The persistence of creationism shows losing could make Trumpism more extreme

Here is an opinion article in the Washington Post  that harks back to the Scopes Trial of 1925.  The piece argues that even though William Jennings Bryan lost the trial in the court of public opinion and was humiliated in the popular press and in the eyes of the elites, his supporters were undeterred and dug in even more fervently.  They essentially formed what is now the creationist movement that still to this today has a large influence on evangelical Christianity and society as a whole.  An influence that is distinctly anti-science.  The article says:

While Bryan saw himself as making the case against evolution using the latest evidence from leading scientists, institutions such as Bryan College have little interest in evidence offered by scientists when it conflicts with biblical teachings. And they remain potent forces in American society: As Gallup polls show, even today, about four in 10 adults think that humans were created “pretty much in their present form” within the past 10,000 years, a number that has remained fairly steady since at least the 1980s.

The article goes on to note:

In one way, however, Trump is reviving Bryan’s memory. The president’s shameful science denialism, like Bryan’s, has only made him more popular. Trump infamously touted ludicrous ideas about science and medicine, including recommendations to inject disinfectant as a cure for the novel coronavirus. Yet among Republican voters, Trump’s unbelievable and outrageous statements did not disqualify him. Entirely to the contrary — he secured the second-most votes in history as millions of Americans who feel scorned by elites flocked to the anti-expertise president…

Even worse, the aftermath of the election has paralleled the late 1920s. Unrestrained from the traditions of mainstream politics and culture, the ideas of Trump’s hardcore followers have become even more bizarre, even more dangerous.

I find this deeply troubling.  The conspiracy thinking has hindered this nation’s response to the coronavirus pandemic- costing actual human lives.  The Trump administration reportedly has failed to secure enough vaccine for the spring meaning the company, Pfizer, may not be able to deliver additional doses beyond what’s already contracted until next summer due to commitments to other countries, despite Pfizer’s offer to sell it to us. Again, this has the potential to cost more actual human lives.  Then there is the IDIOTIC campaign to overturn the election results, despite multitudinous court losses, including the recent Supreme Court refusal to hear their case in Pennsylvania .   New Associate Justice Amy Coney Barrett appeared to have participated in the case; no dissents or recusals were noted.  From the article:

Trump’s most stalwart supporters are White evangelical Protestants, the group that built this network of creationist colleges. Certainly not all, but many conservative evangelical institutions have taught students for generations to be suspicious of mainstream science, to look askance at “fake news.” In many ways, the universities that took pride in their radical creationism were the same ones that shared Trump’s “Make America Great Again” dream.

This does not augur well for the future of evangelical Christianity.  Rather than recover from this unwise alliance with Trumpism, many seem to be doubling down.  Well, if the future of evangelical Christianity is to be irrelevant to American society, then so be it. I want to make it clear where I stand.  Trumpism and creationism are bankrupt, impotent, useless ideologies that not only have no connection with Jesus Christ and His legacy, but are, in fact, ANTICHRIST.  These ideologies drive people away from the truth and into delusion.  Damn them both.

134 thoughts on “The persistence of creationism shows losing could make Trumpism more extreme

  1. While Bryan saw himself as making the case against evolution using the latest evidence from leading scientists, institutions such as Bryan College have little interest in evidence offered by scientists when it conflicts with biblical teachings.
    In the essay “William Jennings Bryan’s Last Campaign” (Essay 28 in the collection Bully For Brontosaurus, science writer Stephen Jay Gould goes into Bryan’s motivation for going YEC and prosecuting the Scopes Monkey Trial.

    Quick Summary:
    Bryan was reacting to Darwinism as justification for eugenics and Master Race Theory, which were on the upswing in those days around and after WW1 — “Survival of the Fittest” as justification for “Extinction of the Unfit”. (This was a development of 19th Century “Scientific Racism”, which hijacked a pop Darwinism for cosmic-level justification, replacing now-obsolete religion(TM).) Especially influential was a 1917 book called Headquarters Nights from a stanford professor who as an official for Belgian Relief had access to the German General Staff during early-to-mid WW1. And recorded/reported Darwin quoted for self-serving Scientific justification of German Militarism and German Master Race Theory to force evolution by “Extinction of the less-evolved Unfit” — a form of Scientific Racism that would reach its end stage some 20 years later, under an Austrian cult leader with a funny little mustache and an inner ring of RL pulp villains.

    In Gould’s words, Headquarters Nights “affirmed Bryan’s growing fears about the polluting power of evolution”.
    In Bryan’s words, “The Darwinian theory represents man as reaching his present perfection by the operation of the law of hate — the merciless law by which the strong crowd out and kill off the weak.”

    The actual essay goes into more detail and traces Bryan’s growing fears which ended up converting him from an Old Earth Creationist to defending Young Earth Creationism. Gould often wrote on the subject of how Bad Science had been used to justify some pretty horrible things, sort of a Scientific equivalent of the theme of Life of Brian — how people will use anything to justify what they want to do, and in doing so distort and trash the thing they use for justification, no matter what its origin or value.

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  2. “On conservative media” or “from the pulpit”.
    Because Where One Goes the Other Follows (WWG1WGA).

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  3. It’s called “Rule by Vice”.
    I first came across the term in Extra Sci-Fi’s YouTube commentary on Dune, referring to the rule of House Harkonnen. The ruler acts as an example from On High making Vice acceptable and giving Sanction from On High to act in ways that were formerly Forbidden. Making the Forbidden acceptable (to the point of encouragement) by example. “Milord can do it, So Can I!”

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  4. God bless the SCOTUS for making the only truly legitimate decision it could in rejecting the TX AG’s suit to throw out the election results of four other states. But right at this moment on conservative media the conservative Justices are being called sell-outs to The Deep State and traitors, and calls for armed insurrection are being issued.

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  5. I just got lectured by my roomie about how “18 MORE STATES HAVE JOINED TEXAS IN THE LAWSUIT!” and “THE LIBRUL MEDIA’S STILL TELLING US BIDEN WILL BE INAUGURATED!!” and “PROOF DOMINION SOFTWARE WAS DESIGNED TO RIG ELECTION RESULTS!!!”

