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Saturday, December 17, 2011

What Are You So Worked Up About?

I have been away from this blog for weeks, partly due to a lack of writing in general because of many other commitments. But I have also been absent from this site because of other blogging opportunities. This writing has introduced significant new parts of the narrative I have been writing here about the Religious Right, Samuel Rodriguez and the radicalization of the evangelical center. To people that have followed my thought only through my facebook feeds and tweets it may seem as if I have developed a more strident, urgent voice out of nowhere. I hope that reading these lengthier pieces I have done at other outlets will give justification for the new tone of urgency, for I do feel that we are living through a crossroads moment in the confusing but critical intersection of evangelicalism, Pentecostalism and the Religious Right.

A lengthy piece that seeks to be Demonstrating Samuel Rodriguez's Green Hypocrisy

In light of Samuel Rodriguez's continued and increasing role in major evangelical mainstream einstitutions I ask Is THIS the New Evangelical Center? (See below for my response to a reader's question about this article).

I explain the significance of Rodriguez becoming a central component of a new media/publicity initiative of Christianity Today emphasizing evangelical identity and civility. Christianity Today Doubles Down on Samuel Rodriguez

I engage with Bishop Harry Jackson's embrace of Herman Cain in a Review/application of Miroslav Volf's A Public Faith.

My piece on the evangelical center was at the religiously pluralistic site Talk to Action and it elicited this response from a reader:
When has this not been the evangelical center? A pastor fleecing his flock is at least the second oldest profession. Gotta admire his technique though. Very smooth. And I love the way they wrap things up within 10 minutes of getting the checks. Get the money, hit the door. That's the way. 

I responded with this:

I have to say that I have been around gatherings of evangelicals for over 40 years, and I distinguish evangelical from Pentecostal, and I have never in my life seen anyone with a major role in evangelicalism such as the one Rodriguez enjoys via his leadership in the 3 institutions I referred to, who has practiced this kind of prosperity gospel, this kind of "apostolic" reordering of the basis of church/congregational authority and who has then claimed that these beliefs are fully consistent with the evangelical movement. Evangelicalism as defined and self-understood by the folks at the three institutions I refer to has a meaning dating back to the 1940s and centered around Billy Graham's rejection of fundamentalism. This evangelicalism has always had an ambiguous relationship to the Pentecostalism that is generally seen as having emerged in the early 1900s out of the Azusa Street Revivials. The idea that a major Pentecostal figure, and particularly one who is a recognized and open leader of the new form of "apostolic" Pentecostalism and who preaches this kind of prosperity gospel, would be given such a prominent place in the evangelicalism I have described is a major story. It is all the more important given the fact that Rodriguez is also part of a Religious Right outreach to aposotolic  groups and minority groups that so many in the mainstream and religious media have viewed for over a year as some minor, fringe phenomena. The fact that this phenomena is so not fringe that a leading voice of it is also a leading voice in major evangelical institutions that are anything but fringe is vital to our understanding of how significant apostles and Religious Right culture warriors are to the mainstream of evangelicalism. This may be old news to you, but it is anything but the accepted wisdom in media coverage. 

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