bookstores (or the "Bible" section of Borders), I really don't see that it was an inconvenience to you ... " I didn't say it was an inconvenience, only that there is (a) no Catholic equivalent that has (b) gained the kind of notoriety of the LaHaye / Jenkins series. It's shlock, but it's very well-publicized shlock, much better so than whatever Catholic counterparts there may be out there. "As far as the pro-choice and others go...well, sorry, but their ideas aren't sacred, and free speech and debate are wonderful things." I quite agree, but the point is not the 1st Amendment, but the effect of "orthodox" evangelical ideas on the church culture. With many evangelical cultures, being pro-life, anti-Obama, pro-gun, etc., etc. is, in a practical sense, about as essential as believing in the Divinity of Jesus Christ. This means that the criteria for membership & acceptance ... (cont)

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Richard Magnus

December 13, 2013  3:05pm

@James. There is also something to be said for evangelical anti-intellectualism. On one hand, it was a very bad thing. No one is more saddened by the anti-intellectual habits of mid-20th century Fundamentalists than neo-evangelicals. But on the other hand, the "intellectual" discoveries of the late 19th-mid-20th century thinkers that the media and land-grant universities promulgated have all fallen by the wayside. Freud was a fraud, Franz Boaz and his students faked their results, and quantum physics has largely obliterated the Newtonian world view on which many such ideas were based - even if many refuse to accept the Copenhagen interpretation out of pure philosophical distaste. So-called "mainline" Protestantism failed precisely because it accepted these things uncritically and was left holding the bag. Today, much science is corporate funded and fraudulent, so we aren't out of the woods yet.

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Richard Magnus

December 13, 2013  1:10pm

@James. You obviously don't live in the northeast. Catholics do, in fact, have a ton of media exposure in places where they're numerous. The Boston Globe and Providence (RI) Journal are full of coverage about them. Their "apologists" leave tracts on the doorsteps of Protestant churches calling us "an incomplete brand of Christianity." They have tons of Web sites, YouTube channels, and edit Wikipedia zealously. And since "Left Behind" was published by a Christian bookseller and sold in Christian bookstores (or the "Bible" section of Borders), I really don't see that it was an inconvenience to you...any more than Sam Harris' poorly-researched slop is an inconvenience to us or Bill Maher's nihilistic stupidity is an unavoidable harassment to our sensitive souls. As far as the pro-choice and others go...well, sorry, but their ideas aren't sacred, and free speech and debate are wonderful things.

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James Cowles

December 13, 2013  12:45pm

"Why should Rapture-believing evangelicals draw more ire than Catholics who draw apocalyptic conclusions from Fatima or Medjugorie 'apparitions?'" Perhaps the difference has something to do with evangelicalism's greater proficiency with the media in publicizing & popularizing & "packaging" beliefs like the Rapture. There was no Medugorje equivalent of "Thief in the Night", no Catholic version of Tim LaHaye & Jerry Jenkins writing a series of novels about the Lourdes revelations. Less publicity equals smaller target. "As far as evangelicalism's attitude towards outsiders...well, the banksters flooded the US with immigrants at the expense of the Protestant majority." But suppose the immigrants that flooded the country had been GAY immigrants or LIBERAL-DEMOCRAT immigrants or PRO-CHOICE immigrants. Evangelicals have no problem with outsiders per se, in my experience, only with outsiders who are outside of the moral parameters of overriding importance to evangelicals.

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Richard Magnus

December 13, 2013  12:29pm

@James...Other groups meet or exceed evangelicalism in those regards. Orthodox and Chabad-Lubavitch Jews may not be big enough to gain much attention, but the Catholic Church certainly is. Why should Rapture-believing evangelicals draw more ire than Catholics who draw apocalyptic conclusions from Fatima or Medjugorie "apparitions?" As far as evangelicalism's attitude towards outsiders...well, the banksters flooded the US with immigrants at the expense of the Protestant majority. The Protestant majority responded by declaring that the immigrants taking their jobs were loved by God and should be saved, even if they disagreed with the Catholicism, Judaism, Fascism, and Communism espoused by some of the immigrants. I can't see a single other faith community doing that. Maybe we became "fearful" to see our country taken away. But they would've slaughtered us en mass if the situation was reversed. Can you imagine Franco's Spain taking in waves of evangelical immigrants with as much grace?

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James Cowles

December 13, 2013  11:36am

@ Richard Magnus ... "Why pick on us?" I would suggest that it is perhaps because evangelicals, somehow and somewhere along the way, developed the bad habit of picking on others ... others they have never met, others in whose shoes they have never walked, others with whose life-situations they are unfamiliar, others who are less privileged and less "mainstream", others whose hard choices they have never faced. Instead of advocating for and showing solidarity with the radically vulnerable, evangelicals have joined the chorus against them. And often doing all that within a context of blatant, even proud, anti-intellectualism and "Bible-olatry" and an endemic tendency to lose sight of the difference between the Cross and the American flag. Then evangelicals wonder why they themselves are treated similarly by the ambient society.

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