We live in a time of division, as many of us can wearily testify, but we also live in a time of disorientation. Navigating divisions can be challenging, but the challenge multiplies when we are disoriented, and that is a less recognized element of the times we live in.

That we are disoriented and not just divided is evidenced by the numerous and diverse attempts to frame the disagreements among American Christians. Kevin DeYoung’s framing points towards postures, tendencies and fears; Karen Swallow Prior finds helpful framing in the exposure of syncretism in Tara Isabella Burton’s Strange Rites; Voddie Baucham’s book is titled Faultlines, and identifies the problem as ideological; Timothy Dalrymple diagnoses three areas of fracturing: media, authority and information among communities; Michael Graham and Skylar Flowers frame the primary conflicts between Neo-Fundamentalists and Neo-Evangelicals, and between Mainstream Evangelicals and Post-Evangelicals; and denominationally speaking, Ross Douthat sees the liberal and conservative wings of Catholicism as misdiagnosing each other, while Trevin Wax says of problems facing the SBC, “Dig below the topics of debate and you’ll find different postures, competing visions, and broken trust.”

These attempts at framing are significant for how they indicate a heightened sense among American Christians that we are in a truly significant period of time for the Church in America. It also indicates that we are aware of a deeper root to our disagreements, but that we aren’t sure what that root is exactly. It’s a feeling that Brian Fikkert captures in the intro to his book, Becoming Whole:

Life feels unstable and uncertain, as if the foundations are shifting. But it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what’s changing, why it’s changing, and where it’s all heading. All we know is there’s a gnawing sense of anxiety that wasn’t there before.

That gnawing sense of anxiety comes from disorientation, and it’s important to find where that disorientation is coming from. We know the key issues: race, Trump, gender roles, gay marriage etc., but the attempts at framing are seeking something deeper, as well they should. For decades, we have imagined American spirituality in a simplistic, linear way, but the events of recent years have proven that framing to be outmoded and inadequate.

The Simplistic Linear Imagination of American Spirituality

Picturing various modes of thought along a spectrum can be a helpful way of organizing ideas within culture. It simplifies and organizes perspectives in a way that can be easily taught. Tim Keller – to use one example among many possible examples – uses a ‘Spectrum of Justice Theories’ to picture the different ways of understanding justice that are common in Western Culture.

It is common to imagine various strains of Christian belief in a similar linear way. The particular labels can differ, but the vision is essentially this: Fundamentalism is at one end of the spectrum, and unbelief is at the other, with evangelicals and Mainline/Liberal Christians in between:

This spectrum maps fairly directly onto Kevin DeYoung’s 4 Approaches to Race, Politics and Gender, and is a simpler version of Michael Graham’s 6 Way Fracturing of Evangelicalism, but what’s particularly important about the spectrum is not just that it is a common way of imagining American spirituality, but also that it informs what a friend of mine has called ‘Slippery Slope Discipleship.’ That is, to imagine a linear spectrum of Fundamentalism to Secularism is to imagine a spiritual world where some modes of belief are considered safe, and others are thought to be dangerous, slippery slopes that lead out of Christianity altogether.

Thaddeus Williams, in Confronting Injustice Without Compromising Truth speaks this way of Christians who embrace a particular type of social justice: “There is… a predictable pattern: one [secular] doctrine tends to lead to another, then another, until many Christians end up abandoning their faith” (p164).

Al Mohler also speaks this way in The Gathering Storm:

Liberal Protestantism and secularization have merged, creating a new and dangerous context for biblically committed Christians… because of secularization’s effect, liberal theology sometimes even infiltrates churches that think themselves to be committed to theological orthodoxy. Secularism has desensitized many people sitting in the pews of faithful, gospel-preaching churches, leading them to unwittingly hold even heretical doctrines.

This way of thinking is common among the Neo-Fundamentalist Evangelicals and the Mainstream Evangelicals (to use Michael Graham’s terminology) who are concerned about the Church drifting into and assimilating with secularism. And many Liberal Protestants would proudly see themselves as occupying a third way between the extremes of fundamentalism on one side and unbelief on the other. But the Fundamentalism-Secularism spectrum is failing as a way to understand American Christianity, and we need to understand why.

