Tuesday, March 08, 2005

The Return of Not Crunchy

Not Crunchy (NC) has more interesting questions. I'll be addressing these tonight and then will get back to the series on Biblical Reliability tomorrow. Unless I'm sidetracked again, say by commenting on this. And yes, I realize I'm stretching the notion of a blog series by mixing the posts up like this, but I appreciate that, as reflected by the lack of comments, you are patient with my lack of order.

For those of you new to my blog (welcome!), NC is a budding lawyer blogger of the agnostic sort, who has through the magic of the "Next Blog" button opened the door into this strange world of evangelicals. To her credit, she is attempting to learn whether the stereotypes of "the world" hold up as she gets to "know" some of us in the blogosphere. Our past discussions are here and here. I've been enjoying the discussion, and look forward to more such posts.

I must say I appreciate NC's concern about the amount of ridicule we evangelicals face in the MSM. For the most part, I have learned to ignore it; kind of a "forgive them, they know not what they do" kind of a thing. Most of the jokes I think are probably aimed at me reveal such a deep ignorance of what I actually believe that I pity those doing the mocking. This is not to say, though, that evangelicals don't deserve some level of critiquing, or satirical treatment. Insofar as we can be seen as a monolithic block of believers (a premise I'll address below) there is certainly much we need to fix. I have no problem with that being pointed out. But in an era of political correctness, any acknowledgment of the lack of respect evangelicals get in the MSM is welcome. (And yes, I realize we're not the only ones who are mocked - but from my admittedly biased view, we certainly receive more than our fair share.)

Now...on to the questions. In the order she presents them:

Are Fundamentalist and Evangelical Christians disgusted by their surrounding culture?

I can't speak for all of them, especially those who identify themselves as fundamentalists. I can say that I am personally disgusted by some things I see in the culture around me. I am also delighted by some things I see in the culture around me. Sometimes I am disgusted and delighted at the same time. For instance, I marvel at the things professional athletes do, yet find the "I am god" behavior of some athletes irritating. Some movies are disgusting, others are masterpieces of artistic vision. There is good, there is bad, and sometimes the two are found in the same cultural element.

Do they think that it is wrong to watch secular movies, read secular books, partake in an occasional alcoholic beverage, or swear?.

I know some who feel this way, and others who are perfectly fine watching/reading anything. I am in the middle. There is a biblical principle I find very sound - and not just because it is echoed in my industry by the acronym GIGO: Garbage in, garbage out. According to Phillipians 4:8, we should guard against filling our minds with clutter and seek to fill our minds with what is true and good. I find it hard to disagree with the notion that we should seek that which is beautiful and edifying over that which is destructive or insulting. So where do I draw the line? Not at the secular/religious division. There is garbage on both sides of that fence, and each side owns a share of true art. It's a one book/movie at a time thing.

I also think that completely cutting myself off from "the world" makes it difficult to relate to those of a different mind. How do I reach people with Good News if I can't understand where they're coming from?

As to alcohol, I follow the Lord's lead and make my own wine from grapes growing in our backyard. I just don't do it as well, or as quickly. However, when I am with Christians who don't particularly care for alcohol, I abstain (not that I'm a heavy drinker anyway - the occassional glass of wine is about it.) There is no sense in becoming a distraction for others, or being a stumbling block.

Why do Evanglicals generally vote Republican? What would it take for them to vote Democrat?

I think it generally comes down to the "values" concerns. Evangelicals I know usually prioritize moral issues ahead of, say, economy issues. And when moral issues are concerned, the Republican party promotes ideas that are more closely aligned to mainstream evangelical ideals than does the Democratic party. Obviously this is a generalization - I've voted for Dem's and Rep's. Neither party speaks for me through all candidates. But within my church, for instance, the affinity for the Republicans is stronger than the affinity for the Dem's - though both parties draw some evangelicals. My advice to Dem's who want to attract more evangelicals is to align with evangelicals on moral issues more often. Though that goes for any party trying to attract any sub-group of voters.

(I also realize that economic issues can often be moral issues too - I'm using the terms loosely to make a distinction in priorities among classes of "issues.")

What do Evangelicals really think of science?

