The recent controversy at World Vision over its policy towards homosexual so-called marriages caused many ripples in the evangelical world. I will tell you in a minute why the so-called controversy is misunderstood; for now, I want to highlight one of those ripples for which I am most heartily thankful: the quick recapitulation by World Vision rocked Rachel Held Evans’s world, and sent her stumbling across the divide of a genuine crisis of faith.
As a result, she is very close to discovering her true identity.
In her reactionary blog post, “What Now?,” she writes:
Twenty minutes after World Vision announced that in response to financial pressure from evangelicals it would reverse its decision to employ Christians in same-sex relationships, I climbed into the giant SUV of a Baptist minister, where bags of Chick-fil-A were waiting to be consumed by a group of hungry college students, and cried.
We might have expected her to cry for any number of reasons; that’s not news. Her resolution, however, is:
I’m done fighting for a seat at the evangelical table, done trying to force that culture to change.
Now this is close to discovering her true identity. She has realized she doesn’t belong at the evangelical table.
That’s good. It was far too long in coming, but better late than never.
But her reasoning has still not quite reached the level of good therapy. So let me dialogue with her for a minute:
RHE: For many years, I felt that part of my call as a writer and blogger of faith was to be a different sort of evangelical, to advocate for things like gender equality, respect for LGBT people. . . .
JM: Rachel, that’s not “a different sort of evangelical.” That’s “a liberal.”
Doesn’t that just clear up so much?
She recognizes that “The response to World Vision revealed some major fault lines in the Church.” Yeah, they are fault lines that have been there for over a hundred years. Rachel just woke up and realized she’s standing on the wrong side of the line for what she’s been calling herself.
Now she finds herself standing in the “wilderness” and thinking she’s starting afresh. Rachel, you’ve been in the liberal wilderness the whole time.
Now she thinks she’ll start a new ministry, friendly to all people—a great big love tent with no labels and no divisions “where everyone is welcome.”
The problem is, and always has been, RHE wants the church on her liberal terms, suppressing the voices of conservative values, squashing God’s law in many places, and yet advancing the old liberal line of “diversity” and “tolerance.” It is anything but tolerant of those she disagrees with.
You see, when the conservative evangelical world bends RHE’s liberal way, she calls it “community”:
I want this community to be a place where the churched and un-churched, Republicans and Democrats, American citizens and people from around the world, can come together to dream big dreams for the future.
When it doesn’t bend that way, however—for example, like World Vision’s recent decision—she cries, pouts, and stomps out of the room in her own little Exodus.
Problem is, this is no real Exodus. She’s been wandering in that wilderness bearing the name of the chosen, but she rebels against Moses and promises to stay in the desert.
And she’s not alone. There are countless liberals filling the ranks of evangelicaldom. Some are conscious of the fact they’re liberals, others are not yet, some may never be. But Christians ought to be aware of the problem—and it is a big problem.
This is one reason there was such confusion and misunderstanding in the World Vision flap. It was not, as RHE and many others mistakenly claimed, “financial pressure from evangelicals” which forced the change of decision. A confidential inside source has told me that what really happened was that a small liberal faction in one corner of leadership tried to leverage the current political climate to pull a coup within the organization. They gained a lot of support immediately from the liberal media, and liberals like RHE shouting with glee, but the majority of the leadership reacted quickly, regained control, and squashed the coup.
It was internal pressure, not external as much, that righted World Vision.
Christians need to understand, and will probably hear shortly, that World Vision is a massive international organization with offices in over 100 countries and over 50,000 employees. The decision to support homosexual relationships did not come for World Vision as a whole, but only World Vision U.S., the US branch. And only a small fraction of those in leadership in that one branch pulled this stunt. They were out of line, they were wrong, and they got corrected.
And now they have outed themselves to the world as not evangelicals, but the liberals they are. And the great thing about it is that they smoked out Rachel Held Evans along with them. Let them rendezvous and enjoy they’re little party in the wilderness.
Now all that remains is for evangelicals to seize this opportunity. Grasp it, use it, manufacture more like it, and send every crypto-liberal running.
For the truth is, there are tons of them in high places: in publishing, in education, in higher education, and even in many pulpits and other leadership positions. You think you are keeping your evangelical kids in a safe evangelical environment by sending them to Wheaton? It’s filled with liberals—professors and bureaucrats. So is Grove City. So is Covenant. Think twice before taking that federal student aid, or dropping that $50k.
RHE became popular with the publication of her book A Year of Biblical Womanhood. She would have done better service to the church by taking a year of biblical exegesis first, followed by a year or two of biblical ethics, systematics, church history. And then, not writing anything.
But we got the book, filled with hackneyed and snarky animadversions of biblical law. On this, her reputation was established.
A tag line for her book on her blogsite caught my eye. It speaks from the hip of a large section of the crypto-liberal evangelical world:
“The Bible is not a blueprint.”
Back in the mid-to-late 80s, Gary North launched a ten-book series aimed at distilling the teachings of biblical law down to laymen’s terms, so to speak, in ten major areas of life. It was called the Biblical Blueprints series. The point was to show that the Bible is indeed a Blueprint for all of life, every area of life, and that evangelicals could advance the kingdom rather than leaving the world to liberals and other miscreants.
Crossway at first agreed to publish the series, but never put it in writing. Then they backed out—cold feet over biblical law and “Christian Reconstructionists,” I assume.
Thomas Nelson picked up the series, but abandoned the project after four titles. North ended up publishing the whole series through the old ICE.
Everywhere, the series faced the same hurdle from the lips of skittish and compromised evangelicals: “The Bible is not a blueprint.”
Back in those days, Gary North debated Ron Sider over the biblical view of economics. What was Sider’s rebuttal? “The Bible is not a blueprint.”
Never mind the fact that Crossway then published its own series of biblical views of various topics.
Never mind the fact that Sider published his own books citing Bible over and over to support his liberal economic policies.
In 2011, Thomas Nelson was bought by the even more liberal HarperCollins, owned by Rupert Murdoch. A year later, Nelson published Rachel Held Evan’s attack on biblical law.
“The Bible is not a blueprint.”
It’s the same old story everywhere we go, and it’s the reason the conservative Christian world slowly moves liberal—led by publishers, pundits, and popular pulpits. They want to fit in with broader secular society. They want to be more compassionate than God’s law, more welcoming than God, and nicer than Jesus. They are liberals in sheep’s clothing.
I for one am grateful that at least one organization stood its ground, bucked some liberals, and sent one crypto-liberal into the light to reveal her true colors. I say it’s time we did it across the board.
Rachel’s bio on Amazon notes first-and-foremost that she is “from Dayton, Tennessee–home of the famous Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925.” This is obviously hoping to cash in on the liberal and anti-fundamentalist cache for which that trial is a bank. But here’s a note for you: a librarian from Dayton’s own Bryan College told me just the other day that the fundamentalist college’s library holds all the papers of H. L. Mencken.
For those who don’t know: Mencken was the atheist, Nietzschean journalist of the era who attended the Scopes trial and gave it is reputation.
Now who’s rolling in their grave?
Folks, in the end, the meek will inherit the earth—the earth. And no atheist, not liberal can say otherwise. The Christians win, and we will win here. And the Bible is your Blueprint for that victory.
Wherever she ends up, we can now accept Rachel’s new reality: she’s not an evangelical. Truth is, she’s a good old fashioned liberal. She hasn’t quite reached the plateau of self-awareness yet, but that plateau is in the wilderness of liberalism she’s been standing in. Whether she sees it or not, the rest of us can.