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“The Coming Evangelical Collapse”

Guest Blog from The A-Team

(Reprinted Letter to the Editor from The Bergen Record)

In “The coming evangelical collapse” (Other Views, March 12), Michael Spencer fails to grasp the root problem: the movement itself.

Spencer calls the movement’s identification with the culture war and political conservatism “a costly mistake,” as if another option exists for those believing the literal truth of the Bible. But how can biblical literalists reconcile the clear anti-gay message of the Bible with gay marriage legislation and remain intellectually honest?

It’s not merely that the evangelical movement will be perceived as a threat to cultural progress, bad for America, bad for education, bad for children and bad for society. Progress in science, medicine, education, as well as human and civil rights comes out of looking forward, while evangelicals look only to the past, both to primitive Bronze Age philosophy and to a romanticized Pleasantville-like version of America.

Spencer concludes that the movement’s error was in not having enough faith. The reality is the opposite. Faith motivated its adherents every step of the way. And now that Spencer appeals to reason, he’ll find a movement unwilling to listen because faith cannot be tempered by reason.

Spencer melodramatically paints a future full of anti-evangelical bigotry but isn’t troubled by the bigotry perpetrated by the movement itself. But if the movement does collapse, we won’t see anti-evangelical bigotry but rather what author Sam Harris, a researcher in the neural basis of belief, calls a “conversational intolerance” of failed ideology, an intolerance of the intolerant. When analyzing what went wrong, Spencer never stopped to ask himself why the evangelical movement is worth saving.

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