Archives For evangelicals


The Puzzle Box Top:
Seeing the Big Picture of Racism and American Evangelicalism

A Feature Review of 

The Myth of Equality: Uncovering the Roots of Injustice and Privilege
Ken Wytsma

Hardback: IVP, 2017.
Buy Now: [ Amazon ]  [ Kindle ]

Reviewed by Cynthia Beach


Watch for our interview with Ken Wytsma in our Fall 2017 magazine issue.
SUBSCRIBE NOW and be sure to receive this coming issue.


My puzzle pieces were disparate. My African American student who overnighted with us and who, when he wandered the grocery aisles in my small (white) town, perspired heavily—as if he was distressed. Or that essay by Brent Staples, the African American who, when he roamed midnight sidewalks, would whistle Vivaldi to lessen the fears others had assigned his skin color. Or Hidden Figures when a smart woman’s heels click-clacked as she rushed out one building and into another to use the colored ladies restroom. I held the pieces, but not the picture until I read Ken Wytsma’s The Myth of Equality.

This Oregon pastor’s fourth book handed me the proverbial puzzle box lid that helped me fit together pieces to the disturbing puzzle, our American racism and white privilege. Finally, the picture was clear. When I finished this potent book, I thought, Now I get it. Now I see it.

Continue Reading…


Humanizing Evangelicals

A Feature Review of

The River Caught Sunlight: A Novel
Katie Andraski

Paperback: Koehler Books, 2014
Buy now: [ Amazon ] [ Kindle ]


Reviewed by Leslie A. Klingensmith

Followers of Christ have forgotten how to talk with one another. We talk to each other. We talk about each other. But as far as talking with each other for the purpose of building relationships and mutual understanding, we are failing in dangerous and tragic ways. As a “slightly left of center, socially liberal and theologically generously orthodox” Presbyterian pastor, I have made some effort to develop friendships with my colleagues who term themselves more “evangelical” than I am. I have a couple of those friendships that I especially treasure, for when I spend time with those women and men I am reminded all over again that we are all children of God. Despite the issues that divide us, we are more alike than different and (most of the time) we are making a sincere effort to follow the teachings and example of Jesus. Despite what I know about the desire we all have to serve Christ, I am also sinful. I publicly confess here to gravitating to authors whose viewpoint is more in line with my own, to not subscribing to evangelical publications, to rolling my eyes and hitting the “power off” button when prominent evangelicals are featured in the media, and succumbing to smug certainty that I am right and everyone else is wrong. Unless I am intentional about cultivating the relationships with people whose theology is more conservative than my own, I can easily become dismissive of their perspective, which is not helpful to me or to them or to the whole people of God.

Continue Reading…


“Evangelicals can’t stop talking about sex”


A Feature Review of

Saving Sex: Sexuality and Salvation in American Evangelicalism.
Amy DeRogatis

Hardback: Oxford University Press, 2014
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]  

Reviewed by Emily McGowin


Amy DeRogatis is Associate Professor of Religion and American Culture at Michigan State University. Her first book, Moral Geography: Maps, Missionaries, and the American Frontier (Columbia University Press, 2003), was a decidedly academic volume. But, in the Preface to Saving Sex, she states her desire for this publication to appeal to a broader audience, including academics, students, and the general public. To that end, DeRogatis is helped by her chosen subject matter. “[E]vangelicals can’t stop talking about sex,” she says, and it seems the American public can’t stop reading (and reviling) what they have to say. But, even with this inherent advantage, DeRogatis’ volume recommends itself with a combination of careful research and a cohesive, easy to follow presentation.

Continue Reading…


Why Evangelicals Should Read

Brian McLaren’s New Book

An Essay by John W. Morehead.

Why Evangelicals should read Brian McLaren's new BookWhy Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road?:
Christian Identity in a Multi-Faith World

Brian D. McLaren
Hardback: Jericho Books, 2012.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]  [ Kindle ]

Brian McLaren is a prolific author. His most recent volume addresses one of the most important topics of our day as it relates to Christian identity in the midst of a pluralistic and post-9/11 environment. Although McLaren is frequently labeled as liberal, even heretical, by many conservative Evangelicals, it would be a mistake to dismiss his ideas in every instance, and particularly in this volume. In the following I provide a review, conversational interaction, and critique, which includes a recognition of the significant contribution McLaren makes to Evangelical theologies of faith identity and religious interaction, the beginning of a process of conversation with McLaren over some of the issues he raises and suggestions he sets forth, and also an offering of critical feedback for further exploration with McLaren and the broader Evangelical community.

Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road? purposefully draws upon the fact that the title sounds like the introduction to familiar jokes. But McLaren uses this a rhetorical strategy in order to provide a thought provoking discussion related to his agenda for the church’s reformulation of various areas of theology and praxis. The subject matter should not be understood as a treatise on interreligious dialogue, but instead as addressing pre-dialogue considerations. The central thesis McLaren advances relates to what he labels “Conflicted Religious Identity Syndrome,” which he defines as a part of the Christian’s faith identity that involves the extension of hostility or opposition to the other as enemy in regards to those in other religions (19). He expands on this idea with these words:

Our root problem is neither religious difference nor religious identity nor even strong religious identity. Our root problem is the hostility that we often employ to make and keep our identities strong – whether those identities are political, economic, philosophical, scientific, or religious. (emphasis in original) (63)

Continue Reading…


A Brief Review of
Evangelicals and Empire:
Christian Alternatives to the Political Status Quo
Bruce Ellis Benson and Peter Goodwin Heltzel.

Paperback: Brazos Press, 2008.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

Reviewed by Stephen Lawson.