    Hail Trump, Hail Victory…

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  6. False Prophets longing to be The ONE sitting at The Beast’s Left and Right Hand.

    (Using the interpretation where The Beast represents corrupt political systems and The False Prophet corrupt religious systems. Remember who’s always the Boss and who’s always the Sniveling Sidekick.)

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  7. > , but I don’t know if Evangelicalism was ever “thick”

    How about the Euro-English slang definition of “thick”?
    i.e. Stupid and Ignorant?
    As in “Thick as a Brick”.?

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  8. What happens when some non-Christian group down the street is able to whip up even MORE emotion, even MORE experience, even MORE thrill, even MORE comfort?

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  9. Because the Mormons (especially Utah Mormons) hit ALL their metrics of The Real True Christian:
    Missionaries, Family Values, Dry, Men in charge, Women submissive, BIG families, 1950s re-enactment (and they have a much better rep for taking care of their own). If those are the Litmus Tests of Real True Christian, the Mormons (a CULT CULT CULT) are more Christian than they are. HOW CAN THAT BE?

    Like the anecdote about the kid raised in a Holiness church who went Mormon when he became an adult. His reason? “Mormons don’t drink or smoke”, i.e. they not only met but EXCEEDED the outward signs he’d been catechized with as the Litmus Tests of the True Christian, so they had to be More Christian.

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  10. Beware of Persecution Porn: Viewing anything other than one and all brown-nosing your Righteousness as PERSECUTION, and thus Proof of your own Godliness. Seeing PERSECUTION in every closet and under every bed. I’ve seen this dynamic so often.

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  11. Well, some might see that as a sign of growing secular hostility, you know…
    “PERSECUTION!!!!!!!!!”

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  12. The “crock” is certain evangelicals identification with Trumpism; the idea he is some kind of “god’s-chosen-vessel”.

    Not just “God’s Chosen Vessel”.
    Trump IS their LORD and God.

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  13. >>I think we both agree that the plane is going to crash. That being the case, I’d prefer a controlled belly scraper of a landing to a nose-in-at-supersonic-speed crash, TYVM.<<

    Ditto. Good way to state it.

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  14. Perhaps this is the most frightening thing for Southern Baptists about Mormons. Mormons make a lie out of one of the most basic SBC denominational principles: correct doctrinal belief leads to spiritual success. And that scares Southern Baptists to death.

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  15. 106 Congressional Republicans, a majority of Republicans in the House, have signed onto support of the TX attorney general’s lawsuit filed before the SCOTUS to overturn the elections in PA, MI, WI, and GA. They are seeking to subvert the will of the people and supplant it with their own drive for the Will to Power as embodied in Trump and Trumpism. More than one out of two Republicans in the House are putting holding power before respecting the democratic electoral processes of our country. We are one step away from authoritarian rule, and two steps away from fascism. The only thing standing between those outcomes and where we are is the SCOTUS. Will it hold?

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  16. 106 Congressional Republicans have signed onto support for the TX attorney general’s attempt to overturn the election results in my state and the other three. A majority of Republicans in the House, that is. Democracy and the will of the people be damned, they say. The Will to Power is their agenda, and their only agenda. Just one step away from fascism.

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  17. He’s not a D (well not anymore, maybe, sort of) and thus not for “A”. (well not so much in public, sort of, kind of)

    Anyway, anyone not a D who gets to power must be supported as the D’s are the spawn of the devil. Or so think a lot of my Evangelical (with some pastors in the mix) relative and others.

    It is a litmus test. Flunk it and you are despised. Pass it and your a praised and no transgression cannot be forgiven.

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  18. Your vote was mixed with too many black folks’ votes.
    Sorry. Not sorry.

    Y’all got a Stacey Abrams up there? She beat these crackers at their own game down here and they’re howling like banshees dipped in holy water.

    I think they have one third the early voting venues for the run-off than they had for the general.

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  19. Yeah, we’re all in the loving, caring hands of the DNC now.
    I’m even gonna do my part to give ’em the Senate.

    I can’t believe it.

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  20. TED, I’ve been reading quotes from Goebbels and they are ‘right on’ the kind of ‘communication’ going down in trumpland

    we are criticized for ‘comparing’ with 1940’s Germany, but the quotes are fitting the current scene a bit too closely not to miss the ‘inspiration’ from the past –

    so ‘Charlottesville’ and trump’s ‘good people on both sides’ was not a one-off, no;
    just a part of the script

    and now the plot to subvert our national election – and thwart the Constitution ?

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  21. “I wish Michael Spencer was still around. I’d love to see his commentary on this descent into madness. I know he wouldn’t pull any punches even as he delivered some deep wisdom.”

    great comment

    he is much missed as ‘evangelicalism’ has turned back towards the darkness of fundamentalism and to the idolatry of trump-worship and desire for political influence to push its ‘small god’ forward under trump’s ‘leadership’

    strange days

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  22. the ‘whining’ is what you are referring to

    the ‘whining’ of ‘we are being persecuted’ as though they do not know that Christians have ALWAYS BEEN PERSECUTED,

    but they want to ‘take action’ against those who are doing the ‘persecuting’, that is, anyone who disagrees with their very narrow views on what is ‘Godly’

    I’m sorry, but that is not how real Christianity plays out, so what kind of people ARE THESE whiners anyway? And who do they want our nation to go to war against next????

    We have fostered a strange people who pose as ‘christians’ but are demanding, judgmental, whining, finger-pointing, and spouting ‘code-speak’ to their political leader aka ‘the annointed of God’

    christians? well, you listen to the ever-present whining, and you decide for yourselves

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  23. I’d still rather have a sane, emotionally mature adult in charge rather than the alternative. If that’s as close to a controlled landing as we get, that works.

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  24. I don’t think Mule considers Joe Biden to be cut from the same material as “Sully” Sullenberger — for that matter, neither do I.

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  25. “I already kind of resent the return of government by algorithm and preference given to all the usual pressure groups; Wall Street, Silicon Valley, public employees’ unions,etc.”

    I think we both agree that the plane is going to crash. That being the case, I’d prefer a controlled belly scraper of a landing to a nose-in-at-supersonic-speed crash, TYVM.