In one sense, it should not be surprising that a linear spectrum is failing as a way to frame anything today. A significant part of Charles Taylor’s analysis of secularism in A Secular Age was to describe our contemporary age as a supernova of options for belief. Taylor has outlined many of the reasons for this, but there are particular changes that in very recent years have catalyzed the shift to the supernova in American evangelicalism, and I would argue that these changes are responsible for much of our disorientation.

Conservative and Progressive Secularism

Two of these changes deserve extended attention, but it is necessary to preface them by briefly addressing one particular issue: the increasing utilization of non-Christian thinkers by Neo-Fundamentalists. Voddie Baucham, for example, in Faultlines, heavily utilizes the work of James Lindsay, and Thaddeus Williams utilizes Andrew Sullivan, Jordan Peterson, and especially Thomas Sowell (whom he calls “the second Saint Thomas”). Many other examples could be given.

The significance of this is that it disrupts the way that Mohler, Williams, and other Neo-Fundamentalists often speak of secularism, when, as quoted earlier, they describe secularism as if it was inherently aligned with progressive politics. With popular unbelieving conservatives like Ben Shapiro, James Lindsay, and Jordan Peterson, we must understand that secularism very much exists today in both left-leaning and right-leaning forms, such that if there is a ‘slippery slope’, it does not descend in only one direction. For any framing to be useful for understanding our divided times it must account for Neo-Fundamentalism being flanked by a conservative form of secularism. A slightly more accurate (but still flawed) version of the Fundamentalism-Secularism spectrum would distinguish between ‘Conservative Secularism’ (represented by Andrew Sullivan, Jordan Peterson, Thomas Sowell and others) and ‘Progressive Secularism’ (represented by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Beto O’Rourke, Bernie Sanders and others) and might look like this:

With this clarification, we can consider the two significant disruptions to this spectrum. I would identify those two key changes as:

1) the on-going development of what could be called a ‘Second Fundamentalism’ (especially involving the topic of social justice)

2) the delegitimizing of evangelical moderacy by conflicts over racism and abuse (which plays out even more broadly through the conflict between emotional health and stoicism)

It’s important to consider each one of these changes, and then seek to re-form our imagination of how American spirituality is playing out.

The Proliferation of a ‘Second Fundamentalism’ with Theological Concerns

The Fundamentalism-Secularism imagination is being disrupted in large part through a new kind of fundamentalism which has proliferated among evangelicals oriented to justice, particularly those who would identify as Neo-Evangelical or Post-Evangelical in Michael Graham’s formulation. These concerns about justice are not simply social in nature, but they are also very much theological, and this means that this ‘Second Fundamentalism’[1] cannot be simply viewed as one step away from secularism and unbelief.

Using the term ‘fundamentalism’ in any identifier can sound like a back-handed way to mark advocates of justice with disparaging terminology, but it is precisely their similarity to the original fundamentalism of the early 1900s that is important for understanding how they disrupt the simplistic linear imagination.

Consider some well-known quotes of J. Gresham Machen, which I have lightly edited to show how much Christian advocates of social justice today sound like him (with substituted words in italics):

“It is impossible to be a true soldier of Jesus Christ and not fight for justice.”

“I can see little consistency in a type of Christian activity which preaches the gospel on the street corners and at the ends of earth, but neglects the children next door.”

“Christianity is not engrossed by this transitory America, but measures all things by the thought of love.”

Patriotism is a mighty force. It is either subservient to the gospel or else it is the deadliest enemy of the gospel.”

Or compare Machen’s rousing call to stand strong against opposition to the gospel to Beth Moore’s call to do the same in the face of White supremacy:

Machen:

Let us not fear the opposition of men; every great movement in the Church from Paul down to modern times has been criticized on the ground that it promoted censoriousness and intolerance and disputing. Of course the gospel of Christ, in a world of sin and doubt will cause disputing; and if it does not cause disputing and arouse bitter opposition, that is a fairly sure sign that it is not being faithfully proclaimed.

Moore:

If you’re gonna let a little name-calling keep you from standing up for what you believe according to the Word of God… you ain’t ready. White supremacy has held tight in much of the church for so long because the racists outlasted the anti racists. Outlast THEM.

They’re going to call you a Marxist, a liberal (their worst possible derision) & a leftist. They’re going to make fun of your “wokeness” & they’re going to say you’ve departed all faithfulness to the Scriptures. If you teach or preach, they’ll say you are a false teacher/prophet.

