9 Lies the Media Likes to Tell About Evangelical Christians
By Frank Viola
I realize that “the media” is not a monolith. So I’m using the word generally here.
However, I keep seeing the following narrative played out in scores of interviews, commentaries, and pundit discussions across the TV news networks, magazines, and the Internet.
So while there are certainly exceptions, I’ve identified nine common lies perpetuated by people in the media. Granted, there are enough vocal evangelicals to bolster each of these stereotypes, so the media isn’t completely responsible. But nuance is necessary here. Thus this post.
Lie 1. Evangelical Christians are intolerant. “Intolerance” is the new clay word that is used to strong-arm an entire group of people who dissent from the conventional wisdom. Thus if a person believes that Jesus is the only way to receive eternal life (as most evangelicals do), they are deemed “intolerant” because the conventional wisdom is to believe that eternal life doesn’t exist. Or if it does, Jesus is but one way among many ways to obtain it.
In short, “intolerance” has been redefined by many in our time to put pressure on those who dissent from the status quo.
Granted, some evangelicals are (unfortunately) intolerant of anyone’s beliefs but their own. But many are not.
Lie 2. Evangelical Christians hate gays and lesbians. Unfortunately, some Christians despise those in the LGBT community. However, there are many Christians who understand marriage in the traditional way (exclusively between a man and a woman) yet genuinely care for LGBT people.
Interestingly, President Obama was against same-sex marriage not too long ago. I don’t recall anyone saying that he hated gays or lesbians at the time.
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“What I believe is that marriage is between a man and a woman . . . What I believe, in my faith, is that a man and a woman, when they get married, are performing something before God, and it’s not simply the two persons who are meeting.” Obama in an Interview with WTTW Chicago public television in October 2004.
“I have been to this point unwilling to sign on to same-sex marriage primarily because of my understandings of the traditional definitions of marriage . . .” Obama in an October 2010 interview with Joe Sudbay while expressing a struggle over the issue and evolving attitudes.
There are evangelical Christians who break with the traditional view of marriage and homosexuality. But the suggestion that all people who affirm the traditional view of marriage hate gay people is patently false.
Lie 3. Evangelical Christians vote Republican. Some do, however, many vote Democrat, Libertarian, Independent, and some don’t vote at all, thinking that voting is to pick up the sword and affirm the Empire (see Yoder and Hauerwas on that score).
Lie 4. Evangelicals are a monolith. This is hardly the truth. As I argued in Beyond Evangelical, the evangelical coalition is incredibly diverse on all fronts and it’s fracturing. So much so that the word “evangelical” must be redefined today. On its own, the word is practically meaningless…
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