In 2009, Michael Spencer, the Internet Monk, prophesied about The Coming Evangelical Collapse:
”Within two generations, evangelicalism will be a house deserted of half its occupants. (Between 25 and 35 percent of Americans today are Evangelicals.) In the “Protestant” 20th century, Evangelicals flourished. But they will soon be living in a very secular and religiously antagonistic 21st century.”
While I don’t believe Spencer nailed the reasons for the collapse in their entirety, he did nail the fact that it is happening. And faster than he could have imagined, as evangelicalism is down to about 15% now, in less than one generation. In the wake of the recent conservative Christian packed SCOTUS decisions on abortion, guns, prayer in schools, as well as the Republican-Evangelical outright hostility to things such as LGBTQIA+ rights and, I don’t know, contraception, I expect the pace to pick up significantly in the coming decade.
You see, the problem isn’t that the evangelical church isn’t doing a good enough job at communicating its doctrine to the world, but that the doctrine itself is poison. As Andre Henry tells us, “this shit is not good news,” and everybody can see that.
Evangelicalism, as an offshoot of 20th century fundamentalism, is profoundly anti-scientific. And because of this, not only does it tend to believe nonsense like the earth being six thousand years old, but it casts aside modern science which shows us that LGBTQIA+ people are products of their human development, not renegade sinners making a “lifestyle choice.” And, for the record, 1 in 6 Zoomers are LGBTQIA+, so these evangelicals are very likely to have them in their family. What happens when these kids come out? Either their family changes or they get pushed out of the family and likely leave the faith entirely. This is a death spiral for evangelicalism.
The fundamental problem with evangelicalism is that they have cast off the way of Jesus – the way of love for all people – for the sake of a particular reading of two-thousand plus year-old scriptures without any understanding of how culture and scientific understanding shaped the beliefs of the authors of those scriptures. And instead of focusing on trying to bring the love of Christ into the modern context, they have doubled down on rules that were developed in a time of patriarchy and oppression. Is it any wonder that 21st century people see no good news here?
So the coming evangelical collapse is coming and has already arrived, and I for one, welcome it as a refugee from its dying empire. If the entire church must die so that the love of God may be expressed in the world, then bring it on. We will be here on the outskirts trying to build a community of practice that is faithful to the Divine Mystery and the Way of Jesus.