Just as Tom Holland has argued in Dominion that secularism is an expected and unsurprising product of Christianity, so we might also say that the Second Fundamentalism is an unsurprising way to follow the lead of Machen. Machen was not directly associated with the more common fundamentalism of Bob Jones Sr., but he believed in and fought for the original fundamentals, and the Second Fundamentalists are doing something similar in adding justice to that list.

This isn’t just a stylistic imitation devoid of content: many people who would consider justice to be fundamental to Christianity (myself included) would happily affirm the inspiration of the Scriptures, the virgin birth, the atonement, the bodily resurrection and Christ’s miracles as historic. And further, the original Fundamentalism logically paves the way for the argument for justice in this age: each of the five fundamentals of the 1910 General Assembly is an affirmation of God entering into our world to bring about redemption, which is the very foundation of biblical justice. It is no liberal conceit or secular temptation but is a stand for biblical doctrine for Tim Keller to say that “God loves and defends those with the least economic and social power, and so should we. That is what it means to “do justice.””[2]

And it is this very commitment to sound doctrine that has produced theological concerns related to justice, particularly concerns about Christian Nationalism and White Supremacy.

Russell Moore, for instance, speaks clearly against the way Christian Nationalism is a direct challenge to the faith: “It grants delegated legitimacy to what the Bible itself denounces, and it turns the church into a captive servant to what can only be called an idol.”

Likewise, Tim Keller declares that “Christian Nationalism, to the degree it is influential, means the death of Christian witness.”

And on the topic of White supremacy, Daniel Hill similarly sees a theological threat:

I urge us to remember that while White supremacy absolutely is an ideology used to create, sustain, and justify oppressive social systems, it is not just an ideology. White supremacy also represents a spiritual principality developed, guarded, and protected by supernatural evil.[3]

These theological concerns mean that Neo-Fundamentalists cannot credibly be imagined as the sole safe harbor for sound doctrine in a secular world. To the degree that Neo-Fundamentalists downplay and oppose concerns about nationalism and racism is the degree to which they appear quite comfortable with a particular type of secularism.

Alignment with Black Protestants and the Justice/Belief Quadrant

It should also be said that nothing about the beliefs of Second Fundamentalists is particularly new. Michael Emerson noted in Divided By Faith, published in 2000, that it is Black conservative Protestants that are the most likely to be concerned about systemic racism.[4]

Indeed, Mary Beth Swetnam Mathews’ book, Doctrine and Race, is at pains to demonstrate that Black Protestants a hundred years ago were very much in line with their White Fundamentalist counterparts on doctrine[5] and practice[6], but were not in line with White Fundamentalists on race[7], and ultimately, despite their many similarities, Black Protestants refused to align themselves with White Fundamentalists[8].

What has changed up until today is not the Black Christian tradition: many Black Christians continue to believe and practice what Black Christians believed and practiced many years ago. What has changed is the number of White evangelicals who, perhaps positively affected by the flawed racial reconciliation movement of the last 30 years, found the Black tradition of wedding theologically conservative belief with racial justice to be thoroughly and beautifully biblical.

How we envision American spirituality today cannot be a simple spectrum, and it probably cannot be simple in any way. But one way to picture it is to use two key issues – doctrine and justice – to create a quadrant:

This quadrant still fails to capture some of the key dynamics of American Christianity today, but it does help us to see how similarities and differences between even just a small number of groups creates multiple, challenging tensions that can be difficult to track. And it helps us to see the problem with imagining Neo-Fundamentalists as a safe harbor.

But there is another key issue to consider that is disrupting the Fundamentalism-Secularism spectrum.

Evangelical Moderacy is Being Disrupted by Emotional Health

Evangelicals have often imagined themselves as moderates, as the Fundamentalism-Secularism spectrum illustrates, occupying a space between Fundamentalism on the one hand, and Liberal Protestantism on the other. Billy Graham came of age during the Fundamentalist-Modernist debates, and he was viewed with skepticism by Reinhold Niebhur on the one side, and by Bob Jones Sr. on the other. For decades, Graham and other evangelicals also sought to be moderate in politics and various social issues, such that moderacy became a kind of cultural hermeneutic for evangelicals. George Yancey’s ‘Mutual Obligations Approach’ and Trevin Wax’s ‘Multi-Directional Leadership’ are two examples among many that embody this approach.

