Evangelicals & The Quest For Control

Many of my reflections lately have a common thread. They stem from a larger project of trying to understand why my inherited evangelical culture sees the world as it does, behaves as it does, fosters the sort of lives that it does, and thinks about God as it does.

I have come to see that there is a corrupting impulse that runs through white, conservative, American evangelicalism, and that is the quest for control.

The urge for control–to determine outcomes–affects the shape of evangelicalism as a culture, and it affects individuals as they conduct their relationships.

It prevents individuals from being good neighbors. And it keeps the culture of evangelicalism from being a good neighbor on the national scene.

David Brody, an evangelical supporter of the president wrote that “the goal of evangelicals has always been winning the larger battle over control of the culture.”

That is true of white, middle-class, American evangelicals historically, as Frances FitzGerald and John Fea have shown. And that is tragic. I say this because the desire to win control over the culture has prevented evangelicals from being good Christians.

People don’t want to be controlled, and the desire for control makes us treat others in ways that we don’t want to be treated. It makes us do the opposite of what Jesus said to do.

A spouse who wants control is a bad partner. A controlling parent frustrates their children. A controlling neighbor drives others nuts. A pastor who wants control is not a faithful shepherd.

An evangelical culture that wants control of the nation seeks any means necessary to gain political power and elects controlling and domineering people. And when these figures behave badly, evangelicals will choose to ignore it.

During times of suffering, people who want control will talk about a God who is in control, and this makes us poor Bible readers and it leads to bad theology.

The impulse for control is the source of a whole host of idolatries. It corrupts everything about us.

Disciples of Jesus give up control when they take up crosses and follow Jesus on the way to the cross.

To seek control is to put down the cross and to leave the way.

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