The Evangelical commenter Matthew Lee Anderson has some provocative thoughts on the Tish Harrison Warren “Wrong Kind Of Christian” controversy. He says that all kinds of young Evangelicals are going to be learning real soon that the world — that is, places like Vanderbilt University — doesn’t think there’s a dime’s worth of difference between them and their fundamentalist brethren. Assimilation will not help. More:
Many of the most hopeful and best parts of evangelicalism the past fifteen years have been encompassed by an incipient desire for respectability. The resurgent apologetics-evangelicals have sought to demonstrate the faith’s intellectual credibility, while the artistic evangelicals have made it quite clear you can still love Jesus and watch House of Cards, thank you very much. The politically-reformist evangelicals have put a hole in the “not like those Republicans” drum, while the social justice evangelicals have made everyone forget about the Four Spiritual Laws. And some of us—ahem—have pounded on about how we can read the old stuff, too, which can be its own form of “not like them folks there” attitude.
Those movements for reform and expansion of the evangelical footprint are worthy enough in their own right, maybe. But Reform has often been laced with the promise of Respectability, and many of us—me included—have swallowed the poison. I have a vague, half-articulated notion that those King James only communities who have been the butt of so many evangelical jokes will be, when it’s all said and done, some of the only Protestant communities still standing: they gave up their respectability a long time ago and don’t seem to have missed it since.
He goes on to say that Christians — the untame ones –need to learn how to deal with the coming scorn with “a disregard which quickly turns the pathetic instruments of stigmatization into jewelry and art.” Why were the martyrs joyful? Because they were confident that from their suffering, new life would emerge. So too should we be. Anderson puts in the sting at the end:
While thinking further about this, it occurred to me that “respectability” as a temptation is most likely limited to those pursuing white, upper-middle class lifestyles, for whom ‘respectability’ is a kind of currency that gets things done.
“Blessed are you when they persecute you and speak all manner of evil against you.” What if we lived as if that were true?