In years past, moderacy as a methodological approach to culture appeared to be helpful, reinforced by Billy Graham’s success in preaching the gospel, and his mistakes with Richard Nixon. And moderacy continues to be a very helpful approach today for certain topics, such as wrestling with expressive individualism, or the phrase ‘Just preach the gospel’.

But in recent years, the issues of racism and abuse have forced a reckoning among American Christians, and the two most common responses have been very different. For those who value social justice and would fit the category of the Second Fundamentalism, embracing lament and taking an emotionally healthy approach to trauma and troubling social problems has predominated. Such people learn from Diane Langberg and listen closely to the Rise and Fall of Mars Hill. They cheer on Simone Biles and Meghan Markle for stepping away from revered roles for the sake of emotional health. They see and rejoice over the changes Alan Noble notes about mental health:

In just the past 15 years, I have witnessed a massive shift in how evangelicals, and Americans in general, understand mental health… Mental health has lost so much of its social stigma.

For those who generally oppose social justice and would fit the category of Neo-Fundamentalism, skepticism about systemic racism and taking a stoic approach to social troubles has predominated. They resonate with the Statement on Social Justice and The Gospel. Like Joe Rigney, they have concerns about empathy. And they would resonate with the recent sentiment in First Things that “no one living in the United States should be anything but profoundly grateful for the privilege of living in this country.”

For evangelicals, advocating for colorblindness and racial reconciliation was a moderated and seemingly apolitical way to approach race biblically, but in reality it was an inauthentic shell game that made racial diversity a cover for White people to continue to fail to connect with the Black Church. Similarly, downplaying abuse in the Church by not reporting it to authorities or knowingly employing abusers was a moderating attempt to protect the Church’s reputation, but which only tarnished it. Ultimately, moderacy is a morally compromised approach to social issues like racism and abuse because it does not allow for the passion and action that such serious moral problems demand.

It is difficult to imagine the conflict between emotional health and stoicism dying down soon among evangelicals[9]. The conflict is not philosophical, it’s personal. Where postmodernism, for example, appeared to be a highly divisive issue for evangelicals prior to 2010, racism and abuse are actually dividing churches today, as the recent conflicts at Bethlehem Baptist Church illustrate. And the divide extends beyond racism and abuse to mask wearing, vaccines, deconstruction, abortion, and other issues, such that moderacy has given way to emotional health or stoicism as the preferred and opposing cultural hermeneutics among American Christians.

It should not surprise us that moderacy has its limits; Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter From a Birmingham Jail illustrated this in a powerful way over fifty years ago. King argued that White moderates normalized the status quo, prioritized abstractions over loving actions, and kept their eyes on other White people rather than on Black victims. This is exactly what happens today with racism and abuse: the status quo is normalized, abstractions are made more important than loving action, and victims are ignored, smeared or devalued in any number of ways.

The Problem of Stoicism

Because of this, it is also difficult to envision stoicism playing out as a healthy approach to culture for Neo-Fundamentalists and Mainstream Evangelicals. Valuing emotional health to combat racism and abuse does not mean accepting false stories or being ruled by emotions. It doesn’t mean forgetting the hope of Christ or the depths of our sin. In fact, we might say that the goal of emotional health is precisely to help us grasp the hope of the gospel in all the depths of our broken humanity.

Few people have better demonstrated the legitimacy and importance of emotional health for Christianity than Kelly Kapic. Kapic’s Embodied Hope makes a capable case for Christians to be strong on hope and lament, which is summarized in his Hope-Lament Quadrant:

The quadrant demonstrates how a fully Christian understanding of emotional health avoids errors like COVID moralism and the fading of forgiveness (which both manifest despair, and the need of hopeful vision) on the one hand, and expressive individualism (which is a manifestation of naive optimism, in need of lament) on the other.

All of these dynamics require a complete revisioning of how we imagine American spirituality. The undoing of the Fundamentalism-Secularism spectrum has left us disoriented, but an accurate reorientation is challenging because it cannot be simplistic.

The Butterly of American Spirituality

A more helpful way to picture American spirituality is necessarily going to be more complex than the Fundamentalism-Secularism spectrum, but ideally it would be simple enough to go some way towards helping us out of our disorientation.

Picturing contemporary American spirituality is most helpfully done using the concept of justice, which is the most broadly divisive issue today. The issue of justice encompasses racism, abuse and the conflict between emotional health and stoicism, along with a host of other contemporary tensions. Additionally, a good way of imagining American spirituality will also show us something about politics and the relationship between Christianity and secularism.