Until recently, the argot of “American Empire” and “Paxamericana” have been reserved for those who express dissent against American economic and foreign policies. These radicals have relentlessly critiqued these policies arguing that America functions in the same monolithic ways that empires of the past (Roman, English, Spanish, etc.) have functioned.

Recently, however, these nomenclatures have become more common in op-ed pieces of major newspapers, on news networks, and on political blogs and websites. Defenders of American policies now declare unapologetically that America is an empire. They argue that that is a good thing, saying that America is a just and moral empire, an empire of freedom. As former President Bush said on the first anniversary of 9/11, “The ideal of America is the hope of all mankind.”

Evangelicals have played an important role in the formation of this American Empire. Over the past thirty years, this marginal group of conservative Christians have amassed significant political power and have deeply influenced the formation of the American Empire.

The work of Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri offers a piercing analysis of the rhetoric and reality behind the policies that have built the American Empire.  [1] Their erudite survey challenges the domination politics of all empires and offers the “liberatory politics” of the multitude as the alternative.

This book, Evangelicals and Empire: Alternatives to the Political Status Quo offers numerous essays by theologians that bring with the work of Hardt and Negri into conversation with Evangelicalism. On the one hand, the work of Hardt and Negri helps Evangelicals understand and critique their own hegemonies (“Constantinianism”). On the other hand, their work can help to provide a way forward for Evangelicals, a way that subverts the imperialistic ways of thinking and acting that created the current situation.

The book is composed of twenty-one essays divided equally into three sections. The first section, “Present,” elucidates how Evangelicalism currently fits into the American Empire. The second section, “Past,” offers historical perspectives on Evangelicalism in light of empire theory. The final section, “Future,” is comprised of essays that offer a way forward for both Evangelicalism and empire theory.

The debacle of the Bush administration has provoked many Evangelicals to reexaime their political allegiances. This necessary reflection offers the hope of an Evangelicalism “After Empire.” This important book helps to define the questions that this reflection needs to answer.

[1] Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Empire (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000); Michael Hardt and Antonion Negri, Multitude: War and Democracy in the Age of Empire (New York: Penguin, 2004).


Book Forum: “What Would Jesus Buy?”
Two Books on Consumerism and Evangelical Culture

Books claiming to decipher evangelical Christianity for the secular reader are nothing new, but the Bush years ushered in the genre’s golden age. Following the 2000 election, scores of pundits sought to explain the rise of the Christian right, and some of their efforts were worthwhile. For The Great Derangement, Matt Taibbi went undercover at a fundamentalist retreat that culminated with a mass exorcism where he was encouraged to vomit up demons, and he walked away understanding how easy it could be to “bury your ‘sinful’ self far under the skin of your outer Christian.” D. Michael Lindsay conducted interviews with evangelicals in business and politics for Faith in the Halls of Power and (perhaps to a fault) allowed them to speak for themselves.

Read the full review:

Witnessing Suburbia:
Conservatives and Christian Youth Culture.

Eileen Luhr.

Paperback: U of Calif. Press, 2009.
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]

To Serve God and Wal-Mart:
The Making of Christian Free Enterprise.

Bethany Moreton.

Hardcover: Harvard U.P., 2009.
Buy now:  [ Doulos Christou Books $22 ] [ Amazon ]

Jesus Manifesto Reviews

Why should Christian radicals – ordinary and otherwise – read Brennan Manning’s books?

We need to read Brennan Manning — a former Franciscan priest and self-described ragamuffin — because, while affirming both community and action, he calls us back to that which is the universe’s lone life source: intimacy with God. In Manning’s latest release, The Furious Longing of God, he reminds us that ours is not an egotistical deity who sits back and smugly fields the praise of indebted subjects, but one who chases after creation with a fury unlike the universe has ever seen.

Read the full review:

Brennan Manning.

Hardcover: David C. Cook, 2009
Buy now:  [ Doulos Christou Books $15 ] [ Amazon ]

Movements toward the Beautiful
in the Theology of Charles Williams


In his book The Art of the Icon: A Theology of Beauty, Paul Evdokimov compares the Creator God to a divine poet who brings the world into being from nothingness, each creative act summed up with these words, “[H]e saw that it was beautiful.” Evdokimov contends that in the Greek text, the word used for what God sees is kalon (beautiful) and not agathon (good), and the word used in the Hebrew text can sustain both meanings simultaneously. What God has created, he has made beautiful; creation is fundamentally beautiful. As Evdokimov continues his narrative on the creation text, he demonstrates that in Genesis “the Hebrew word to create is conjugated in the completed mood (Genesis 1). That is to say, the world ‘has been created, is created, and will be created’ until its fulfilment.” Here we feel the pulse in language of the process of becoming: God in his divine wisdom began a drama in which he created in the “completed mood,” and in so doing, he invited the participation of his creation in its own fulfilment. As the twentieth-century Russian theologian Sergii Bulgakov teaches, all creation is longing to be revealed as what it is, as fundamentally beautiful, and “all things press towards beauty.”


But how are we to understand beauty, and what does it mean that God has invoked the synergistic and historically bound participation of his creation into its consummation? In this essay, I consider these questions using the theology of Charles Williams, an early twentieth century lay theologian and poet. As I pursue the idea of beauty within Williams, I will invoke other authors whose thinking might fructify and enhance Williams’s thought. Then I will turn to the question of sanctification. If beauty is our fundamental nature and that to which we are pressed, then we must seek to know how “beauty saves the world,” as Fydor Dostoevsky once said. To explore this question, I will examine Williams’s understanding of the poetic and its relationship to the life of the church.