Give Rachel Held Evans credit. She was able to generate a lot of discussion with her post, “Why millennials are leaving the church.” Evans’s contradictory article, however, is merely another polemic against the conservative evangelicalism she’s been battling for years. The solution to winning back? Churches just need to follow her lead and go liberal!
Evans explains that young people are rejecting evangelical Christianity because it’s “too political, too exclusive, old-fashioned, unconcerned with social justice and hostile to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.” When she says “too political,” she means too conservative but Evans is just as political as she’s always been. She’s just switched teams. “Too political” comes down a desire to see evangelicalism embrace the progressive views of the day as she has done.
Specifically, Evans explains that “young evangelicals often feel they have to choose between their intellectual integrity and their faith, between science and Christianity.” Read: evolution. Evans has rejected her past views on creation and now embraces evolution so the church should too. “Evangelical obsession with sex can make Christian living seem like little more than sticking to a list of rules.” Who is obsessed with sex in the LGBT debate? I would argue LGBT proponents, such as Evans, are much more obsessed with the issue than conservative evangelicals. Apparently, if you hold to a biblical view of marriage, family, and human sexuality, you are obsessed with sex.
“Millennials long for faith communities in which they are safe asking tough questions and wrestling with doubt.” “Safe asking tough questions” sounds wonderful but what those like Evans often mean is a desire to hold any view on any issue no matter what Scripture has to say without being told they’re wrong. If you don’t believe all views are equally valid your church is not a safe place.
Evans mocks pastors who only focus on style updates and conclude: “So what you’re saying is we need hipper worship bands.” Evans is merely continuing the narrative that those who don’t focus on “substance” by going liberal are old-fashioned dopes who just don’t get it. Evans continues, “You can’t hand us a latte and then go about business as usual and expect us to stick around. We’re not leaving the church because we don’t find the cool factor there; we’re leaving the church because we don’t find Jesus there.” Evans mocks these latte churches with a straight face even as her post begins with a hip promo pic of her holding a cup of coffee. Latte church for me but not for thee.
Evans summarizes what a change in “substance” looks like. “We want an end to the culture wars. We want a truce between science and faith. We want to be known for what we stand for, not what we are against.” Progressives’ desire for an end to the culture wars is sort of like the Islamic understanding of peace: there will be peace when all have submitted to Islam. There will be an end to the culture wars when the conservatives have surrendered to the progressives. Evangelicals-turned-progressives like Evans haven’t stopped fighting the culture wars, they’ve just switched sides. Embracing progressivism is cast as being “non-partisan” and “independent” while conservatism is “too political,” “divisive,” and driving young people away from the church.