Few would deny that the evangelical Christianity of the Ozark “Bible belt,” with its hillbilly gospel singers, is identifiably different from the Boston evangelicalism classically described in John P. Marquand’s The Late George Apley. It is my thesis that the metropolitan area of Washington, D. C., has its distinctive evangelical theology as well, and that this theology leaves much to be desired. Readers from this area will doubtless be appalled at what follows, discounting it as the product of too brief contact with Washington-area complexities, but let them remember De Tocqueville, whose to-the-mark portrait of the American character was in large part the result of observation from a foreign perspective.
In baldest terms, Washington Christianity is superficial, non-doctrinal, and experientialistic. It lacks theological substance. Like the church at Thyatira (Rev. 2:18 ff.), it is activistic, displaying “service and works,” exhibits some genuinely spiritual personality characteristics (“charity,” “patience”), but is relatively unconcerned with issues of sound doctrine versus false teaching, and is in consequence easily seduced by misdirected spirituality. To employ St. Paul’s “milk and meat” analogy (1 Cor. 3:2), Washington is a dairy farm, not a cattle ranch, and the milk is dilute at that.
Hard words! But the evidence is not difficult to come by. Can one, for example, read Wesley Pippert’s journalistic Faith at the Top (David C. Cook, 1973) without becoming aware of just how superficial Washington evangelicalism is? Discounting Mark Hatfield, whose sound theology manages to transcend even the turgid reportorial treatment of him, the portraits are of Washington Christian “heroes”—a former assistant director of the Secret ...1
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