Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Evango-phobia

A while back, I attended a gathering of some Christian friends. Quite a few were from London and attended Holy Trinity Brompton, but one told me that he went to "Steve Chalke's church". I could tell by the way he uttered the words, "Steve Chalke" that this was something momentous and I was meant to be impressed.
" Oh yes", I said, "he's some sort of evangelical pastor, isn't he? I've vaguely heard of him."
"He's Steve Chalke", said my companion looking aghast, "you know Steve Chalke!"
"Right", I said, "That's good then."

The fact is that I'm not very up to the moment on evangelical writers and pastors. I've heard of Nicky Gumbel, of course, and of Rob Bell and of a few others but I'm just not really terribly interested. The reason I  even mention this at all is that Steve Chalke has written an article saying how he now supports same sex relationships-  and this has caused waves in the evangelical world.  I just mention it in case you happen to be interested in things evangelical.
Now, I actually know quite a lot of gay evangelicals. I find this a bit weird and freaky (them being evangelical, not the gay bit...) but that doesn't mean I'm prejudiced against them. In fact, some of my best friends are evangelicals and even some of my family. As long as they keep it private and don't go flaunting it by saying things like "Praise the Lord", I'm just fine! I wish that they would change their ways, of course, in fact I used to be in that sort of lifestyle, I left it and so anyone can. I just wish they'd realise that they could sing psalms in a dirge like way and avoid mentioning Jesus outside of the actual service if they would only make the effort to control themselves.It's not that hard  if you only try.

 I have to admit that I might have some teensy prejudices -  as a 100% solid Anglican (ex-Anglican?...it's the same thing anyhow!) I find the thought of people waving their hands in the air and speaking in tongues rather repulsive , but you don't have to think about it- that's the point. Most of what they believe is utter nonsense, of course, and they've got quite an agenda going on,  but for me it's a case of love the believer, hate their beliefs. I'm also fascinated by the way that they have their little signs to tell each other who they are, the fish symbol in the car, the use of a strange lexicon including words such as "sanctified" and "backslidden" and "convicted". We might also think they are so full of themselves and their bloody status-among-the-elect / saved-by-grace/ washed-in-the-blood/ baptised-in-the-Holy-Spirit or whatever term they use to make it clear they are a better class of Christian - but in reality they also feel quite beleaguered, a persecuted minority facing prejudice and misunderstood in larger society. So, just think about what that feels like that next time you are tempted to judge! Finally, they're not all bigots who hate women and gays, in spite of what you've read in the papers. It's a stereotype and a lot of them are as tolerant as the average middle of the road Anglican and generally a lot younger and they give a lot more to the church.

So, next time you are about to make some shallow, prejudiced assumptions - don't! Remind yourself that, despite your instinctive disgust, lots of them are lovely, lovely people and remember that it's just the way they were born again!

With heartfelt apologies to any evangelical readers...:)

13 comments:

  1. I think that the postmodern worked to achieve such goals, of the past Counterculture; and the Emergent Church --an altogether spiritual fraud, or remote and abstract in Christ-- is the 'establishment' of the altogether goal.

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  2. I admit the minute I began reading this I had to open another window and Google ‘Steve Chalke’ – so perhaps his fame is not as widespread as his acolytes would like to think. That said I have actually been in contact with one of the organisations Chalke set up as part of my PhD research. I have e-mailed, written, phoned (no one answers), sent recorded delivery letters to ‘Faithworks’ asking for an interview for my research and no one has bothered to reply. So on that score, Chalke doesn’t really impress me – and speaking to other social action Christian groups in England, Faithworks doesn’t cut an impressive profile among them either...

    I must confess to having a prejudice when it comes to Evangelical Christians (and remember for four years I was one of their number and on the staff of one of Anglicanism more well known Evangelical churches in the north of England!). It is the mere fact that one can often spot them just from their mode of dress, conduct and the way they smile. I once embarrassed my partner by going to his work’s Christmas ‘do’ and saying to one of his staff ‘You’re an Evangelical Christian aren’t you?’... ‘Yes’ she replied ‘How did you know?’ I said that she had ‘the smile’ (the printed cotton below knee skirt and flat soled shoes also gave it away... but I wasn’t going to mention that...). Aside from ‘the smile’ etc. there is also a certain air of self-importance (which this woman definitely had!) – they appear to have a worldview and sense of what they believe and how they understand the world that is superior to us lesser mortals. Though this superiority is rarely exhibited via arrogance, but rather through the patronising of others... and this can even be tinged with a little obvious pity for us lesser creatures that have failed to embrace and understand the Good News in the manner they have done.