To that end, I have created a visual depiction of these dynamics by starting with a Belief-Justice quadrant and then adding various divisions and segments to more closely illustrate the various group dynamics of evangelicals and politics. The result is an image resembling a butterfly, with wings larger than the central area:

The top section is predominated by four of Michael Graham’s categories for evangelicals: Neo-Fundamentalists, Mainstream Evangelicals, Neo-Evangelicals, and Post-Evangelicals (who very often resemble Liberal Protestants). Between Mainstream Evangelicals and Neo-Evangelicals is a shrinking area illustrating the disappearing grounds for evangelical moderacy on justice. There is a growing gap between Mainstream Evangelicals and Neo-Evangelicals as moderates are forced by issues like racism and abuse to divide and move in one direction or another, which also fits the findings about strong biblical beliefs in Divided By Faith.

Of the four categories, Post-Evangelicals/Liberal Protestants are the least close to ‘High Belief’ because of the four, they most often demonstrate some ambivalence towards doctrine. It’s also worth noting that just because I’ve depicted Post-Evangelicals/Liberal Protestants as the only group touching Deconstruction/Disenculturation doesn’t mean that people can’t go from other areas of evangelicalism to Deconstruction: any one individual person can go from any one part of this image to any other part but the sections depict more settled and collective forms of belief and ideology.

The bottom section is predominated by the polarization of politics into progressives and conservatives. While many political conservatives identify as Christian, the popularity of openly non-Christian conservatives like Ben Shapiro, Jordan Peterson, and James Lindsay requires attention; these men may be consciously aware of christian influence on their politics, but much of politics is unquestionably a secular pursuit today and does not require genuine or open belief. Between the two large political areas, Classical Liberalism is shrinking, much like moderacy between Mainstream Evangelicals and Neo-Evangelicals, and for the same reasons: tensions over justice.

Between the top and bottom areas are three sections that are often superficially indistinct from the areas above and below them: Christianism, Centrism and Deconstructing/Disenculturation. Christianism is a term used by Tobias Cremer to describe the use of Christian symbols at the January 6th insurrection. It is essentially the appearance and markers of cultural Christianity without the truth and the heart, where it is difficult to differentiate the manipulators from the mistaken. QAnon followers, Christian Nationalists, and conservative culture warriors occupy this area. The corresponding area on the ‘High Justice’ side is Deconstructing/Disenculturation, where some people who deeply value justice are wrestling with various issues related to their faith, sometimes leaving it, and sometimes holding onto it and aligning as Post-Evangelical or Liberal Protestant. The word ‘deconstruction’ is receiving a lot of attention and debate, and I’ve included Hunter Beaumont’s term ‘Disenculturation’ as a possibly helpful alternative term for deconstruction.

Centrism in the very center represents any attempt to move towards unity and togetherness. This can encompass Civil Religion which is often practiced by both parties. Neo-Fundamentalists are really the only group that never attempts to move towards centrism, but I have colored the area grey to illustrate that very few people in any area of belief or ideology are interested in centrism today, unless it serves their immediate interests.

In contrast to centrism, much of the energy is located in the four corners. Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Beto O’Rourke have animated secular progressives, as Peterson, Shapiro, and Lindsay have done for secular conservatives. John MacArthur, Voddie Baucham, and supporters of the SSJG energize Neo-Fundamentalists. Jemar Tisby and Kristen Kobes Dumez have energized both Neo-Evangelicals and Post-Evangelicals, two groups where dividing lines may be blurred given that the attention given to social sciences is not necessarily opposed to belief. Gay marriage would likely be an area that divides these two groups, but the importance of emotional health–and by extension pastoral care for members who identify as gay–can often cover up differences there.

Reorientation

Picturing American spirituality this way reminds us that despite our disorientation and division, it may be possible for us to reorient ourselves and then to better understand our differences. The division may not change, but reorientation can allow us a measure of peace and clarity, which in turn makes the discipleship, evangelism and pursuit of justice within our churches, denominations and networks easier to focus on and carry out.

Christianity has been through many conflicts throughout the centuries, some of which have been far more challenging and destructive than the current debates about justice. Being in the midst of a conflict is very hard, but God has always brought his church through those conflicts. And reorienting ourselves to the more complex world we live in is an important step in that direction.