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  26. Y’all say what you want about what rubes and simpletons the Trump folk are, but I already kind of resent the return of government by algorithm and preference given to all the usual pressure groups; Wall Street, Silicon Valley, public employees’ unions,etc.

    Trump had to go, but did we really have to settle for this dotty old man just because he didn’t scare the Black Democrats? The Dems had some good solid candidates this year.

    Maybe Im just a shithead but it’s hard for me to prefer the murmur of the machine to the bluster of the bully.

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  27. If the SCOTUS denies — as I expect and hope they will — the Texas attorney general’s suit against the constitutionality of the battleground states’ elections, that will certainly happen. The sob wants my vote here in PA, along with tens of millions here and in three other states, to be discarded like yesterday’s trash. It’s unconscionable, but in MAGA world it’s deemed the only right thing.

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  28. I suspect the accusation will be immediate. It will come from Trump himself first and then will be dutifully parroted by a large number of his supporters.

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  29. I guess it helps illuminate how the practically pacifist Church of the first couple of centuries could so quickly and easily become the official and sanctioning religion of a militaristic and extremely violent Empire.

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  30. Yes, “spell” is a very good descriptor… I still shake my head, although maybe I shouldn’t, regarding people I know and grew up with who have fallen completely for him.

    Mass Charm Person as Spell-Like Ability.

    He chalks the right diagrams, says the right words of poer, and all bend the knee to their new LORD and God.

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  31. I’ve been amazed living here in Lancaster Co to see how quickly and easily sectarian pacifist Mennonites flip over into jingoistic America First evangelicals! It makes me appreciate Nietzsche’s insight that many Christians — apparently including sectarian pacifists! — let God carry the responsibility for their hatred of the enemy and desire for revenge, hiding their own all-too-human passions behind a divine facade.

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  32. That’s how I read it at first on my own, before I was indoctrinated into “the plain reading”.

    Like the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, it tells of recurring patterns that will one day come to a head and boil over.

    As a YouTube comment thread about “Kali Yuga” (a Hindu Apocalyptic Decline Narrative tradition) put it, “This is mass psychology and sociology before anyone had the words for it.”

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  33. No. 6: The transition can come quicker than you would imagine.

    Everything just goes along smoothly as normal while the pressure builds up until one day it hits critical mass and everything blows sky-high.

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  34. “If one has the answers to all the questions – that is the proof that God is not with him. It means that he is a false prophet using religion for himself. The great leaders of the people of God, like Moses, have always left room for doubt. You must leave room for the Lord, not for our certainties; we must be humble.”
    — Pope Francis

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  35. I am beginning to take another look at fundamentalist-evangelical white supporters of Trump. I’m not sure if their priority IS Christianity anymore:

    when cults send ‘protestors’ with guns outside of peoples’ homes, with children inside, I have to re-think what is going on and I am now also looking at followers of anti-government organizations as a part of these cults . . .

    I don’t understand how they can talk about ‘liberty’ and follow a fascist like Trump. I’m missing something. The ‘crazy’ is no longer a metaphor, we are in trouble with being threatened by gun-toting anti-government cults who say things like ‘we will not forget’ and who pass out personal info on their ‘targets’ so others can harass them too

    Christian? no way

    I am very concerned for our nation’s well-being.

    a sickness in the land worse than covid-19 is ‘trumpism 20’

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  36. The easiest of Easy Marks.

    Talk the talk, know the recognition codes and passwords, snarl words and dogwhistles, and you’re in like a coronavirus in a cell.

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  37. I read Olson’s blog, and recognize the E’icalim he described. I came into it in the late 70s as I left RC. I get the sense that he is nostalgic for the E. culture in which he was raised, and the security it gave him with his mother’s death, growing up poor, and other difficulties of his childhood. He does make a good point about theology not being the area of study that it used to be.

    Dana

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  38. The Thessalonian letters were the earliest that we have from Paul. In subsequent letters he got past his latent Pharisee-ism and toned down or eliminated the violent rhetoric.

    The Timothy epistles were likely NOT written by Paul–pseudepigrapha. However, the adjectives employed in chapt. 3 of II Tim could apply to many in any culture through out time.

    Generally, I would say that nothing in the Bible, including Pauline writings, was written directly to us in this time and place. Some generalized principles may be drawn from the text, but none of it was written to us.

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  39. Yes, “spell” is a very good descriptor… I still shake my head, although maybe I shouldn’t, regarding people I know and grew up with who have fallen completely for him. And you have to understand what kind of people these are or were (and my context) to make it more astonishing.
    My heritage is plain dressing, ladies cap wearing, nonresistant/pacifist, two kingdom, no-voting, Jesus-following Mennonite/Amish…(albeit pretty fundamentalist/authoritarian as well) So now I see a few of these, mostly my elders, All In for Trump…
    That sweet little old menno lady with head covering singing hymns in her simple church or that farmer-type gentleman… -thinks Trump had the most Christian, God talking/loving admin ever? Yep… -thinks he won the election? Yep -thinks he did a great job with covid (or that covid is a hoax)? Yep -thinks he loves God and unborn babies and is going to protect them from…? Yeah… and on and on with the extreme hagiography.

    Now I’m leaving out a bunch of young’ns who left this world and took off for the local white evangelical megachurch/charismatic/etc and found Freedom! – to be militaristic, america-is-God’s-chosen-country, GOP-loving, do anything you like except premarital sex… I’m saddened about those, but not surprised and can even be understanding at times… (I left too… but went to univ… thought it a minor point then, but boy not anymore…)

    It’s the aforementioned, who have, at least on the surface, stayed in a world where a flim-flam “worldly” man like trump wouldn’t normally have any sway whatsoever… those are the ones I’m shocked by, why it feels like some otherworldly “spell”…

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  40. –> “It’s as if I don’t know them, and wonder if I can even consider them friends anymore.”

    Well, unless they pull out a gun and shoot someone, I feel like we need to be Christians to everyone, including Christian friends that I don’t recognize any more. Who would ever think that my being “Christian” to a fellow Christian would need to be a “calling”?!?!

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  41. “Washington Post knows less about Evangelicals than I-monkers.”

    I would say that the writer of the article, who stands on the outside of Evangelicalism, has a much better view of the situation than those who reside within the silos.

