There are many ways to summarize what American evangelicalism has become, but author and historian Timothy Gloege does it succinctly in an article for Religion Dispatches: “It’s not us.”
Did a Christian politician commit sexual assault? He must not have been a True Christian ™. Did an evangelical leader tell a lie to a wide audience? Of course not; you’re just trying to persecute him for his faith. It’s never their fault.
From the turn of the 20th century until now, evangelicals have turned “It’s not us” into a practical rallying cry — an unofficial slogan for their movement. Hiding behind the No True Scotsman fallacy is easier than claiming responsibility for the members of their tribe whose actions make them look bad.
The question is, how many times do they have to say “It’s not us” before it becomes painfully obvious that it is?
Few conservative white evangelicals will question their overheated rhetoric about healthcare and wedding cakes and “religious liberty.” Few liberal white evangelicals will question how their cherished theological categories might contribute to the systemic racism and patriarchy they claim to oppose. [Roy] Moore supporters will not consider whether there are lines that shouldn’t be crossed.
Because being evangelical means never having to say you’re sorry.
People outside of this exclusive group understand that the world is rarely black and white; that people are complex, often a mix of good and bad. Whatever it means to be a “good” evangelical, it’s equally possible to be a bad one.
But whenever critics point that out — with detailed, accurate examples — the shields go up and the catchphrase comes out. The longer evangelicals refuse to accept blame for their actions or the consequences of their beliefs, the faster they’ll drive young people out of their churches. At some point, all that denial catches up to you.
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