Footnotes

  1. I’m using the term ‘Second Fundamentalism’ as a temporary, generic, and descriptive moniker, not as a permanent or prescriptive one. I’m reluctant to use it at all, for a number of reasons. Naming a movement is challenging, especially a movement that does not have defined leadership, let alone defined parameters. And given the parade of unhelpful terms from opponents of social justice (‘Wokeness’, ‘Cultural Marxism’ etc.), it is likely that any helpful name will be twisted and misused. So I have used the term ‘Second Fundamentalism’ because it is fairly generic, and because I believe it is still useful to have some kind of descriptive terminology for highlighting certain key ideas and connections.

    Additionally, I am reluctant to use the term because of the many negative connotations that fundamentalism carries. But as I note, I believe it is important to see the connections and similarities to the original fundamentalism, which grew out of the healthy and necessary opposition to modernism, and resulted in the articulation of the five fundamentals in 1910; in a similar manner, I think that some kind of articulation and clarity about the importance of racial justice and biblical justice would be very healthy and helpful for American Christianity. And I also believe that seeing the connection between today’s movement towards social justice and fundamentalism can serve as a helpful warning of the temptation to excess and abuse that can happen when believers recover a biblical view of a culturally controversial issue.

  2. Generous Justice: How God’s Grace Makes Us Just, p5
  3. White Lies, p74-75
  4. “Black conservative Protestants differ from other black Americans; but the conservative Protestant effect runs in the OPPOSITE DIRECTION of white Americans. Black conservative Protestants, compared to other blacks, are LESS individualistic and MORE structural in their explanations of racial inequality… This means that the divide in how whites and blacks explain racial inequality is actually greater for religious conservatives than for other Americans… Conservative religion intensifies the different values and experiences of each racial group, sharpening and increasing the divide between black and white Americans.” p97
  5. “Although African American ministers were excluded from full fellowship with their white brethren in the 1920s and 1930s, they spent a great deal of time writing about many of the same topics that concerned the fundamentalists as they sought to respond to the gauntlet the fundamentalist movement had thrown. Editorials and articles decrying the changes in biblical interpretation, intellectualism, and social customs were a common staple in the pages of the National Baptist Union-Review, the Star of Zion, the Christian Recorder, and, to a lesser extent, the National Baptist Voice. Overwhelmingly, editors, authors, and readers denounced the growing tide of modernism…” p68-69
  6. “Much like their commentary on dancing, their indictment of sexual behavior and the more liberated role of women closely resembled the concerns white fundamentalists held on the same topics.” p105
  7. “[B]lack ministers, editors, and leaders demonstrated a clear sympathy for the anti-modernism of the fundamentalists. So often did they side with them that it would be easy to conclude that in this facet of fundamentalism’s definition, black Protestants were fundamentalist. But that conclusion needs to be tempered with an eye toward black politics and the location of African Americans in a largely segregated society. As African American commentators wrestled with these issues, they outlined a different critique of modernity–a critique that both sided with white fundamentalists and opposed their status quo mentality at the same time” p99

    For these black religious writers, modernism was a danger white people had created, and white people would reap what they had sown…

    “Black Protestants offered a steady resistance to the perceived threat of modernism in the 1920s and 1930s, even as they continued to turn the term into a racial one.” p42

    See also Daniel Hill’s review of Daniel Bare’s book, Black Fundamentalists: Conservative Christianity and Racial Identity in the Segregation Era

  8. “African American religious papers (and their governing denominations) tended to avoid including themselves in the formal category of fundamentalist.” p76

    This is a significant reason why I am hesitant to use the term ‘Second Fundamentalism’ or any other term that a large number of people do not use for themselves. But I do believe that the connection to the original Fundamentalism is real, both in style and content, and that this is important for understanding our disorientation.

  9. Emotional health and stoicism, as I see them functioning among evangelicals, could be defined as the tendency to view emotions (especially the more extreme emotions like joy and sadness, exuberance and grief), either as valuable insights into our humanity or as suspicious reminders of our sinfulness. It’s the tendency to see emotions either as opportunities for deeper insight into our lives or as temporarily understandable but long-term distractions from obedience and growth. Or to use Peter Scazzero’s phraseology, either you can’t be spiritually healthy without being emotionally healthy, or you can’t be spiritually healthy without guarding the truth from extreme emotions.
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Posted by Bill Melone

Bill Melone gardens, teaches, and writes in Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter, @billmelone, or on Medium, https://billmelone.medium.com.