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  42. In my experience as an evangelical, it was emotionalism – ‘experiencing God’ in worship, and of course, having a ‘blessed’ life – heterosexual married couple, 2.5 children, a cat, a dog, and a house in the suburbs with a 2-car garage. But ‘experiencing the presence of God’ is a big draw, so churches go out of their way to ‘facilitate’ that, and anything deeper than that autumn ice (nice metaphor) makes people uncomfortable, and God won’t show up if we’re not comfortable.

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  43. Adam, I went back to the article mostly to see who commented. I didn’t find that I commented–which struck me odd as I had been reading and commenting well before Spencer published that, but I did see a few familiar posters who are still with us;

    Tokah
    HUG
    Dana
    j. Michael Jones

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  44. Rick, when I said in an earlier comment that Trumpism is absolutely fascinating, I was thinking about 1930s Germany, but didn’t quite want to invoke Godwin. I think a lot of the elements are in place for something similar, but we still have a strong constitution to frustrate the fascists. And so far there’s no equivalent threat, real or imagined, such as hyper-inflation, national humiliation, or ethnic scapegoating. But they’re workin’ on it.

    I was also thinking of a comment by Thomas Jefferson, in France immediately before the French Revolution ignited. He received a letter from someone worried about him, urging him to come back to America. He said something like, “I could not possibly leave France now. This is too fascinating.”

    A lot can get accomplished by a determined leader, a “just cause” and a national distraction. The Holocaust could not have happened without the distraction of war. The Bolsheviks would not likely have pulled off their revolution without distraction of war. Incidentally, the term “Bolshevik” means “majority,” even though they were a minority party when they coined that. And they called the majority party “Menshevik,” or minority, and got away with it.

    Like you, one of my biggest concerns has been with white evangelicals, even some pastor friends I know. It’s as if I don’t know them, and wonder if I can even consider them friends anymore.

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  45. If feels like large numbers of my co-religionists actively want Less scholarship, expertise, study… ie they want to go thinner than they’ve ever gone before!

    What do they want to replace it with?

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  46. –> “Trumpism and creationism are bankrupt, impotent, useless ideologies that not only have no connection with Jesus Christ and His legacy, but are, in fact, ANTICHRIST. ”

    Very much in agreement with that. Trump and his narcissistic, bullying, vindictive, arrogant, total-180-from-humility ways are very much ANTI-Christ. And he and his ways have turned some of my Christian friends into little ANTI-Christ’s in the way they speak and act these days.

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  47. In Roger’s defense, the little I know by just reading, he seems to have been in settings where it was “thicker” and been part of institutions where was noticeably thicker… and maybe it was a bit of a bubble, where everyone in it ‘thought’ they had influence, which ‘felt’ like thickness, and made them assume it was thicker elsewhere too…
    Unfortunately, outside that bubble, across the board in the pews where I and others resided, it was more like Burro (Mule) describes above… as thin as autumn ice, and still is… in fact it’s getting thinner by the day, at least where I’m at. If feels like large numbers of my co-religionists actively want Less scholarship, expertise, study… ie they want to go thinner than they’ve ever gone before!

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  48. Given that he was basically kicked out of his father’s denomination for asking too many difficult questions in Bible college, and otherwise generally ostracized, I’m actually amazed he has any trace of nostalgia at all. I generally read him as being pretty clear eyed on the topic of sea changes within Evangelicals and more than willing to acknowledge that there was any amount of foolishness back in the day as well. But that’s just my take. I guess he strikes you differently.

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  49. The spell Trump has cast upon a seemingly large contingent of white evangelicals continues to baffle me and worry me. I’m invoking Godwin’s Law to say it’s almost Hitler-like and would make me more worried if it weren’t for the fact that Trump doesn’t have fanatical nationalism going for him like Hitler did. Fortunately we have at least half the country ready to push back should Trump and his believers take it to the next level.

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  50. That the Demon Locusts of Revelation are clearly helicopter gunships armed with chemical weapons and piloted by long-haired bearded hippies, of course!

    i.e. “Clear meaning of SCRIPTURE” is anything you can convince someone else of (with quote after quote after quote).

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  51. I very much feel the same way. I say that as a believer and someone who was raised as a missionary kid overseas but who has lived in the U.S. for almost 40 years now.

    American white evangelicalism has been on a trajectory away from the truth for several decades, and we are now seeing a point at which it has reached a critical mass of destructiveness.

    Racism is a huge part of this, but that’s a whole other discussion.

    The evangelicalism in which I was raised had some flaws, but there was a basic commitment to truth, and a belief that all truth was God’s truth. There were some blind spots, but no interest in making enemies or demonizing anyone. There was a fundamental commitment to the gospel and the love of God for all.

    That basic beliefs are almost completely gone now and hardly ever visible.

    I wish Michael Spencer was still around. I’d love to see his commentary on this descent into madness. I know he wouldn’t pull any punches even as he delivered some deep wisdom.

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  52. > quickly got diverted into the God’n’Country flood of the Reagan years.

    With hindsight it is abundantly clear that leadership of the Evangelical movement were Partisan Tools all along; to which some may have been oblivious, but it was none-the-less true. 😦

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  53. > , but I don’t know if Evangelicalism was ever “thick”

    Agree.

    Of course that depends on where you insert the pin on the timeline for the origin of “Evangelicalism”.

    I’d put it post-war, and say no; that it was a largely reactionary movement.

    Others might argue to set to further back and have an argument for “yes”.

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  54. There is a reason why American “evangelicals” love both Trump and TV preachers: They are suckers for the con.

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  55. “For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion, leading them to believe what is false, so that all who have not believed the truth but took pleasure in unrighteousness will be condemned.” (2 Thes 2:11-12)

    During my time in-country, that was the verse quoterd to explain away why everyone except the Real True Christians (Guess Who?) would all line up to take The Mark of The Beast and see nothing out of the ordinary with all the trippy plagues of Revelation going down exactly as written. Usually appended with “Tsk. Tsk.”

    Now these same Christians who Tsked Tsked with that Verse fight to be first in line to take The Mark of The Trump. ” MY LOOOOOORD AND MY GOD!!!!”

