Evangelicals and the Culture War

A couple of great articles about the rifts among evangelicals cause by different responses to the ongoing culture war.

On The Federalist, Nathaniel Blake says it plainly: Christians, Stop Selling Other Christians Out To Get Pagan Elites’ Approval:

…evangelicals engaged with elite culture often go far beyond legitimate calls for accountability within the church. Rather, they cease to be witnesses to the world and become apologists for it, judging the church according to the world.

They thereby neuter the influence they compromise to preserve. Flattering the world will not win it for God. Just as the biblical prophets were especially stern toward the sins of the powerful and wealthy, so too should Christians with ruling class audiences speak more prophetically, not less, against elite secular culture, which enables and endorses a multitude of systemic abuses.

Proclaiming and living the gospel are acts of succor for, and solidarity with, those victimized by the dominant secular culture. This is part of why we should not pin our hopes for a revival of American Christianity on engagement with the ruling class that dominates the culture. Instead, we should pay more heed to the majority who are outside the ruling class, perhaps especially to those who have little money and status. However, this requires outreach and cultural engagement that cares less what NPR and The New Yorker think.

Thus, although we should not abandon all engagement with elite culture, we must be vigilant against the temptation that it carries to sell out, slander fellow believers, and downplay gospel truths that are uncomfortable for our ruling class.

Blake refers to this comprehensive (i.e., long) article on First Things by Aaron Renn that goes into much more detail about how different evangelical factions have developed different philosophies on engaging with the culture: The Three Worlds of Evangelicalism:

The leadership class of evangelicalism is more highly educated and more upper-middle-class than the masses. So, though 80 percent of evangelicals voted for Donald Trump, a much smaller share of the evangelical leadership supported him, and many were the religious equivalents of the “Never Trump” movement. This disjunction revealed to the evangelical base that their leadership class did not share many of their values or preferences, resulting in an elite-base split similar to that roiling the Republican party.

This split has been acrimonious at times. The culture warriors have been fiercely hostile toward the establishment. Hostility to elites is part of the populist affect, and their combativeness against what they perceive as theological drift flows from their heritage. For their part, the cultural engagers in upper-middle-class milieux have likewise adopted a separatist approach. They are keen to show the world that they are not at all aligned with the Trumpist culture warriors, whom they have harshly denounced in some cases. In effect, they have declared their own culture war, but theirs is against other evangelicals rather than the world.

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