Thursday, March 10, 2011

Evangelicalism and World Domination?

There is an interesting article on evangelicalism The Possibility of a New Evangelical Movement in the U.S.A by Paul N. Markham (Western Kentucky University) published by Journal of Religion and Society, vol 12 (2010). The author started with a brief history of the development of evangelicalism and ends with its recent association with the Religious Right. However, he sees a shift of evangelicalism from the Religious Right with its association with politics. It is not a shift from social activism but into another form of social activism. The author concludes,

The “crisis” among new evangelicals appears evident as they increasingly disassociate from the Religious Right and take up a progressive theological agenda oriented toward social justice – with an emphasis on a broad range of social issues. What is less clear is how they develop a shared narrative and means of sustained informal interaction. Despite the lack of an apparent organizational center, there are significant commonalities among the new evangelicals. The most significant of these shared aims is their growing agenda, which places an emphasis on social justice issues and the degree to which their theological expression is intimately bound to the exercise of social responsibility. 

This description of evangelicalism is hardly compatible with another description of evangelicalism by Iain Buchanan's The Armies of God: A Study in Militant Christianity (Penang, Malaysia: Citizen International, 2010).

The book blurb at the back reads,

This book looks at the ways that Western politics incorporate, and exploit, religion. In particular, it examines the rise of US evangelicalism as a force in world affairs. It looks in detail at some of the most powerful agencies involved, and at the way they operate - often as US government proxies - in such countries as Iraq, Thailand, and India...Armies of God is a plea for us to realize just how pervasive (and unspoken) is the role of religion in power politics - and how destructive we have allowed it to be.

This book offers an interesting perspectives on North American Christianity. I would not refer to it as "evangelicalism" as the author did because evangelicalism is a movement with a wide varieties of Christian denominations and groupings. The thesis that evangelicalism is a hegemony is therefore false as there is no one entity that can be classified thus. This will also means that to classify World Vision, Full Gospel Businessman's Fellowship, Habitat for Humanity, Haggai Institute and Youth with a Mission (YWAM) as evangelicals are not tenable, much less that these organizations are evangelical organizations to control the world.

That evangelicalism as a movement and North American Christianity as a whole has been used and exploited by politicians is not surprising. That is why many Christians are leaving the Religious Right. But to insinuate that evangelicals are plotting with USA leaders to dominate the world is a bit far fetch. Religions are often the victims rather than the culprit when it comes to world domination.

Two more comments about this book. First is who is Iain Buchanan? It is surprising that the author of such an expose did not tell the readers who he or she is. Second is that most of his or her references are from the Internet. That the bulk of his or her arguments are supported by writings published on the Internet do not give credibility to the thesis because they are not peer-reviewed and thus do not carry the same weightage as from published sources.

From a learning point of view, I have benefited from this book. It allows me to see North American Christianity from another point of view. Though it is controversial in the way some events are interpreted, it reminds me again that different people see the world differently because of their worldview filters.


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