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  56. In some sense, “collapse” may describe it… but I think it’s more of a mass turning to unReality…

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  57. In the early chapters Noll cites the separation of evangelical theological studies from the universities and into denominational seminaries as a factor, distancing theology from the sciences and the arts.

    He also hails Jonathan Edwards as one of the greatest American thinkers, but points out that Edwards left no real successor.

    Lots of factors. Trumpism is absolutely fascinating, and may become more so. As Mike’s post suggests, this may have parallels to the Scopes trial. That really never went away.

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  58. who are they going to fight?

    Everyone who is NOT “One of US”.

    Just like the final extermination orders of the Khmer Rouge just before Vietnam invaded:
    All Who Were NOT Khmer Rouge BEFORE The Takeover.

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  59. To three out of four Evangelicals, Donald Trump IS “the LORD our God”.
    That”s one helluva lot of flames.

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  60. ” I don’t know if Evangelicalism was ever “thick” in the sense that Roger Olson laments it ceasing to be.”

    I have to agree. Much of his writing on this topic is very much based on nostalgia and glasses of the reddish-shade variety.

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  61. Yep. The first sentence of the first chapter pretty much says it all: ‘The scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is not much of an evangelical mind’. The final sentence of the paragraph reads: ‘Notwithstanding all their other virtues, however, American evangelicals are not exemplary for their thinking, and they have not been so for several generations’.

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  62. I dunno if anyone else feels the same way, but I don’t know if Evangelicalism was ever “thick” in the sense that Roger Olson laments it ceasing to be. I got exposed to it just as it was emerging from Fundamentalism in the late ‘sixties and early ‘seventies and had just received a real transfusion of new blood when all us Mainline Sunday School kids got saved during the Jeezus Movement. The failures of the New Left and the Consciousness Movement left a real vacuum that got filled by that falderol.

    Maybe there was a period of time during the Carter Presidency when Evangelicalism could have drawn on sources older than the Scopes Trial and forged a religious identity based on Anabaptist or Quietist roots, but since it was five miles wide and an inch deep, it quickly got diverted into the God’n’Country flood of the Reagan years. It astounded me how quickly ‘Evangelicals’ threw Jimmy Carter under the bus to vote for a non-church-attending divorced actor.

    I had a friend I sold white crosses to in 1973 condemn me for voting for Fritz Mondale in 1984.

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  63. White evangelicals don’t make up 40 percent of the population, and not all of them are YEC, do they have to be coming from some other places as well

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  64. Their shenanigans have placed me in the unenviable position of defending Kemp and Raffensberger, whose necks are being called for down here.

    Raffensberger in particular has been stellar in standing up to the accusations of fraud, but he’s fully aware that too many Black women voted on November 3, and he’s in full-We-Gotta-Do-Something-About-That mode.

    On the other hand, you can go pick a fight in about eight places around Atlanta with a bullhorn and a Ossoff or Warnock sign. 🙂

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  65. The meaning comes from where it always does – context. Context both within Scripture and without. When I wrote that paper, I knew no liberal or mainline Christians – only the agitprop I had been fed about them. And I didn’t have an appreciation of morality founded on the person and example of Christ overagainst a morality founded on revealed propositional eternal Laws. That, and the evangelicals I was among hadn’t fully revealed their actual priorities and allegiances as they have now. I’m certain there are people who match the description in these verses in all denominations – but right now evangelicalism seems to have WAY more than its fair share.

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  66. They might, going back to “extremely thin skinned”.

    There is space between Suspect-and-Critqued and Hostility. I’m on the calls, I have not heard anyone push for anything being taken-from or denied-to the organizations in question.

    If someone cannot perceive the space this side of Hostility… yep, they will quite possibly get themselves to the other side of that space. 😦 And that is 110% on them.

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  67. Mike, in that last paragraph I see you’ve put down the gavel and stepped aside from the podium of science. I say, “Go for it.”

    I just picked up my copy of Mark Noll’s “The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind” a few days ago and started re-reading. Published in 1994 and still right on target.

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  68. > But what about the Mormons, er , Latter Day Saints?

    It is hard to project much from sub-2% populations.

    LDS has the advantage of a strong regional affiliation to a very urbanize area [yes, Utah is predominanly urban]. That’s a big advantage in ‘keeping’ people.

    67% of Utah is Mormon. Almost nowhere else has that kind of homogeneity, its a real outlier.

    Still ‘only’ ~46 percent of those born into the LDS church remain in the LDS church.

    How much, I wonder, is this influenced by those leaving Utah to places where Mormonism is down in the single single %s?

    In the big picture a retention rate of 46% is really strong – – – but still puts a generally affluent population below replacement rate [every family now needs to have 5 children, not gonna happen].

    One nice aspect of Mormonism from a data perspective is you know who they are. In contrast with the far more nebulous “Evangelicalism”.

    > David Brooks and others have written how closed religious communities such as
    > the Ultra Orthodox Jews of NYC are positively thriving. The Amish, too,
    > are booming.

    It is interesting. “Booming” feels a bit strong.

    It is a point of very recent books like “Brave New Home” (Diana Lind): we are seeing a lot of, many actually very “traditional”, long dormant social formations returning to the stage. Most simplely being that of multi-generational households/housing. The license created by overall increasing diversity as well as economic necessity are breaking down the – artificial IMNSHO – homogeneity of the American ‘Middle Class’ [which was always far less homogeneous than portrayed, but that’s another topic].

    > the loss of a “thick” evangelicalism in America. It once was a movement, but is no more, he would say

    I doubt the historic “thick” evangelicalism; that it was ever really a thing.

    > Might this default political openness extend to actual religious conversion?

    That requires defining what Evangelicalism is; or becomes.

    > Do you think that this stability may come to be ever more attractive to beleaguered
    > evangelicals in the decades to come?

    As it appears today they relish in their beleaguered status. I have no idea what will happen. If forced to make a prediction I’d say the movement will very, painfully, slowly erode into irrelevance. Those people who are eroded out will go somewhere, where seems an open question.

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  69. “Most of the homeless shelters and like in my city have a religious affiliation. They are now commonly critiqued for this; especially by younger representatives of the neighborhoods. A religious affiliation makes an organization suspect to an important slice of the population.”