7 Comments

  1. To the reader: “neo-fundamentalists” and “second fundamentalists” to refer to two different groups. I realized this rather late.

    Reply

  2. Would be great to see an article on this site that recognizes the possibility that the conservative wing of evangelicalism isn’t objectively “anti-justice”, but simply has differing beliefs about how to achieve justice, regards much of the associated vocabulary as being semantically hijacked by motte-and-bailey gamesmanship and avoids it for that reason, and sincerely thinks that certain progressive strategies toward that end are ineffectual or even counterproductive.

    Reply

    1. I think that you’re partly right. It’s probably more accurate to refer to those in the upper left quadrant of the butterfly as being anti-pluralism as opposed to being anti-justice. They object to the use of analytical tools that unveil systemic injustice because they often don’t see what is unveiled as injustice. It’s just seen as the collective effort of the socially dominant group in society taking care of other members of the in-group, even if at the expense of members of out-groups. By contrast, evangelicals in the upper-right quadrant of the butterfly tend to place much lower value on in-group loyalty and tend to see it as a moral defect.

      Reply

      1. “They object to the use of analytical tools that unveil systemic injustice because they often don’t see what is unveiled as injustice.”

        Nah. You miss the main point. CT/CLT/CLS/CRT is not an “analytical tool.” having been immersed in Marxist theory early in life, it is highly inaccurate. This is Neo-MArxism, pure and simply, and recognizable to anyone willing to examine it. Start with Plato, Rousseau, Roberspierre, MArx. THEN Gramsci, Adorno, Foucault and Marcuse.

        And sadly, guys like Baucham and Metaxas, like Colson and Dobson before them, are seeing the coming

        Reply

  3. An interesting article with insight helpful to understand the religious influences on American citizens. I’m not sure how prevalent these influences are on the Orthodox Church, but, with the growth of converts in our midst, we will need to be aware of these nuances to avoid both Progressive Secularism and Conservative Secularism.

    Reply

  4. Interesting read.

    One important point that you note is that secularism comes in all political persuasions. And those secular commitments tend to influence us. One problem with neo-fundamentalism is that it tends to repackage its secular commitments as theological commitments. But that doesn’t make them so. It just means that neo-fundamentalists are often blind to what their secular commitments are and mistake disagreement on those issues for unbelief.

    I also wonder if one could swap out the term “justice” for “pluralism.” Those in the upper right wing of the butterfly are mostly conservatives in the classic Burkean sense, but they tend to embrace pluralism as a public virtue. By contrast, those in the upper left wing of the butterfly are much more skeptical of pluralism, and tend to operate much more with an ethic influenced by whether someone else is perceived to be a member of their group or not. They are just as concerned about injustice if that injustice befalls someone who’s a member of their in-group. They are less concerned about injustice when it befalls someone who’s perceived not to be a “real American.”

    In that sense, those on the right side of the butterfly generally operate with an ethics that focuses principally on two of Haidt’s moral foundations: harm/care and equality/fairness. In a pluralistic society, they see little value for the other three of Haidt’s moral foundations: loyalty/betrayal, authority/subversion, and sanctity/degradation. Among those on the right, there is broad agreement as to what a better society would look like; they just disagree on the means to get there.

    On the other hand, those on the left side of the butterfly envision a very different society. They’re much more interested in having a society in which the place of the historically dominant social group—the real Americans—is protected and preserved. Those on the top left would rather have that occur through a network of private institutions (namely, churches), while those on the bottom left would have that occur through a string authoritarian state.

    In the past century, the top-bottom divide has played a much stronger role in determining who our friends are. So, white evangelicals basically got along as a group because we were all in the top half. Over the past 25 years, the left-right divide has come to play a greater role, and is probably as important now than the top-bottom divide. Those in the upper left used to feel a certain kinship with those in the upper right. That feeling of kinship is disappearing, and the feeling is mutual. These days, those in the upper left feel an increasing kinship with those in the bottom left.

    That’s why I don’t see the alliances that led to 20th-century evangelicalism lasting. Its two main constituent groups once felt a certain kinship. That kinship has now gone, and probably won’t be rekindled anytime soon.

    Reply

  5. […] but they are also very much theological, and this means that this ‘Second Fundamentalism’[1] cannot be simply viewed as one step away from secularism and […]

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