by Al Benson Jr.
Back in 1947, (how long ago that seems now) Harold John Ockenga coined the term “neo-evangelicalism.” New evangelicalism was supposed to be, at that point, a distinct movement within what had been Christian fundamentalism. And, although fundamentalism, with its Darbyite/Scofieldite theology had its problems, the emerging “new evangelicals” created a whole new set of problems of their own. Many in new evangelical circles were people who could be described at “socially conservative.” Unfortunately, that seems to have applied more to the folks in the pews than to much of the leadership of the movement.
Over the years, my family and I have attended, here and there, churches that you could probably describe as broadly evangelical, and new evangelical in some cases. I have heard some evangelical speakers and preachers that sounded as though they were giving kudos to the old Communist line about “war, racism, and poverty” just dressed up with a few Bible verses. And, unfortunately, in many cases, since most evangelicals do not seem to have any grasp of history, all that has to be done to deceive them is to repackage the old Communist line in evangelical verbiage and they will buy it. I recall hearing one black evangelical in the late 1960s do just that, and when questioned about it by one pastor who had the courage to stand up and question his rhetoric, the black evangelical told the pastor that he “didn’t show much love” when he dared to question him as to what he promoted. So, apparently, in some cases, the displaying of what has been called “evangelical love” means that you allow thinly-veiled Marxism to be preached to Christians because it would be “unloving” not to let them hear it.
I recall another case, where a student from Calvin College preached at a Sunday morning service in the church we attended in Indiana at that time. His sermon consisted mostly of verbal jabs at those he considered to be “on the right” politically. He railed about the federal government giving back the Panama Canal because they had “stolen” it. (He might have been right there). And he finished up his “sermon” if you could call it that, by playing a recording of part of Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech.” To their credit, one or two of the members of the congregation disagreed with him, but only one or two. One lady really tried to correct his erroneous thinking, to no avail, I fear. I can recall, at the time, thinking that if he was a sample of what Calvin College was turning out then I wouldn’t want my dog attending there, let alone my kids. I sometimes wondered if this young man had ever taken the trouble to do any homework in regard to Martin Luther King and his Communist affiliations. I rather doubted it as, again, most evangelicals are not noted for doing any great amount of historical research. Folks, just for the record, you can find lots of stuff out there about Martin Luther King and his leftist connections if you just dig a little. It’s not all that difficult.
As the years passed, I found, among many evangelicals, a definite affinity for socialism. One lady we knew proudly proclaimed herself a “Christian socialist.” And also, among many evangelicals, no doubt because of their (sometimes unrealized) proclivities toward socialism, there was an often subtle looking-down-of-the-nose at anything or anyone they perceived as not totally centrist, or even worse, slightly on the right.
I remember once, having taught a Sunday school class on humanism. Some of the material I presented was quite explicit as to what the humanists thought of Christians, and of the “rotting corpse of Christianity” which they so quickly decried. After the class was over, some of the people in it came to talk to me and asked me what John Birch Society publication I had gotten this material from. When I showed them what I had, and its humanist origins, right from one of the humanists’ own publications, they were shocked. They were fully prepared to denounce the material if they thought it came from some John Birch publication, but when they saw that the material was right from the humanist horses mouth, so to speak, they were in a quandary. They couldn’t disprove what the humanists had said about themselves, and I’m sure the rest of their Sunday was ruined. And, as far as the John Birch Society is concerned, I have often quoted their material in articles. I have always found their research impeccable. In this particular case, though, the humanists had indicted themselves by their comments.
So this seems to be where much of evangelicalism, or new evangelicalism, seems to be at. They have an affinity for much of the political left (which is really part of the theological left) and sometimes ill-concealed disdain for anything on the political right. I once heard an evangelist say that “the hard right cares little for spiritual things.” In many cases he may well have been correct. But what about the hard left? He didn’t bother to mention them. So typical for much of evangelicalism today. Criticize the right and ignore the left as though it were guiltless.
It should come as no surprise, then, that many evangelicals lean to the left and in so doing, advocate agendas originating on the left, all the while labeling them as “Christian love.” I suppose I need to note that there are exceptions to this, the church we now attend being notable among them. However, the leftward tilt of many evangelicals does not bode well for the church as a whole.
To be continued.