After Evangelicalism: The Path to a New Christianity by David P. Gushee
Gushee offers an exact detail of where modern evangelism has gone wrong. I previously held a more conservative viewpoint on the issues addressed in this book, but see Gushee’s perspective. Evangelism has become synonymous with right-wing politics, exclusion, and the marginalization of people. This cannot stand in the Church’s future. If Jesus were to return now, who would he dine with? Most likely the poor and the discriminated, including same-sex people.
The Church is important for communing in the presence of the Lord, but when it becomes a stumbling block to human needs, the policies and doctrines require revision. Christ’s Church is for all people, everywhere, all the time. No Exceptions. Below are notes from the foreword by Brian D. McLaren.
In After Evangelicalism, David Gushee has good news for you. Instead of writing off your entire evangelical investment as a total loss, you can shift your investment into a different Christianity. He calls it Christian humanism, and if that term seems to entice you, let it. (And if it doesn’t, let it anyway.) Whatever else we might say about American evangelicalism, it’s hard to deny that it has become uglier, more compromised, and less credible in recent decades, especially since November 2016. At a certain point in the decomposition of a religious community, its gatekeepers lose their authority. Like a bar of soap, we have used it up.
They can scold, critique, and threaten even more loudly than before, but folks wonder, “And why should I care what you think anymore?” I think we’re at that point for growing numbers of evangelicals. Suppose evangelical gatekeepers can swallow keeping children in cages, mocking the Sermon on the Mount, and following leaders in thrall to Trumpist bigotry. Why would anyone respect their discernment, value their praise, or fear their critique?
After getting the lay of the land in the first few chapters, here are a few highlights you can expect: In chapter 4, you cannot forget the “burning children test.” Then, after David describes six strands of evangelical theology, you’ll come to the dramatic watershed moment when he concludes, “I need to state clearly that I oppose every aspect of this version of evangelical Christianity.”
In chapter 5 of After Evangelicalism, you’ll find his exploration of “Jesus according to” highly compelling, not to mention comprehensive and insightful. If you’ve been staying home most Sundays because the Church seems more and more like “a consumer culture” and an “outpost of a political party,” you may discover in chapter 6 that your departure doesn’t mean that you’ve rejected the Church, but that you’ve wisely turned away from “a negation of what Christ intended the church to be.”
In chapter 7, what David means by Christian humanism will become starkly apparent—in contrast to “inhumanity in the name of Christ,” and you’ll find his discussion about human sexuality refreshingly realistic and humane. Then comes Chapter 8, where David lays down this provocative gem: “There is no way that we can say the Bible to produce a single coherent political vision or ethic. It has proven to be usable for endless alternative politics: theocratic, royalist, authoritarian, fascist, ethno-nationalist, slavocratic, colonialist, Christian democrat, revolutionary, reformist, liberal, libertarian, socialist, communist, anarchist, quietist, millenarian, and even today’s social-conservative white evangelical Republicanism.”
I think chapter 9 of After Evangelicalism will be one of the most quoted chapters in David’s body of work, outlining seven commitments for post-evangelical politics. If we say a nonfiction book has a climax, you’ll reach it in the last paragraphs, where David offers a confession and apology that is sobering, pointed, unforgettable … and, I hope, contagious. For all these reasons and more, as much as I’ve loved all of David’s books, this one strikes me as his magnum opus, the one most not-to-miss, the one that should not be put on your shelf until you have read through to the last page, come what may. Thank God, David Gushee is right: life is abundant, complete, and accessible after evangelicalism.
Gushee, David P. After Evangelicalism. Presbyterian Publishing Corporation. Kindle Edition. 2020