June 11, 2008

Evangelicals Bemoan Stereotypes

In what has to be one of the most bizarre stories to emerge this year, it appears that evangelical Christians are upset that educated Americans find them ridiculously absurd and have decided to do something about it. They aim to change how they are perceived through a large-scale study of an "evangelical intelligentsia."

Where do I start here? It sounds like evangelicals feel that they have been misunderstood, stereotyped, and even persecuted. But they control the American government! The Bush administration has catered to them in a way now previous administration has (and with disastrous consequences). How bad can public perceptions be when one of theirs is still in the Oval Office and faith-based programs throughout the country receive federal funding?

According to Peter Berger, a Boston University sociologist, educated Americans look down on evangelicals. Well, yes. Educated Americans do tend to look down on bigotry, whether it is directed at homosexuals, women, ethnic or racial minorities, or even atheists. How is this a bad thing?

The crux of the evangelical persecution claim is that there is room for everyone but them under the banner of tolerance. The problem with this claim is that they re trying to have it both ways - practicing intolerance while whining that we refuse to tolerate their intolerance!
Evangelicals say people often see them as Bible-banging, evolution-hating caricatures.
Absolutely! When they show up on our doorstep waving their bible or try to force our schools to teach manufactured controversy as science, we take notice. If their complaint is that not all evangelicals are like this, then it is time for those evangelicals to take a stand against those among them who are engaging in door-to-door proselytizing and promoting intelligent design.

Personally, I think a large-scale study of American evangelicals is a good idea. However, it is disappointing to see that it will be carried out by a research team that includes only Christians. One, Timothy Shah, is even described as an evangelical. Worse, his goal involves creating "more room for a religious perspective in various academic disciplines." So much for anything scientific here.

If it is true, as Shah claims, that the American culture makes fun of evangelical Christians, we should ask why.
An estimated 75 million Americans are evangelicals, people who emphasize a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and commit to spreading the message of salvation through his redemptive death.
And there is our answer. Evangelicals believe that they have a "personal relationship" with someone who has been dead for over 2,000 years, if he lived at all, and they want to tell you about it. This is why they are mocked.

I want to be very clear on what I am about to say so there are no misunderstandings. Evangelical Christians are ridiculed because of the absurdity of their beliefs and not because of who they are or even what group with which they are identified. I'll say it again - evangelicals are mocked because of what they believe. The fact that what they believe has the label of religion attached to it does not make it immune from criticism or mockery.

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