I had been pastor of this church in Northwest Montana for only six months. I took one Sunday off to go back to British Columbia for the weekend to pack up my house we owned there to prepare for moving. Through a friend, I had arranged for a professional singer/preacher to do his thing at the church in my absence. He had good credentials from people I trust.
A week after finishing my move to Montana, an older couple in the church asked if they could go to lunch with me. They seemed nice and my schedule wasn’t overwhelmed yet, so I agreed.
We made pleasant small talk and I started to get to know them. There was definitely something off about both of them. They told me about moving to Montana from Missouri to escape the thug elements of their town. I had no idea what they were talking about. I learned very quickly as they moved to the true reason for this lunch.
“Pastor Mike, I’m sure you didn’t know the guy who spoke a couple of weeks ago. I know you didn’t. There is no way you would have condoned him” the husband began. His wife, who had been smiling sweetly a moment before had a sour face. They were together on this one.
“What happened? I asked.
“You didn’t hear? It is an absolute scandal. I’m surprised the elders haven’t called a special meeting.”
“What on earth did he do?” I was worried he may have committed something heretical.
“You don’t know? Oh my lord. He was Black! A black man speaking in our church. I’ve been talking to everyone since it happened and there is a lot of talk going on.”
I was temporarily frozen in my chair. I wasn’t afraid at all. I was seething with intense anger and I was afraid I was going to do something I would regret. And, I was afraid I wouldn’t do something I would regret.
I stood up. My plate was only half finished, but I was done.
“Lunch is over. I want you to know I consider both of you horrible racists, and I will do everything in my power to see you removed from the membership of the church. Do not EVER set foot in our church again.”
They never did. People revealed to me later that this couple had talked to them and most were embarrassed by the conversations. Montana has very few People of Color. There is an endemic racism there like most states. But the average person hides it better than the couple who met me for lunch.
This was my first foray into this kind of racism. That is not to say that Canadians aren’t racist. We are. But you don’t see it this blatantly. It opened my eyes not just to a different country that I was now living in, but a different church I was now a part of. It is one of the things that I have noticed about the evangelical and charismatic churches in America. There is something going on that is weird. And I couldn’t put my finger on it then.
But I can now. And I am doing that here.
Many of you reading this allowed me to be your pastor. That was something I cherished. Therefore, you need to hear it from me before hearing it from anyone else. I may still be friends with some of you, but I do not identify with either the Evangelical or Charismatic movements any longer. And I haven’t for awhile. But this week’s horrible act at the Capitol convinced me I have to publicly announce where I stand.
I still believe the theological basics of both groups. But I can’t tolerate either movement any longer. I have taught in evangelical/charismatic churches for 36 years. I taught at over 200 conferences, seminars, schools, and training retreats. I have sat on boards of evangelical organizations, been at the head of movements, and participated in both healthy and very unhealthy meetings. I have not seen it all, but I have seen enough to know I am accurate in what I’m going to report here.
The American versions of Evangelical church and Charismatic church are not godly and not where I can go.The American versions of Evangelical church and Charismatic church are not godly and not where I can go. Click To Tweet
And let’s dispense with the “Not All” fallacy at this point. Every time a legitimate criticism is leveled against any group, gender, party, religion, institution, etc., someone will always point out that not everyone is involved in that error. Though that is always true, it is also an attempt to divert from the point. You may read what I’m writing here and say “but not all Evangelicals do that”. Yes, but enough do all these things that I feel confident in lumping the entire movement in with these errors.
Since 81% of evangelicals promoted a maniacal man for President, and based it on the beliefs I outline below, I feel confident lumping in the entire movement together.
Notwithstanding that, here are the many reasons why I will no longer call myself part of Evangelicalism.
- Endemic Racism: Every level of American society is affected by the decision to make slaves a part of American culture since its beginning. Regardless of whether you accept Critical Race Theory, everyone has to admit that the vast majority of black individuals grew up in poverty and will live their entire lives in poverty. They will live in fear of the police, and will receive only token support in their efforts to change things. As I have observed, white evangelicals will be “nice” to people of color but will do nothing to change the culture so the disparity can end. Since slavery started in America, the church has openly and tacitly approved of it. It is not enough to say “but I have some black friends.” The church is historically guilty of even finding doctrinal reasons to promote slavery. And though the doctrines on slavery have formally changed, nothing substantial is being done by evangelicals to enact reparations.
- Christian Nationalism: The evangelical church (I am including charismatics in this as I don’t want to have to keep typing both), is intricately tied to the notion that God chose America to be the greatest nation in the world, a so called “City on a Hill”. Read any book by Eric Metaxas or others, and you can see this outlined. Most evangelical leaders with few exception, teach their church that country, the flag, patriotism etc. are godly attributes. God supposedly loves America and has chosen her to fulfill a manifest destiny as part of his plan. This is why God approves of our military, our wars, our way of life, our political system, our leaders. They will say that God chooses our leaders.
