Oh, dear

In his American Christianity lecture yesterday, Grant Wacker mentioned how many labels for religious movements, like "Puritan" or "Mormon," start out as prejoratives that eventually get adopted and rehabilitated by the group in question as self-identifiers. Lately I feel like the opposite is happening with the term "Evangelical." Twentieth-century American recovering fundamentalists chose the word, with its long and distinguished pedigree, in part to distance themselves from the negative associations of fundamentalism. But especially since the 2004 election, it feels like my movement is getting flattened out in popular perception into a bunch of rapture-obsessed, Thomas Kincade-collecting, war-mongering, gay-bashing Bush voters.

This book isn't going to help matters. Not that it isn't amusing, and in some respects dead-on in the description, but I wince at the reductionism. Yes, yes, End Time novels and televangelists with big, blue hair and potlucks and teetotaling and "Friends are Friends Forever" are all a part of the evangelical subculture. But to think that, say, a non-religious journalist randomly assigned to the God beat might read this book and think, because it offers an "insider's perspective," that they now understand Evangelicalism ... oh, dear.

The Master List of Who is Going to Hell is pretty funny, though.


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