OK. Let me be clear. I understand that the title of this blog post is a little academic. Many folks who stop by this site probably have in their minds some notion of what “evangelicalism” is and probably very little notion of what “post-evangelicalism” would mean at all. They are loaded terms and any understanding of them is clouded by one’s own experiences. And I’m pretty sure that there are some folks who are going to get to a word or phrase or even shut me out. That’s a problem with the medium. This is a one-sided conversation and I can’t go into too much more detail.
For me “evangelicalism” wasn’t a part of my early vocabulary at all. I grew up in an environment in New York State that was heavily Catholic and heavily Jewish with Protestants of any flavor being the minority–but the “flavor” was mostly mainline or liberal (again, very loaded terms…forgive me). It wasn’t until I moved to Indiana where I experienced what is, I think by most people, understood to be traditional evangelicalism. Here the United Methodist Churches were more socially conservative. We were also surrounded by Wesleyan Churches, tons of Baptists, Assemblies of God, etc. Billy Graham, Promise Keepers, and Christian rock were part of the culture. Theologically, there was a much greater emphasis on having a “salvation experience” and making “a decision for Christ” complete with altar calls. I ended up having a discussion with a “Campus Crusade for Christ” leader when I was confused about being a Christian without having a cookie-cutter born-again experience but he, thank God, determined that I was already a “Christian” and “saved” since I grew up in the faith and accepted it. Biblically, the more conservative religious culture leaned toward “biblical inerrancy” and the King James Version. There was a much greater emphasis on “the end times” and “rapture” even having “rapture practice” at a camp at which I was a counselor one summer. Socially, the issues of premarital sex, teen pregnancies, and American exceptionalism were talked about at the youth group level (homosexuality was an issue for the adults). Perhaps some of this is a stereotype. However, I wanted to show how this was a far different environment than my New York upbringing. At that time, I had a hard time reconciling the faith of my childhood with the faith of my teenage years…indeed the faith stage at which I was called into Christian ministry.