PHILIP YANCEY’S AMERICA

When asked about evangelical support for Donald Trump in a recent interview, prominent evangelical writer Philip Yancey replies with astonishment. How, he wonders, could Trump be an evangelical hero? But surely (hopefully?) Yancey isn’t ignorant of how race, class, and gender figure into this equation. The reality is that a much more specific subset of evangelicals consider Trump a hero, and presumably a larger subset see him merely as a temporary political ally. Philip Gorski suggests Trump support among evangelicals derives from those whose religion is a form of national identity, which Gorski calls “Christianism”. Such Christianism is often “restorationist”, as Max Perry Mueller observes, which helps to explain why evangelicals might resonate with the phrase “make America great again”. Continue reading “PHILIP YANCEY’S AMERICA”

THE EVANGELICAL IMAGINATION: READING MOLLY WORTHEN

American evangelicalism is anti-intellectual. Such a view has enjoyed fairly wide currency since Mark Noll’s The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind. In Apostles of Reason, Molly Worthen attempts to correct this view, but not by rejecting it outright. She shows how American evangelicals have been engaged in a range of intellectual projectsinstitutions, magazines, bible schools, etc.albeit ones often at odds with the prevailing norms of secular academies. Even anti-intellectualism is an intellectual project, then, and Worthen roots this loose program in what she calls the “evangelical imagination.” Three elemental concerns unite evangelicals: how to repair the fracture between spiritual and rational knowledge, how to assure salvation and a true relationship with God, and how to resolve the tension between the demands of personal belief and the constraints of a secularized public square. Continue reading “THE EVANGELICAL IMAGINATION: READING MOLLY WORTHEN”

HISTORY, ATHEISM, COMMUNITY

Consider the brief “history” of atheism as outlined in a recent post by a member of an atheist group in Tucson, Arizona (update: the link is now broken). Here history is construed as the presentation of facts across time; to tell the history of atheism quickly all that is required are the names, dates, and arguments of various figures presented in chronological form. Although the post raises questions about the certainty with which we can establish certain historical facts, what we get is a straightforward chronology and a series of minimally interpretive bullet-points. The purpose of the sketch seems to be to trace doubts about the divine throughout the whole of human history. Continue reading “HISTORY, ATHEISM, COMMUNITY”

THINKING HISTORICALLY ABOUT CHRISTIAN NATIONALISM: READING JOHN FEA

In his book Was America Founded as a Christian Nation? John Fea explores the history of Christian nationalism, the relationship between Christianity and the American Revolution, and the beliefs of several of America’s founders. The most interesting and original part of the book shows that there have always been significant figures in American history, often on opposing sides of the political spectrum, who have said that America was founded as a Christian nation. Fea also provides a conventional account of the American Revolution which highlights the defence of that political action within arguments that he says did not depend on “traditional Christianity.” And he summarizes the beliefs of several prominent American founders like Thomas Jefferson, Samuel Adams and John Witherspoon, who held a range of differing views on the relationship between church and state. Continue reading “THINKING HISTORICALLY ABOUT CHRISTIAN NATIONALISM: READING JOHN FEA”