Why are Evangelicals Misunderstood?

A friend of mine who blogs under the pen name Angle KKG, posted a link on facebook to the following article: Why the Christian Right Becomes More Extreme as America Grows More Tolerant wanting to know what my take on it was.  What was ironic was that independently of her, I had just been reading an article on a similar topic titled: In Evangelical World, a Liberal View Steps Up.  Though it is a bit dated, going back to 05' and the Bush Presidency, I thought it served as a good response.  I then wrote the following on her facebook link, before realizing that it was entirely too long for facebook.

Angle KKG,

As to the latter half of your comment. I would agree that the article you posted is overly generalized.

The media should treat people of different faiths similarly.  I think it often tries to, but not always.

For instance, I have seen more than one National Geographic Article, or PBS series that gives a foreign tribe's spirituality the benefit of the doubt. The reporter might be doing a story on climbing Mt. Everest for example, but there is also a small segment about the spirituality of the people who are native to that part of the world. They believe in a spiritual dimension that effects their climb, and there is no judgement passed on he legitimacy of that belief by the Western reporter.

While eastern spirituality is quite different than Evangelicalism, they share in common a belief in the supernatural. Unfortunately, this belief in the supernatural is sometimes treated differently in the West, and as it concerns Evangelicals, then when it appears on a different continent. It would be interesting to ask why that is? Though where I would depart from some of my fellow Evangelicals is that I don't necessarily see a conspiracy underfoot, while at the same time recognizing that reporters often do have their own agenda, the first of which is selling newspapers.

Rather, I think we often have an issue in communication, and a lack of understanding which both parties contribute to, and which both parties can try to clear up. The reporter by doing their due diligence and truly trying to understand the person or community they are reporting on, and the Evangelical by having a better appreciation for the rest of the world and how that world understands and perceives various beliefs and positions.

Much of this goes back to the history of the last 60 years, and a lack of a shared narative in this country.  If I can use a couple of sterotypes just for short hand, Bible thumpers are completely out of touch with the world view of a liberal arts education, and the costal elietes are completely ignorant of the Biblical narative and how that narative has shaped the history of this country.  Those things may or may not be in conflict.  But the shared ignorance on both sides contributes to the misunderstandings.

However, neither do I think it is all misunderstanding. There is a "got-you" culture in some parts of the media. On the other side, some Christians do not want to make changes that would facilitate being better understood because they see that as a compromise. They then take the resulting misunderstanding, and characterize it as "persecution" which they revel in.  (But WHY do they not want to compromise?  That would make an interesting research project, though a large portion of it goes strait to the Biblical narative and the consequenses for compromise that are seen in scripture.)

Finally, in many cases, there is simply a direct and threatening conflict in views. The two sides DO understand eachother, and are rightfully threatened by the others existence.

(In this example I'll "flip the script" just for fun.)

Suppose a reporter from the Wall Street Jorunal is interviewing a person who he discovers to be a self described liberal evangelical Christian. The person being interviewed makes clear, and in terms the reporter can understand, that based on the Scriptures and his Christian spirituality, he sees a spiritual and even demonic angle to the Great Recession, deregulation, and in some cases, how complicated financial instruments are used to benefit the wealthy at the expense of the poor. The reporter for the Wall Street Journal than goes back, and accurately reports on the growing threat to Wall Street's way of life that is coming from Evangelicals, or at least that small handful of fortunately irrelevant liberal Evangelicals.  A similar thing often occurres as it pertains to women's rights or gay rights and Evangelical support for anti-abortion legislation, or various marriage amendments.  The two sides do understand each other.  The Taoest living at the foot of Mt. Everist is not a threat to the reporter the way an Evangelical is, and in some cases that is what explains the difference in reporting style and content. 

The more conservative the Evangelical, the more likely they are to see this latter reason as the driving force, rather than the afore mentioned reasons of a lack of understanding and/or due diligence.

So that is me, Angle KKG.  What do you think?

1 comment:

David Baxley said...

I think this is a pretty fair understanding of the conflict. But yes it is a conflict. Part of the problems is that Christians look to find an enemy that is physical and then attack it. Where as the Bible clearly challenges us to do the opposite. The problem is not rooted in misscommunciaiotin, although that occurs, but in a bsic understnsidng of bot sides and thier world views. The opposing world views are at war with each other. One side sees the other as the enemy However if Christians would learn what Jesus said, "love your enemy's, prayer for those that persecute you. The conversation would be very different. There are those out there that are an enemy to what I believe and want my beleive destroyed. But that has been that way through out all time...I don't expect it to change. Nor do I have hope in any coexisitance where either sides mutually accpet each other. I have hope that I will love, and pursue my enemy to make known who God is, but in that comes truth, no one really wants to hear the truth.