Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Puncturing a gas bag ...

... Jacob Weisberg does just that in his Slate review of Kevin Phillips's new book: The Erring Republican Authority.

One observation: Weisberg says that Phillips "contends that the GOP has become America's first openly religious party, in thrall to Christian 'premillenialists' who think the end is nigh." Weisberg himself adds that "Bush has indeed allied himself with his party's evangelical wing." This conflation of evangelicalism and premillenialism (and fundamentalism) goes on all the time. I am neither an evangelical nor a fundamentalist, but I know that the two are not the same. But don't take my word for it. Here's the Encyclopedia Britannica:

... Evangelicalism, has been best represented by the ministry of Billy Graham and journals like Christianity Today. This group agrees with Fundamentalism on core doctrines such as the virgin birth, substitutionary atonement (that Christ's suffering and death atoned for man's sins), the physical resurrection of Jesus, and biblical inerrancy.
Although Evangelicals and Fundamentalists share a number of beliefs, they differ on an equal number of core teachings. Evangelical scholars, for example, doubt that accepting the doctrine of biblical inerrancy is the best way to assert their belief in biblical authority. Many Evangelicals also reject the premillennialism that is popular with Fundamentalists. Evangelicals differ in style, too, and often find Fundamentalists too negative in their attitudes about culture, too withdrawn into sects, too blustery and judgmental. When the National Association of Evangelicals formed in 1942, the Fundamentalist right mounted the same sort of attack on it that had been used against the mainstream moderates and liberals. Most Evangelicals preferred to see themselves not as Fundamentalists but as perpetuators of the 19th-century Protestant mainstream.
To that end the Evangelicals gradually entered the world around them. They became involved in liberal arts colleges rather than building Bible schools, engaged in social programs, and criticized conservative Protestantism's overidentification with militarism and unfettered capitalism. They also acquired considerable if unpredictable political power in the United States and elsewhere.
Evangelicals were also ecumenical; Graham welcomed Catholic and mainstream Protestant leaders on his platforms, and he prayed with many kinds of Christians whom Fundamentalists would shun. Whereas Fundamentalists and Pentecostalists had counterparts in the Third World, Evangelicals tended to form international movements and hold conferences designed to bring Christians of many nations together. While Fundamentalists usually split off into churches of their own, Evangelicals remained connected to mainstream denominations and increasingly moved fully into the mainstream. Nevertheless they always endeavoured to keep alive their doctrinal distinctiveness and their passion for witnessing for Christ.

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