    Well, some might see that as a sign of growing secular hostility, you know… 😉

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  70. Unfortunately, both sides argue the same thing, with the same verses. What exactly is “the clear meaning of scripture” in such a heated argument?

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  71. “but there are a fair amount of non-white, non-evangelical, non-christians who would probably agree with some version of “God created humans in their current form less than 10,000 years ago”

    The non-white, non-evangelical part I could possibly see. But non-Christian? I’m not sure what Judaism and Islam have to say about it, and I couldn’t find anything reliable in a quick Google search. There certainly *may* secular young earthers (there are flat earthers after all) but I suspect they are statistically irrelevant.

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  72. I don’t think most of those who claim the name “evangelical” are self-reflective enough to appreciate this narrative. As it stands now, the actions and spokespeople of evangelicalism show an entirely reactive and reactionary bent. They’ve bubbled and doubled down for so long that breaking out would require a full blown religious conversion of the sort Beck described in Burro’s comment above. They’re so wedded to the spirit of the white American age that they will not survive it’s passing, and probably wouldn’t even want to.

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  73. Do you, personally, believe that 40% of Americans are Creationists? It’s hard to square the numbers.

    I assume by “creationist” you mean of the young earth, no evolution variety. But even then it’s only hard to square the numbers if you assume that “creationist” is a wholly-contained subset of “white evangelical Christians”.

    I realize that it’s the YEC white evangelicals who are the primary focus of the WaPo article and the Trumpism connection spoken against here–and appropriately so–but there are a fair amount of non-white, non-evangelical, non-christians who would probably agree with some version of “God created humans in their current form less than 10,000 years ago”.

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  74. > “1) Evangelicals have identified their movement with the culture war and with political
    > conservatism. This was a mistake ”
    > Proven true in spades. What I think IMonk missed is the development that some
    > evangelicals have actually truly become bad for America.

    Yep.

    > “2) Evangelicals have failed to pass on to our young people the evangelical Christian
    > faith in an orthodox form that can take root and survive the secular onslaught.”
    > Again, true, but you can’t pass on what you never actually had yourself.

    Yep. 😦

    > “3) Evangelical churches have now passed into a three part chapter: 1)
    > mega-churches that are consumer driven, 2) churches that are dying and 3)
    > new churches that whose future is dependent on a large number of factors.”
    > This probably requires some deeper digging and exposition.

    I have to admit bemusement at this one when re-reading. So categories are 1) succesfully large, 2) unsuccessful declining, 3) we don’t know yet. Okay. 🙂 It reads like something from my investment advisor. [and I do not mean this antagonistically]

    “4) Despite some very successful developments in the last 25 years, Christian education
    > has not produced a product that can hold the line in the rising tide of secularism.
    > The ingrown, self-evaluated ghetto of evangelicalism has used its educational …
    > And if Liberty is any indication, the culture warriors and grifters are so deeply
    > embedded in the system that it is unchangeable at this point.

    Here is one point where I never found alignment with IM: the antagonism perceived in “rising tide of secularism”. Even today, ‘polarized’ as we are, I don’t see it. I live in one of the most diverse census tracts in my state… people are really permissive to each other. This is in midwest America, we have very openly “Christian” households. And when people foible into offense – and recognize it – the great majority of people are quick to apologize, and everyone moves on.

    I attended a public high school, with no affiliation to Evangelicalism until maybe my senior year. I don’t really recall any targetted hostility to the ‘Christian Club’ kids. Nothing really out of band from the general turdiness of juvenile relations.

    I attended public college, and I don’t recall any targetted hostility. One long break I had between classes I would frequently sit in a particular hallway, not uncommonly reading the bible. An athiest girl with the same next class often waited next to me and jovially referred to my bible as my “life manual”, all our exchanges were very friendly.

    My most generous understanding is that many Evangelicals are extremely thin skinned. I’ve never felt much interest from other people either way – what I did or did not do. People have their own lives.

    > “5) The deterioration and collapse of the evangelical core will eventually weaken
    > the missional-compassionate work of the evangelical movement. The inevitable
    > confrontation between cultural secularism and the religious faith at the core of
    > evangelical efforts to “do good” is rapidly approaching. ”
    > Depends on how you define “doing good”. I frankly see more good and compassion …

    This is certainly happening where I am. Most of the homeless shelters and like in my city have a religious affiliation. They are now commonly critiqued for this; especially by younger representatives of the neighborhoods. A religious affiliation makes an organization suspect to an important slice of the population.

    I’m not sure that’s fair, I don’t see any evidence their assistance is substantatively impacted by that affiliation.

    Overtime I doubt this will be good for those institutions.

    > “6) Much of this collapse will come in areas of the country where evangelicals imagine
    > themselves strong. In actual fact, the historic loyalties of the Bible belt will soon
    > be replaced by a de-church culture where religion has meaning as history, not as a
    > vital reality.”
    > Frankly, we’re not there yet. Not by a long shot.

    Yeah, if anything they have grown stronger in their ‘home’ regions. Perhaps many others go elsewhere.

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  75. Thinking out loud here…. Whether an actual collapse or a Hemmingway quantum mixed state of slowly and all at once, the Collapse Narrative regarding White American Evangelicalism might be refined by considering what else does NOT seem to be collapsing.

    David Brooks and others have written how closed religious communities such as the Ultra Orthodox Jews of NYC are positively thriving. The Amish, too, are booming. But they’re a poor yardstick for Evangelicalism due to their insularity. But what about the Mormons, er , Latter Day Saints?

    Theologian Roger Olson has lamented the loss of a “thick” evangelicalism in America. It once was a movement, but is no more, he would say. The LDS doesn’t seem to have this problem. They are as “thick” (in the sense of Olson) as ever, from all I can’t tell.

    Do you think that this stability may come to be ever more attractive to beleaguered evangelicals in the decades to come? It really seems like the LDS (whatever one thinks of their theological quirks) pretty much have all the virtuous cycles turning as far as family life, birth rates, and in contrast to the Amish, etc., complete integration into the modern world are concerned.

    Only 12 years ago Evangelicals wondered about voting for a Romney type. Look where they are now. It wouldn’t even be a question. Might this default political openness extend to actual religious conversion?

    Comments most welcome.

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  76. “many things like this repeat themselves throughout history, rather than just being an ‘end-time’ prediction).”