Every one that I know appreciates what science can do. Rather, what scientists can do when using scientific methodologies and practices wisely. Science can lead to better understanding, and to benefits for humanity. When used improperly, science can lead to things like, oh, biological weapons. Science isn't a problem for any Christian I know. Politicized scientific philosophy can be a problem, but science itself is not. I see it, for instance, as a way to learn more about the creation of God. Plus, it is a field in which my wife participates, and I have an appreciation for what she brings to our family as a scientist at heart.

Is there room in Christianity for evolving thought?

Yes. But...evolving thought cannot change God. The concept of the Rapture, for instance, is a rather recent idea, at least as formulated in the Left Behind books. And the term "Trinity" does not appear in scripture, though the doctrine developed over time in a manner consistent with the biblical teaching. The key is that the evolution of thought has to clarify truth, not replace it with a lie.

Are you typical Evangelicals?

This is where I get to address what I spoke of above. I'm not sure what a typical evangelical is, but this is probably as good a starting point as any. For some of these measures, I would answer as did the majority of evangelicals. For other issues, I would not. I share most of the same views as most of the folks who attend my church, and who attend my first and current colleges - but I also diverge from many of them on various issues. So, while I am probably "statistically typical" I don't think we can be easily bunched into one category. As with all groups, we are individuals, each unique but sharing some core commonalities too. And as with any sub-group of Christians, some evangelicals are nominally Christian and others are passionate, faithful followers of Christ.

God bless!

Ron

2 comments:

Not Crunchy said...

Ron, Thank you once again for your thoughtful response to my questions. I also appreciated the link to the Barna definition of Evangelical Christian. I've been throwing the term around, and now I have a more structured understanding of what it means. I found your responses to be mostly on par with the other responses I received in the comments section of my blog, and have been most surprised by the tolerance toward alcohol (how cool that you make your own wine! I make my own beer sometimes.) and secular culture. And in light of the vague answers regarding "are you a typical evangelical", it really makes me wonder if these responses are representative (or if all those "Baptist-n-alcohol" jokes are off-base!). I found your openness toward science to be most different from the typical response. But then again, I do not have a non-Evangelical typical response to compare against. For all I know the average Christmas and Easter Episcopalian is also seriously skeptical about science. Regarding "I realize we're not the only ones who are mocked - but from my admittedly biased view, we certainly receive more than our fair share," Do you feel like a persecuted minority? I guess that there are many less evangelicals in Minnesota than in other parts of the country, and I know that even in the South evangelicals complain of persecution. Regarding "My advice to Dem's who want to attract more evangelicals is to align with evangelicals on moral issues more often," I would argue that the Democrats are much more closely aligned with Christian ideals than Republicans are. Perhaps this should be a blog topic for me. Thanks again Ron!

R. Stewart said...

I can't speak for all Baptists, but I think what you're discovering is there is a lot of diversity even within the Christian community. The reality is that we're not just two groups: liberal and "right wing extremists" as the stereotypes go. Don't know if it's good or bad, but reality is much different from perception.

"Do you feel like a persecuted minority? I guess that there are many less evangelicals in Minnesota than in other parts of the country, and I know that even in the South evangelicals complain of persecution."

No, I don't feel like a minority. I do think that in some respects, and by some people, we (generalizing, which is dangerous) evangelicals are treated in a less than fair manner. Some of this I attribute to us (not being very coherent in our common arguments) and some I attribute to the media/elites, who don't take the time to understand our views. The upside is that any persecution we do face - and compared to that faced by Chinese or Saudi Arabian Christians we have litle reason to complain - just proves out Jesus' warnings.

"I would argue that the Democrats are much more closely aligned with Christian ideals than Republicans are."

Interesting thought. I think I just heard half the conservative blogosphere convulse without quite knowing why:) In some respects I'd agree, in others, not even close. Hence my political independent status. Democrats do not reflect, as a party, the orthodox view of the sanctity of life (abortion, euthenasia) or the proper place of sex (gay marriage, safe sex v. abstinence.) The notion of justice is also a bit closer in Republican circles to orthodox Christian thought. On the other hand, Dem's tend to match up a bit better on promoting concern for the less fortunate and the environment (stewardship.) This is, of course, a generalization, and various people in either party do better than others. Some of it comes down to the difference in approaches, too, and not a difference in goals. Republicans I know don't want to kick the poor, they just believe a better approach to solving poverty problems is self-reliance and self-responsibility. Dem's tend to rely on the government more. Differences in approach are not necessarily differences in goals or ideals.