Sunday, January 10, 2010

Evangelical Disenchantment

TLS January 8 2010

from Bernice Martin's review of David Hempton's Evangelical Disenchantment:

Hempton's chapter on George Eliot introduces two of the recurring themes of these portraits: Evangelicalism's failure to live by what it proclaimed as its central value--the belief that God is love (th hook that initially caught young idealists such as Mary Ann Evans and Vincent Van Gogh); and its hypocrisy about sex and power, which was what alienated James Baldwin.
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Quite often, eventual disenchantment follows from the emphasis on grace freely available to all, which trumps biblical literalism, restrictive dogmas about who can be saved, and eagerness for the eschatological violence of the End Times. Active love of neighbor in this world becomes more important than selfishly securing your own passage to a possible afterlife. This secularizing trajectory more readily empties liberal Evangelical churches than doctrinally conservative ones. Yet is also leaves the secular world significantly shaped by Evangelical idealism constructed around the person of Jesus as exemplar of love, forgiveness and self-sacrifice. Where secularized Calvinism characteristically mutates into a high, dry rationalism . . . , secularized Lutheranism elevated the spirit over the letter and leaves behind an emotional cult of authenticity and sincerity. It is not surprising that creative artists and social reformers are so often found in the second camp. And it is fitting that a distinguished historian of Methodism should remind us that secularization has been as much the working out of the interior contradictions of Evangelicalism as the consequence of rampant secularism as such.

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