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The toxic influence of Evangelicalism on our society

28 February 2018

Hardly a day goes by without my seeing an article about how bad Evangelical Christians are, and how toxic is their influence on our society.

One of the commonest criticisms of Evangelicals is that they are bigots, and promote bigotry. But I suspect that those who accuse them of bigotry are just as bigoted themselves. As Shakespeare put it,

The evil that men do lives after them;
the good is oft interred with their bones.

But the bigoted critics of Evangelicals tend to ignore the good even in their lifetime, and treat them as the enemy.

I’m not an Evangelical (with a capital E), so I don’t have a dog in these fights. I do have several disagreements with some Evangelical theology, so I’m not making an apologia for Evangelicalism, but judging theology and judging people are two different things.

I went to a church school, St Stithians College, which was strongly influenced by Evangelicals, and one of the Evangelical headmasters, Steyn Krige, was thrown out for his bigotry in wanting progressive methods of education, and (shock! horror!) non-racial education, which was found totally unacceptable by the white businessmen who predominated on the college council.

Just about every sunday  night while I was at school we were exposed to Evangelical preachers, good and bad, bigoted and unbigoted, from a variety of Evangelical groups like the Mission to Lepers (now the Leprosy Mission), and the China Inland Mission (now the Overseas Missionary Fellowshp). Occasionally we would get all uptight about their bigotry, for example when they made derogatory remarks about Roman Catholics. But only a few of them did, and they were usually not invited back.

Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng

And then there is that notorious and most toxic Evangelical bigot in South African society, Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng.

The media were down on him right from the start and all the bad things he did were attributed to his being an Evangelical. Now that most of the media like the good things he has done, there is not even a whisper of his being an Evangelical.

The significant thing for me is that the bad things he did because he was an Evangelical were for the most part reported in the media before he did them. They told scary stories of the terrible things he was going to do when he became Chief Justice. They tried very hard to paint the picture of an ogre judge who would assist an ogre president in his corruption. If not bigotry, that is at least prejudice.

Have a look at some of the media reports when he was made Chief Justice, and the stress on his Evangelicalism and his bad judgement.

Have any of the more recent approving media reports on him mentioned his Evangelicalism? Very few that I can think of, though here is one — Mark Gevisser’s also calls for Zuma’s resignation:

Chief Justice Mogoeng is an evangelical lay preacher, and he reached for the Bible to explain in his ruling the public protector’s role. Ms. Madonsela was, he said, the embodiment of impoverished ordinary people who do not have access to justice, “a biblical David” who represented the public against “the most powerful and very well-resourced Goliath” of official corruption.

Such language draws South Africans back to the struggle against apartheid. “The unchecked abuse of state power,” the chief justice reminded us, “was virtually institutionalized during the apartheid era.”

So yes, I think there is a lot of Evangelical bigotry around — and as much of it is directed towards Evangelicals from secularist journalists as from Evangelicals towards others.

We’re all bigoted in one way or another, but I would like to see some acknowledgement in the media that at least some of the good things Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng may have done might be because of his Evangelical conscience and not in spite of it.




2 Comments leave one →
  1. 28 February 2018 1:33 pm

    Hear hear! Toxic secularism cannot tolerate toxic evangelicalism. But I think a healthy dose of both will even things out.


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