I left evangelical culture in the eighties when I worked with social justice organizations and the moral majority blocked us at every opportunity in the name of a loving Jesus.

But, as always, we must be careful what and whom we reject. A strong progressive and environmental streak remains in the evangelical movement and, even though I chose not to worship with them, I don’t want to marginalize them by lumping all evangelicals with the Christian right.

The danger the right presents is the substitution of an authoritarian doctrine for the original evangelical doctrine of personal respobsibility. Too many evangelicals, especially conservatives, tune out the secular media as valueless and rely on the pulpit for the news. This is the opposite of Jesus, who repeatedly challenged religious leaders for their self-serving behavior.

The evangelical right, and I make this distinction from evangelicals, teaches their followers not to trust their own judgment, but to follow a prescription to salvation. They forget that when Paul told his followers that those of strong faith should be careful not to set the wrong example for those with weaker faith, he meant that those whose faith was stronger understood that the prescriptions weren’t real. Faith was always, especially in evangelicalism, the personal relationship with a God others couldn’t see.

They reacted against Catholicism, which they believed had substituted personal faith for authoritarian doctrine. The reason evangelical leaders feel so comfortable with the church now is that they have transformed their own faith into the “whore of Babylon” (as they used to call the Catholic chirch).

It still remains our responsibility not to judge others by their declared association but by their individual words and deeds. Just as there was a good samaritan, there are good evangelicals. However, conservative evangelicals who don’t question and challenge their churches’ leadership have already become like Peter at Gethsemene. They have wrapped themselves in denial and renounced their faith.

Jesus accepted Peter back. But Peter had to confront his complicity in the murder of the man he followed and be bold enough to speak out in spite of the threat to his life and freedom.

Conservative evangelicals must accept the fact they’ve turned their back on the faith they claim to profess, and that they aren’t being persecuted. They have proven, like Peter, that they can’t be trusted and that’s the reason we avoid them on the street.

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Living metaphor. Follow me @stephens_pt.

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