26 January 2005


In the article "The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience" from Christianity Today, Ronald J. Sider examines the materialist corruption of evangelicals.

Then the pollsters started conducting scientific polls of the general population. In spite of the renewal movement's proud claims to miraculous transformation, the polls showed that members of the movement divorced their spouses just as often as their secular neighbors. They beat their wives as often as their neighbors. They were almost as materialistic and even more racist than their pagan friends. The hard-core skeptics smiled in cynical amusement at this blatant hypocrisy. The general population was puzzled and disgusted. Many of the renewal movement's leaders simply stepped up the tempo of their now enormously successful, highly sophisticated promotional programs. Others wept.

Although I have to question being called a "pagan," I appreciate it when the sensible devout examine the hypocrisy of their culture with such pathos and logic. Here are a few notes:

Polls documenting the prevalence of divorce, bigotry, and greed within the evangelical community are quoted throughout the article. Concerning greed and charity: I previously pointed out that considering proportionality at different levels of income is flawed (although I incorrectly labeled the logic "mathematically impaired" where it's actually "socially impaired"). The author states that The report ["The State of Christian Giving"] showed that the richer we become, the less we give in proportion to our incomes. Proportionality and income fails at the low end and is irrelevant at the high end. Below poverty level [Wikipedia], you do not have enough money to provide yourself food and shelter. Slightly above poverty level you do, but almost 100% of your income is spent on the food and shelter. What percentage of a millionaire's income goes towards food and shelter? Necessary food and shelter? Where is the relevance of proportionality there?

The polls show that rich evangelicals give as little or less than rich "pagans" in proportion to their poorer counterparts. Notably, The Christian Science Monitor article I had taken to task previously suggested that rich "pagans" were more greedy based on the infamous red/blue divide [Wikipedia]. Charity is a voluntary action. Should it be considered differently than the money used for food and shelter? Some people give 100% of their discretionary income to charity--although they are rare across the spectrum of incomes. Am I splitting hairs to try to make the proportion of this voluntary action relative to income level? What of comparing other voluntary purchases like entertainment electronics or automobiles?

What would an alternative measurement be?

In a 1999 national survey, George Barna found that the percentage of born-again Christians who had experienced divorce was slightly higher (26 percent) than that of non-Christians (22 percent). ... [T]he divorce rate among evangelicals [is] exactly the same as the national average...

Small quibble: that slightly higher value means that 18% more born-again Christians have been divorced than non-Christians. A sub-10% value would be slight.

Some other interesting areas the author discusses:

  • Nearly identical numbers (between Christians and non-Christians) for abstinence, cohabitation, and pornography,
  • A greater percentage of racism in Baptists, evangelicals, and Southern Baptists

Throughout the article, the author must quote polls and studies that use different definitions of born again and evangelical. Various other segmented groups such as theologically conservative Protestant men and Christians with a biblical worldview are also thrown in providing little common ground for comparison. Those groups were brought up to categorize the good that is present within Christian groups in general. I readily admit my bias when I say that I read the admissions of moral irrelevance with great interest and the moral successes with caustic doubt. There is some valuable information here, but how can I reconcile it with statements such as Evangelicals rightly rejected theological liberalism because it denied the miraculous. and Satan must laugh in sneerful derision. God's people can only weep. Can people who pick and choose where they apply the scientific method really be trusted?

[ posted by sstrader on 26 January 2005 at 10:39:18 PM in Culture & Society ]