    Indeed

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  77. Yes, that’s how I read Revelation, too – not as a blueprint of a once-and-for all coming “end times,” but as a depiction of the cultural, political, and societal conflicts that repeat themselves over and over again. Trump is *an* antichrist with a lower-case “a,” but “as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come” (1 Jn 2:18). In other word, antichrists – immoral, blasphemous, charismatic leaders who deceive even some Christians into bowing the knee to them – have existed throughout history and will continue to exist.

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  78. Michael, what fascinates me about the verses in 2 Thes 2 is the context. If you read the whole passage, from 2:1 to 2:12, Paul talks about the coming ‘apostacy’, the ‘falling away’ if you will. Presumably this is a falling away from the faith, by the faithful (or formerly faithful?). But when Paul talks about this ‘falling away’ (in this context), it isn’t the usual stuff – immorality, drunkenness, etc., it’s deception. Those who fall away are deceived and buy into ‘the lie’, and believe the ‘liar’ – that is the ‘apostacy’.

    I’m not an ‘end times’ guy (and not Dispensational at all), and know that reading the Bible in light of current events is dangerous at best, but I find the connection interesting (and also think that many things like this repeat themselves throughout history, rather than just being an ‘end-time’ prediction).

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  79. > tying de-churching to the depopulation we have been seeing for decades

    Yep. In some cities the influx of younger people now even has a term: “Youthification” (akin to “Gentrification” et al). All those younger people are coming *from* somewhere, which necessarily doesn’t have them anymore.

    Then if you pull at the threads of the data you also find Church Growth to be heavily correlated to Places which are growing. The growth and decline of denominations is very related to the growth and decline of the regions with which they are most significant.

    It is difficult to disentangle that into any clear indication of intellectual/theological preference.

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  80. No. 6: The transition can come quicker than you would imagine. This happened with the established churches of Western Europe, the First World War being the tipping point. The churches went all-in on the war, on both sides. This destroyed their credibility, and the modern de-churched Europe with only vestigial churches is the result. Could this happen in the US? I’m not sure it isn’t already happening, as the church becomes irrelevant to the kids. Geographic mobility may disguise some of this. A kid in Smalltown, Bible Belt who concludes that the church is irrelevant is just the kid who will move somewhere else, tying de-churching to the depopulation we have been seeing for decades.

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  81. Personally, I no longer have any idea what to do with these kinds of verses.

    They sound very much like “…a gentleman’s handshake used to mean something…” uttered in 1960, 1925, 1890, 1855, 1780, etc… (and, so, when did it mean something?)

    These verses make it too easy to whitewash almost anything, and to dismiss presently observed actions: ‘well, looks like gawd gave them over to THEIR predilections”. What do them mean minus a presumed in-group affiliation?

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  82. Dr. Richard Beck doesn’t mince words when it comes to White Evangelicalism

    First of all, I don’t think there’s much left on the conservative, evangelical side of the equation to partner with… Evangelicalism has become, to borrow from Revelation 18, “a dwelling place of demons and a haunt for every unclean spirit.”

    We need to convert the evangelicals as if they were pagans, because that is what they are, calling upon them to accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

    Given how clear-eyed Dr. Beck has been about “progressive” Christianity, it’s hard to write him off.

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  83. I actually wrote a paper on those verses in seminary. I tried rereading it recently, and had to quit. I was applying it to mainline and liberal Christians. It was a too painful reminder of where I used to be. 😦

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  84. > will ‘Trumpism’ turn violent if they can’t get their way?

    I’m just happy that the messianic hopes of the Trumpers are being slowly nibbled to death by the ducks of lost court cases and missed deadlines, instead of dying all at once. It’s giving them a chance to gradually adjust to reality. It’s kind of like if you’re trying to get little kids ready to leave the house… you’re less likely to end up dealing with a tantrum if you give them repeated warnings over a long period of time rather than just springing it on them at the last moment.

    On the other hand, like dealing with toddlers, Trumpers are quite exhausting.

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  85. It’s not like the Bible didn’t warn us about this.

    “For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion, leading them to believe what is false, so that all who have not believed the truth but took pleasure in unrighteousness will be condemned.” (2 Thes 2:11-12)

    “For people will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, inhuman, implacable, slanderers, profligates, brutes, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to the outward form of godliness but denying its power… As Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these people, of corrupt mind and counterfeit faith, also oppose the truth.” (2 Tim 3:2-5,8)

    “Corrupt mind and counterfeit faith” sums it up pretty well.

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  86. As others pointed out above, looking back at IMonk’s Evangelical Collapse article is very interesting in light of what has passed. Before we put this blog to bed, we ought to go back and deeply reconsider that piece. In fact, let’s start here. 😉

    “1) Evangelicals have identified their movement with the culture war and with political conservatism. This was a mistake that will have brutal consequences. They are not only going to suffer in losing causes, they will be blamed as the primary movers of those causes. Evangelicals will become synonymous with those who oppose the direction of the culture in the next several decades. That opposition will be increasingly viewed as a threat, and there will be increasing pressure to consider evangelicals bad for America, bad for education, bad for children and bad for society.”

    Proven true in spades. What I think IMonk missed is the development that some evangelicals have actually truly become bad for America.

    https://thewayofimprovement.com/2020/12/07/covid-19-is-raging-trump-goes-to-georgia-what-are-the-court-evangelicals-saying/

    “2) Evangelicals have failed to pass on to our young people the evangelical Christian faith in an orthodox form that can take root and survive the secular onslaught.”

    Again, true, but you can’t pass on what you never actually had yourself. The hollowness was there decades before all this, preparing the way to where things are now.

    “3) Evangelical churches have now passed into a three part chapter: 1) mega-churches that are consumer driven, 2) churches that are dying and 3) new churches that whose future is dependent on a large number of factors.”

    This probably requires some deeper digging and exposition. All I know is my “new church” is one of those that did not survive. 😦

    “4) Despite some very successful developments in the last 25 years, Christian education has not produced a product that can hold the line in the rising tide of secularism. The ingrown, self-evaluated ghetto of evangelicalism has used its educational system primarily to staff its own needs and talk to itself.”

    And if Liberty is any indication, the culture warriors and grifters are so deeply embedded in the system that it is unchangeable at this point.

