Dr. John E. Johnson

Dr. John E. Johnson
Blog, Politics

Is the Evangelicalism of Old White Men Dead?

This morning I worked through my daily list of readings–beginning with God’s Word. I have worked my way through the One Year Bible each year for nearly 30 years. If I didn’t, my spiritual growth would be stunted, deformed. I would read books more to my liking (Mark, Philippians) and read books less to my liking (Leviticus, Ezekiel). I might focus on the red letter edition.

Included in my morning prep is the NY Times, articles from The Atlantic, a perusal through the list of articles in RealClearPolitics, and (if it is Monday) Peter King’s Monday Morning Quarterback. On most days, I am challenged, convicted, comforted, stimulated, entertained, and provoked. Today was no exception.

What caught my attention was a column in the NY Times by Tony Compolo and Shane Claiborne-“The Evangelicalism of Old White Men is Dead.” The article was written out of a conviction that among the casualties of the recent election is the reputation of evangelicals. How could it be, they ask, that 80% of white evangelicals voted for a man who is racist, sexist, and looks at the world with an obvious xenophobia? It is time for a new movement, for it is clear evangelicalism is not a community where younger, nonwhite voices can flourish. It is time for a new reformation. It is time to be Jesus centered, giving focus to His words. This is a moment in our history for evangelicals to “repent and be ‘born again’ again as Red Letter Christians.”

I’m not surprised to find this in the NYTimes. Reading and re-reading this article, I find their views disturbing, even antagonistic. Some might respond, “Of course,  you are an old white evangelical, as well as male.” But I believe this has little bearing on my reaction. First of all, I am not trumping the cause of Trump. Like many evangelicals I know–young and old, Anglo and non-Anglo, I found the choice presented to us on election day very difficult. I could not look past the character issues of either candidate, nor could I ignore party platforms that went deeply against my core convictions. I believe these writers missed what many of us, perhaps the vast majority of us–on all sides–wrestled with. They read far too much in how one voted.

Second, because of my passion for ministry to be multicultural (I led a multiethnic, multigenerational church for 16 years and pastored a ministry of 35 nationalities in Europe for seven), I resent articles that paint with a broad brush a particular ethnic or age group within my faith. The writers note that as white evangelicals, they admit the future does not lie with them. It lies with other ethnicities. But here’s my question–shouldn’t we, together, affirm that the future of our faith must lie with all of us, young and old, white and non-white? Why do we marginalize one group at the expense of another?

Finally, the call to be “born again, again, as Jesus-centered, Red Letter Christians” is most troubling of all. It is both naïve and unbiblical. Again, the writers marginalize. In this case, their words demote the other members of the Trinity. What they are saying relegates the “black letter” portions of Scripture to something less important, less inspired. Wouldn’t it be far better to say–“Maybe this is a moment in our history for evangelicals to repent of marginalization–of one another, of God, and of Scripture. It’s time we be this Trinity centered movement that reveres all of Scripture, as well as respects one another.”

Am I somewhat embarrassed by some evangelical leaders who publically endorsed Trump (despite his character and some of his policies)? Yes. But I was also troubled by other evangelicals who endorsed Clinton (despite her character and her stand on abortion and marital redefinitions). Looking back over these months, I would have preferred that all evangelicals, of all ethnicities and ages, were determined to be a faithful presence (Hunter, To Change the World), speaking with their actions and declaring with their words that our hope is not in this kingdom but in God’s kingdom. Leaders come and go, like flowers of the field (Isa. 40). But God’s kingdom endures.





  • Robert Tuck
    4:55 AM, 1 December 2016

    I always appreciate your words, though they are sometimes difficult. This resonates with me very strongly. Thank you for articulating a more moderate view.

  • B N
    5:39 AM, 1 December 2016

    I always appreciate your leadership and perspective. I think the question a lot of younger people ask is something like…"how is Clinton’s "redefining" of marriage different or worse than Trump’s?"
    Also, to a lot of people 80% (81) of Evangelicals proved to be the hypocrites many already believed, wanted to believe, they are in this election after years (decades) of preaching the importance of morality in a candidate.
    Many would argue both were flawed, but far from equally so.
    But, as you say, where is our hope…truly? And what would that Hope have us do now?

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