Everything other nations do is criticized. And yet when America does the same thing, it is excused. Our soldiers executed an entire village of My Lai in Vietnam and christian leaders did all they could to excuse the behavior and justify it. If planes fly into the World Trade Center it is terrorism. If drones destroy thousands of lives in the mountains of Afghanistan in order to kill 20 terrorists, it is justified.
The church will listen to whomever promises to “Make America Great Again.” Even though we are told explicitely in the bible to pledge our allegiance to no one but God, the church has made patriotism its great unspoken doctrine. Our nation is not evil; believing we are called by God above other nations is.
I just can’t do it any more. Trump won you over by making grandiose promises of American greatness. You think he accomplished that when he removed us from treaties with other countries, when he blocked non-whites from coming into the country, when he said we would not participate in climate change preparation.
- Christians Support of Guns and Violence: If you have ever heard me speak, it should be clear that I am a Pacifist. I am not passive–these words do not mean the same thing. I do not believe any person should be killed by another person. Ever. I don’t think children should be killed if they are viable in birth. I don’t think criminals should be killed. I do not think we should go to war and kill. I especially don’t think you should kill another person because you’re afraid of them.
You don’t have to agree with that. But in my 30 years in America, I note your obsession with guns. You have to have them in your nightstand for “protection”…even though it has been shown that you are more likely to be killed with your own gun that to kill an intruder. And I find this obsession with guns goes along with this false belief that Christians have to be tough and macho.
Donald Trump knew this. At his rallies, he attacks those who are weak, and makes heroes out of those who are violent and merciless. He criticized the handicapped as weak, he vilified prisoner-of-war John McCain as the greatest loser because he got captured. On the other side, he paraded an openly racist Sheriff of one small town (Joe Arpaio) for all to see and hear because he practiced racial profiling. When the sheriff was arrested for contempt of court, Donald Trump pardoned him.
Evangelicals and charismatics want to be warriors, soldiers for Jesus. You can leave me out of it.
- Assuming to Be a Christian Means You are Anti-Choice: Billy Graham was pro-choice for most of his career. So were many leaders within evangelicalism, including W. A. Criswell, Pastor Emeritus of First Baptist of Dallas. That is, until 1980. Then, evangelical leaders made a deal with the Repubican Party. They would make “pro-life” the evangelical thing and Republicans would support their anti-choice agenda.
They did this despite the fact that the Bible says virtually nothing about abortion, and nothing definitive about when life begins. I am pro-life…I don’t broach taking any life…but I also believe that we have never defined that life begins at conception, either medically or theologically. Christians adopted this stance to get political control, and that is all it is for. Before the 1970s, very few people in churches even knew what it meant to be Pro-life.
You don’t think these mega-pastors care about little babies do you? They don’t even allow them in the sanctuary when they’re preaching.
An evangelical church that purports to be against abortion should be very much in favor of birth control. And caring for poor women who are the predominant ones who have abortions for financial reasons. And setting up better systems for childcare for working single mothers. Churches put almost NO effort into these things and teach actively against birth control for singles.
Trump knew that promising to support wee babies in the womb would guarantee the vote. Other than putting conservatives on the Supreme Court (which will likely do nothing to make abortions illegal), he did NOTHING for the unborn or the families of the poor. But that wasn’t the point for him or evangelicals. It was about controlling the voting bloc. If conservatives and conservative christians were all that effective at curbing abortion, why is it that abortion rates have fallen much more in Democratic Presidencies than Republican? Because Democrats teach birth control and care for the medical needs of the poor.
- Passive and Active Contempt for Women, LGBTQ, Immigrants, and Victims of Sexual Assault: This was the clincher for me. And it still shocks me. I spent the past 30 years counseling victims of sexual abuse in churches and in church organizations. I have met with over 200 of them. In all but two cases, the churches either tried to cover up the abuse, or claim it didn’t happen, or force the victims to apply grace and forgiveness to the crime.
And this applies even more to well-known evangelicals. Men like Ravi Zacharias, Bill Hybels, Bill Gothard, and Andy Savage were all protected and defended by their churches after assaulting victims. Pastors such as Paige Patterson, C J Mahaney, and Matt Chandler covered up abuse they knew about.
And then, after all that–which goes back decades and decades in evangelicalism–they have the audacity to say that women cannot be preachers and leaders in the church because they’re too weak. They have the temerity to claim that the LGBTQ individuals in the church are disqualified just for who they are, and that immigrants belong on the mission field and we need to build a wall to keep them out. Over 80% of evangelicals supported the building of the wall. At the same time, they send missions teams to Mexico in the greatest show of ironic hypocrisy I’ve ever witnessed.