    “5) The deterioration and collapse of the evangelical core will eventually weaken the missional-compassionate work of the evangelical movement. The inevitable confrontation between cultural secularism and the religious faith at the core of evangelical efforts to “do good” is rapidly approaching. ”

    Depends on how you define “doing good”. I frankly see more good and compassion coming out of non-evangelical programs and people than from the evangelicals. The culture war has poisoned the well of compassion.

    “6) Much of this collapse will come in areas of the country where evangelicals imagine themselves strong. In actual fact, the historic loyalties of the Bible belt will soon be replaced by a de-church culture where religion has meaning as history, not as a vital reality.”

    Frankly, we’re not there yet. Not by a long shot.

    “7) A major aspect of this collapse will happen because money will not be flowing towards evangelicalism in the same way as before. The passing of the denominationally loyal, very generous “greatest generation” and the arrival of the Boomers as the backbone of evangelicalism will signal a major shift in evangelical finances”

    Again, we’re not *quite* there yet. But I think this one is closer. I do wonder how much of the evangelical drive to keep churches open is due to the need to keep the money flow from slacking off…

    Thoughts?

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  87. I wouldn’t say collapse in the way iMonk used to say. The numbers active won’t grow, but the radicalization will cause cash flow and voting power to continue to increase.

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  88. I would argue that is actually *is* as religiously homogeneous as it is politically. We just have to look past what people *say* they are, and look at what they actually believe and support. In this case, an ever more blatant form of Christian nationalism, a “civil religion” for aggrieved (mostly white) people.

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  89. I suspect it’s already happening, but I can’t bring myself to actually look at the right-wing social media networks to find out.

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  90. ‘If this is a collapse it is a strange collapse.”

    I suspect this collapse will be like Hemingway’s description of bankruptcy in *The Sun Also Rides* – gradual, then sudden. Right now, evangelicalism is flush with cash and devoted supporters – almost all white middle class and Boomers. But they, and their lifestyle, are not long for this world, and the coming generations want no part of them or their agendas. Like the Zealots, they have backed themselves into a corner and will go down in flames as God pulls their Temple down around their ears. He’s done it before, he’ll do it again. For the LORD our God is a jealous God.

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  91. +1

    “It is way past time we spoke up”

    It’s hard to know even who the “we” is anymore. 😦

    “””…about four in 10 adults think…”””

    Do you, personally, believe that 40% of Americans are Creationists? It’s hard to square the numbers. This must mean that some REGIONS are densely Creationist, given the very extremely uneven distribution of population in America.

    South: 49% of Evangelicals, 37% of the Americans
    Midwest: 22% of Evangelicals, 21% of Americans
    West: 20% of Evangelicals, 23% of Americans
    North East: 9% of evangelicals, 18% of Americans

    Ooopfh, if it holds, that’s really bad. I guess, props to Colin Woodward. 😦

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  92. The “crock” is certain evangelicals identification with Trumpism; the idea he is some kind of “god’s-chosen-vessel”. Many of us who have identified as evangelical think this is a grave mistake. It is way past time we spoke up without equivocation and condemned Trumpism. Trumpism is anti-science, anti-human, and anti-Christ. I thought you got that.

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  93. > Evangelicalism: “it’s just more religiously diverse and politically homogeneous” – from the same
    > religioninpublic BLOG post.

    This I suppose is the Geologist’s “””Rather than recover from this unwise alliance with Trumpism, many seem to be doubling down”””

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  94. “”””The ingrown, self-evaluated ghetto of evangelicalism has used its educational system primarily to staff its own needs and talk to itself.””” – – – in 2009 that had to have sent many into an apoplectic foaming rage!!! Oh my.

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  95. The “collapse” may be a divergence to a new line.

    “””evangelicalism has somewhat broken away from its Protestant moorings and has been embraced by a wider range of individuals outside of Protestantism””” – https://religioninpublic.blog/2020/12/07/the-evangelical-brand-is-not-as-tarnished-as-most-people-think/

    Especially notable is that maybe ~10% of those who self-identify as “Evangelical” are “Nones” (no religious affiliation); and ~9% more are neither Protestant nor Catholic.

    Evangelicalism: “it’s just more religiously diverse and politically homogeneous” – from the same religioninpublic BLOG post.

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  96. I think you know less about evangelicals than the MSM, except for the small fishbowl of evangelicalism you actually live in.

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  97. How long before Justice Barrett and the others, if they continue to rule against the attempts to overthrow the election, will be accused by Trumpers of being operatives of The Deep State and/or emissaries of Dominion Voting Systems?

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  98. The wild card is the overlap of Trumpism and its evangelicals with the quasi-religiou, paranoiac QAnon movement, and the influence of militant white supremacists in the whole phenomenon. Since QAnon is a mostly online movement, and it’s hard to assess its actual numbers of devotees and their level of “commitment” to its insane and violent values and rhetoric, we indeed won’t know unless it manifests on the streets in the coming months.

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  99. We won’t know how much such bloviating is ‘worth’ until ~February 2021. I consider it equally likely that all this fury dissipates like so much morning fog. Still, anything that happens will be attributed to it, yet Domestic Terrorism has been a thing in the United States for decades – and pretty consistently ignored – but now it will have a Narrative, which is something journalists can’t resist.

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  100. “””within two generations of where we are now evangelicalism will be a house deserted of half its current occupants”””

    I certainly don’t see a 50% decline in Evangelicalism – but we still have a bit of time to get to “two generations” [from 2009]

    “””We are soon going to be living in a very secular and religiously antagonistic 21st century in a culture that will be between 25-30% non-religious”””

    We’ve reached maybe ~23% (???, according to the Cooperative Congressional Election Study using the Pew Research Centers criteria).

    Evangelicalism still seems flush with cash.

    If this is a collapse it is a strange collapse.

    “””I fully expect that my children, before they are 40, will see evangelicalism at far less than half its current size and rapidly declining”””

    Can anyone calculate what date that would be? I don’t know when his children were born.

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  101. will ‘Trumpism’ turn violent if they can’t get their way?

    bad signs out there – the drum is that people are talking ‘giving their lives’ for ‘the cause’

    who are they going to fight?

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