A recent NY Times article talks about divisions among evangelical Christianity. I was talking about it with Jim and we decided that these kinds of spectrum representations of Christianity are sometimes helpful, but most often problematic (my friend Kristy agrees). One of the more obvious difficulties is that it is intensely focused on the white American church, to the exclusion of the significant African American tradition. Which isn’t to say we shouldn’t talk about White American Evangelicalism, it is certainly a group that has a lot of cultural capital right now, not to mention political sway, but it certainly simplifies the landscape of the Christian Church.
Other interesting questions, though, arise from this piece, that have been part of the church dialogue for a while now. How do we find public space for more nuanced views of religion and culture and politics, away from the fundamentalists who seem to get the most media facetime? How do we engage culture without sacrificing Christian identity? I think it’s unfair of the writer (even if he is presenting a majority opinion) to call emergent theology “watered down.” I think it is a disservice to postmodern theologians to call their perspective less rigorous or serious.
I also think it is a testament to the media’s usual framing of Protestant Christians especially as only the Christian right, that the writer seems a bit awkward in framing evangelicals who are concerned more about typically progressive issues like global warming and AIDS. The tendency of public debate in this country to polarize leaves little space for moderates, or highly nuanced views of anything, but good for the New York Times to at least observe that things in American Christianity are not just Dobson and Fallwell.