    There is also an element of irrational fear with regard to some. I was once on a post-qualification training course for social workers, held in Paddington – the course was over a week and so we got to know each other quite well. Again, there was a woman there whom I asked ‘Are you an Evangelical Christian?’ To which she replied ‘yes, how can you tell?’ - she was rather flattered, but my diagnosis had rested on her style of dress, her smile and the fact she looked rather worried or harried about something, rather than any obvious piety – tho’ she was a lovely person to work with. At the end of the week we decanted to a pub on Praed Street to round off our week’s training and I got sat next to the harried Evangelical. It was just at the time when Rowan Williams had been announced as the new ABC. I asked her what she thought of the appointment – she had grave misgivings and wondered whether he really was a Christian – ‘After all’ she said ‘Isn’t he some kind of Druid?’ As ++Rowan is a personal friend of a close friend of mine I was able to reassure her that as far as it is possible to judge (and should we really be judging...) Rowan was devout soul – as for the ‘Druid’ business, I think she was getting rather muddled about his joining the Gorsedd of the Bards at the National Eisteddfod earlier that year... I think she went HTB.

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  3. :) It took me to the beginning of paragraph two before light dawned...

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  4. At least you did see the light:)

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  5. "It is the mere fact that one can often spot them just from their mode of dress, conduct and the way they smile."

    (the printed cotton below knee skirt and flat soled shoes also gave it away.)

    Yup- think you rate as a definite evangophobe Peter!

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  6. Nope .... definitely wear heels, no gingham but yes, drat...I do wear the smile - must work on that !! :-D

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  7. :) Your smile looks lovely Rachel.

    A friend of mine once said of a mutual Christian friend who had been recently converted and felt he was being called to ministry that, "You can tell because he has that smacked look on his face most of the time."
    I knew just what she meant!

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  8. I must confess that I borrowed the term ‘Evangelical smile’ from the (now deceased) former superior of the monastery where I once resided. We used to have a lay-assistant come for spiritual direction from one of the big London Anglican Evangelical churches (yes, I know, ironic that an Evangelical should come to the apotheosis of the catholic tradition for spiritual direction when his church would have been replete devout souls apparently not suitable for the job...). In fact 20-odd years on, he still goes to the monastery for Spiritual Direction. He and the then superior got on very well – indeed the superior had a great liking for this Evangelical vicar in embryo – but he would often lament that ‘his Evangelical smile irritates after a while...’.

    I didn’t think much of this at the time, then a few years later when I was at university, I found I had successfully identified the leader of the campus CU simply because of his smile (the gingham shirt, corduroys and suede desert boots were also a bit of a giveaway). I’m ashamed to say that on the few occasions he looked in my direction I used to lick my lips lasciviously and give my left nipple a tweak – he probably had to have healing prayer for a week afterwards! Whatever it stopped him hanging around our table in refectory! He was actually quite a nice soul, tho’ had that mania that is often the property of the zealous, of believing all people needed to do was believe what he believed and all would be right with the world. I remember in the week before the Christmas Vac, he came round handing out tracts (does anyone, know anyone who came to faith reading a bloody tract? – a waste of trees, made more for the comfort of the giver, than the receiver, me thinks...). He never gave one to me...

    Over the years, I’ve never lost my ability to identify Evangelical Christians – in fact I have a more keenly developed ability to detect Evangelicals than my gaydar (which perhaps explains why my dance-card’s so empty!).

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  9. As an unrepentant and un-re-orientated (or even a post-disorientated) pro-gay evangelical, may I say thank you Sue for this plog post - it did make me smile!

    In a strange way it remeinded me of the opening pages of Brian McLaren's chapter on sexuality in his book "A new kind of Christianity" Have you read it?

    If not it might make you smile too...!

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  10. I've never read that book, don't think I read many christian books. Glad you are unrepentant about being evangelical. I've never seen you wearing a cotton, printed below the knee skirt though:)

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  11. Sounds like a book I must read, Benny - in that far-off day when I retire....

    As a recovering evo, I'd like to comment that in my really 'sound' days I read the writings of Bernard of Clairvaux and St Theresa of Avila. I also went to a nun for spiritual direction. I'd like to ask Peter Denshaw how many Anglo-Catholics he knows who go to evangelicals for spiritual advice? No doubt there are plenty, but I've never met one - though I do know several evos who, like me, receive spiritual direction from Anglo-Catholics.

    It's not 'ironic that an Evangelical should come to the apotheosis of the catholic tradition for spiritual direction when his church would have been replete [with] devout souls apparently not suitable for the job...'. It's just that lots of us know we have much to gain from those whose tradition is different from ours. Even if they're Evos. ;-)

    Iffy Vicar

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  12. Hi Sue and Iffy Vicar - I have posted the section I was talking about on my blog (so you don't have to read the whole book!

    http://benny2010.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/dont-take-this-wrong-way.html

    Mind you, I have to say - as someone who very very rarely reads any books - this one is actually worth a go....

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