Mark Pinsky–The truth about evangelicals and the media's inability to cover it adequately

“We evangelicals cringe like everyone else at the prominence given to marginal groups labeled with our name,” says the Rev. Joel Hunter, an influential megachurch pastor in Orlando and an ideological centrist. “We know their numbers are small and their influence is grossly exaggerated, but we are not surprised that the majority of common-sense believers are not given equal attention in a society fascinated by extremes.”

Most evangelicals accept some form of evolution and do not subscribe to arcane doctrines, such as “Christian Reconstructionism” and “Dominionism,” that Christians need to rule the world in order to bring about the Second Coming of Jesus. And, contrary to recent writing by some progressive Jews, most evangelicals are comfortable with the notion of theological tolerance and religious pluralism. “The media have been too eager to feature a simpleton image of evangelicals,” says Hunter. “Our part of the faith community is, on the whole, intelligent, accepting of diversity, and wanting the best practical solutions for the common good….”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Evangelicals, Inter-Faith Relations, Judaism, Media, Other Churches, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Theology

10 comments on “Mark Pinsky–The truth about evangelicals and the media's inability to cover it adequately

  1. Caedmon says:

    Yes, well, Mr. Hunter’s comments, once again, are illustrative of the “ideological centrist” Evangelical’s desire to be “relevant” to and “engaged with” modern culture. I’ll take the old Evangelicals — even the foul “Dominionists” and “Christian Reconstructionists” — over Neo-Evangelical megachurchman like Hunter any day. At least the latter strive for a coherent political worldview and are thoroughly countercultural, which, given the putrifaction of our culture these days, should be the endeavor of every Christian.

  2. Creedal Episcopalian says:

    [blockquote] theological tolerance[/blockquote]

    There’s that “tolerance” word again. When exactly did “tolerance” come to mean “affirmation” ?

  3. TexanByGrace says:

    Re:#1- I have to say that Joel Hunter’s alleged desire to be “relevant” doesn’t seem to be referenced in this article at all. I have to say that I agree about the state of our culture but think it is perhaps more closely linked to the dominance of the military-industrial complex and the rapacious economic climate than anything else. The Church’s inability or refusal to embody a compelling counter-narrative about how we should live in the world seems to be the largest issue facing Christians these days.

    I guess that makes me a younger evangelical.

  4. Caedmon says:

    TexanByGrace at 3:
    I base my assessment partly on reading between the lines of the article but also in part (and most importantly) on long experience in the Evangelical milieu. I see clearly where modern Evangelicalism is headed, and it’s not good.

    I agree substantially with your comment about the “dominance of the military-industrial complex and the rapacious economic climate”, but I do not believe Evangelicals or the Church at large should be addressing these problems by moving “left” or even to the “center.” The Church has a long and honored cultural/political tradition to draw upon that is neither left nor center nor neo-conservative. When C.S. Lewis referred to himself as a “dinosaur”, he wasn’t being self-deprecating. Quite the opposite.

  5. AnglicanFirst says:

    What is an Evangelical?
    What are the characteristics and beliefs of an Evangelical?
    How does an Evangelical differ from other Christians?

    I am very curious this since definitions seem to be so situationally and chronologically variable in today’s world.

    I am also very curious since the term Evangelical seems to be so carelessly applied in today’s American politics.

  6. David Hein says:

    No. 5: Those are excellent questions, and the best answer is that you should consult one of the terrific recent surveys of American religious history to see how professional historians define “evangelical.” There’s a lot to be said about the range of evangelicals, and you can’t expect someone on here to put all that out off the top of his or her head. In fact, even if you limit your question to one denomination, the Episcopal Church, problems of definition across history soon occur. If you live near a good liberal-arts college, I’d just ask there. In fact, anyone who’s really interested should subscribe to Church History, the journal of the ASCH. And I suppose that sociologists of religion have their own good answers, but I commit as little social science as possible.

  7. Mark Baddeley says:

    #1 I don’t know Rev Joel Hunter, and I share your misgivings over a lot of what is happening in ‘evangelicalism’, but I’m not sure that your criticisms can be read out of the quotes in the op-ed piece. I think almost everything there could have been said by John Stott throughout his career and I don’t think he could be said to have been an ‘ideological centrist’.

    I’m surprised that the article hasn’t generated more positive comments. We have here a Jew, a left-wing Democrat, and a professional journalist calling for a halt on the ignorant demonizing of evangelicals – and does so without trying to suggest that they’re really going to become warriors of the Left given some time. That is a serious breath of fresh air in today’s context – an expression of genuine tolerance, fair-mindedness, and truth-telling across a serious theological and ideological divide.