Trump knew all of that as well and he appealed to white male egos. The pastors as a large bloc touted him as God’s man for this hour. Hundreds of so-called charismatic prophets still claim God showed them he will be in the White House for a second term. And even though they have been shown to be wrong, most of them will not change their minds or repent.
More than anything, I cannot stand all the duplicity of claiming that white males are to lead the church when most of the egregious behavior has been by white males.
Considering all of this, and seeing what it culminated with at the Capitol last week, I see no reason whatsoever to align myself with the culture or community of evangelicals or charismatics.
12 thoughts on “Why I Will Never Be an Evangelical or Charismatic Again.”
Pleased to see that you see no reason whatsoever any more to align yourself with the culture or community of (American) evangelicals or charismatics (be it Catholic or Protestant charismatics). We only can hope one day you shall see enough reason why not being prat of the American main churches, them all worshipping Jesus as their god and not worshipping the God of Jesus.
Real followers of Christ also would not take such an attitude as we can see many American so-called Christians presenting to the outer world. The majority goes also against the law of brotherly love and more than once misuses the Name of God as well as the name of the son of God.
At the storming of the Capitol we also saw many people with flags with a cross (the sign of the god Tamuz) doing acts which are against the commandments of God. Attacking the symbol of democracy with symbols on their flag which in their eyes would present Jesus or even God is just blasphemy and a shame on the Church or Body of Christ.
Thank you. I belong to the Methodist church since my mom got divorced 3 times and every charismatic church we belong to while she was married shunned her after the divorce and embraced the sick man that she left. The Methodists embraced our little all women family and never left us wondering if we were loved. I hope that they aren’t committing these same offenses. I see my church embrace every one as they believe love is the only cure for evil. I could not understand why churches backed Trump when it was so obvious he was a malignant narcissist. You explained it well.
Thank you very much for your positive reaction.
Concerning your and your mother’s bad experiences we would like to say:
In our way to create living communities, we always should be very careful how we treat others and be careful that we do not come to expect others always to be in line with us or having to take over our ideas and way of life.
Shunning is one of the worst elements several church groups use to have control over others. It is something which brings division more than it can create love for each other and love for Jesus and his God. In many communities we can see that the exclusion of someone from the group did more damage than good.
It is nice that you came to find a “haven” or place of peace, where they try to embrace the “Golden Rule” (like we call it) not to do to another what you would not like to be done to yourself, and making the essence of life “spreading the love of Christ”.
I hope your church isn’t, bit I met a victim of the Methodist church, also a pk like me. I would not hang out there blindly..test them.
Thank you! This is exactly where I am but would never have been able to express it as clearly as you do. Thank you again!!
THK you for the truth. Churches are the breeding ground for much of this, but certainly don’t need to be.
This is such a great reflection of what I battle with my family, and the Christian dynamic I grew up a part of. Now when I speak out against the flawed system, I’m labeled as a radical who has ‘lost their way’. Jesus is not shown in the church.
So what’s next?
What’s next is a discovery of spirituality not confined to Patriarchy, Nationalism, or sex negativity.
So do humanists in Christianity actually exist? Because I’m not accepted anywhere. I do not believe..and I wish someone cares to know me well enough to know why and respect it and learn.. and accept me. I have no community because of the church and because of Christianity.
I am appreciating finding those who have found similar paths away from American Church.
How are you?
I found you through your funny pigeon post on twitter today.
I am glad you made this brave, tough decision to leave these groups.
I know when I must leave certain spaces, I am sometimes torn about whether I should stay and reform or leave and work with others more aligned with my values.
I am really proud of you.
I am a black, queer, differently abled, femme presenting person among other things.
As you know from what you shared, I don’t have to share a personal, sad story because my story is just a part of many stories engulfing many folx people consider marginalized.
I also believe tithes are just a starting point of community care, and I believe in reparations.
So, I invite anyone moved by your words to share their gifts with me via paypal paypal.me/VeronicaHaunani.
Thank you for this opportunity to share my platform.
Veronica Haunani Fitzhugh
I am a grown child of an evangelical pastor who is a sociopath and his cult. I would very much like to talk to you about what’s happened to me if possible. Is there a way to get in touch with you please? And do you have awareness of ritual abuse? Because I’m a victim of it and nobody from any christian church will acknowledge me. I’ve been left to die and I’m in danger from them all and what they did to me. And the way evangelicals speak about human trafficking and more is something I also want to talk about. You said something strange is going on..I know what and why. Please reach out to me.