    This is something to thank God for; a rare gift of common grace in today’s context.

  8. Catholic Mom says:

    Sure, but in today’s society you don’t just disagree with people — you demonize them. They don’t just have a different opinion about something than you do, they have a different “foundational worldview” which puts them in a fundamentally different category than yourself. Therefore, those on the left exoriate others on the left not for having held a rightest viewpoint about something, but for having failed to sufficiently exoriate/denounce someone else who was two milimeters to the right of them. Those on the right exoriate others on the right not for having held a leftist viewpoint about something, but having failed to sufficinetly exoriate/denounce someone else who was two milimeters to the left of them. If you are crazy enough to actually call yourself a “centrist” on any issue whatsoever you have simply put yourself in a position to be excoriated/denounced by everyone.

    In the “old days” people had all kinds of positions on the full spectrum of opinions and they were quite convinced of those positions and sure in their belief and reasoning, but they respected those who hadn’t come to the same conclusion. Now nobody respects anybody. If you are 1/10 standard deviation from me and my opinion you are scum.

  9. Caedmon says:

    Mark Baddeley at 7:

    I have in mind quotes such as this one:

    [blockquote]Not so sure Hunter is right? In 2008, analysis suggests enough evangelicals voted for Obama — or stayed home — for the Democrats to carry key swing states such as Florida, North Carolina and Virginia. They are as likely to vote for Republican women as liberals will vote for Democratic women. Evangelicals may be more likely to accept women in the pulpit of large congregations than those in mainline denominations.[/blockquote]

    That suggests to me that the article’s author is saying one reason Jews should warm up to Evangelicals is that Evangelicals are warming up to progressivism, unlike those nasty old Christian Reconstructionist folk and other “marginal figures”. See, they really can be just like Jimmy Carter, and they tend to be pro-Israel, so try to recognize them as potential allies. That seems to be the thrust of Pinsky’s article.

    And I don’t know much about Joel Hunter either, but his being desribed as “an influential megachurch pastor in Orlando and an ideological centrist” (bad signs both) who “cringes” at the “extremes” to his right is likely telling. As is his relationship to Obama.

  10. Sarah says:

    RE: “They don’t just have a different opinion about something than you do, they have a different “foundational worldview” which puts them in a fundamentally different category than yourself. . . . If you are 1/10 standard deviation from me and my opinion you are scum.”

    A fascinating “juxtaposition” here between the perfectly reasonable words “foundational worldview” which does not point to a different *opinion* but the worldview that [i]underlies[/i] different opinions and the rather non-descriptive word “scum.” I expect that rhetorical juxtaposition was thoroughly deliberate.

    A similar foundational worldview *may well* still lead to different opinions on less foundational matters.

    But diametrically opposed foundational worldviews generally *do* lead to different opinions on less foundational matters.

    So if someone [just to toss off an example] maintains an antithetical foundational worldview about the role and size of the State, the US Constitution, private property rights, individual liberty, the free market, and central planning from another’s it’s highly likely that the two differing foundational worldviews will lead to radically opposing opinions on more surface matters like oh, say, the role of the Federal government in the delivery of healthcare.

    What is fascinating to me is that pointing out the mere existence of monstrously different foundational worldviews of different people in various arenas [like the political arena] is considered a gross insult to some rather than simply a description of reality that nicely explains why certain groups of people simply aren’t going to agree on various opinions in various arenas except by accident or miracle.

    A person who believes strongly in the collective ownership of property, for example, simply isn’t going to agree on a lot of other more surface issues with a person who believes strongly in the individual and private ownership of property.

    Those antithetical foundational worldviews don’t make either person “scum” — although certainly some people may *feel* like scum if the difference in foundation is pointed out.

    In regards to the article — this is the same old issue that the Anglicans have as well.

    Truth is, anybody can claim to be an evangelical. Or an Anglican. Or a Buddhist.

    The only real way to “police” the words is by policing the associations, and not the rhetoric.

    The appropriate response to tossing around words like “evangelical” and “Anglican” is simply to point out who’s in one’s organization and who’s not.

    That’s why the association called The Anglican Communion and its rules of membership are so important. And it’s why, ultimately, people who don’t accept others as examples of “whatever label one wishes to toss around” will simply and inevitably glide away from one another.

    Ultimately, one form or another of Anglicans will be in separate groups. Ultimately, one form or another of evangelicals will be in separate groups. That’s the value of outing folks like Rob Bell and others as who they are and what they believe. It’s not because they’re scum — it’s because they’re running around claiming to be something and tainting a word. So others publicly point out the distinctions and engage in the appropriate levels of disengagement and differentiation.