THE SCANDAL OF THE EVANGELICAL CONSCIENCE: An excerpt from Ron Sider’s newly released book
Scandalous behavior is rapidly destroying American Christianity. By their daily activity, most “Christians” regularly commit treason. With their mouths they claim that Jesus is their Lord, but with their actions they demonstrate their allegiance to money, sex, and personal self-fulfillment.
The findings in numerous national polls conducted by highly respected pollsters like Gallup and Barna are simply shocking. “Gallup and Barna,” laments evangelical theologian Michael Horton, “hand us survey after survey demonstrating that evangelical Christians are as likely to embrace lifestyles every bit as hedonistic, materialistic, self-centered, and sexually immoral as the world in general.”(1) Divorce is MORE common among “born-again” Christians than in the general American population. Only 6 percent of evangelicals tithe. White evangelicals are the MOST likely people to object to neighbors of another race. Josh McDowell has pointed out that the sexual promiscuity of evangelical youth is only a little less outrageous than that of their nonevangelical peers.
It is not surprising that George Barna concludes: “Every day, the church is becoming more like the world it allegedly seeks to change.”(2) We have very little time, he believes, to reverse these trends. African Christian and famous missions scholar Professor Lamin Sanneh told CHRISTIANITY TODAY recently that “the cultural captivity of Christianity in the West is nearly complete, and with the religion tamed, it is open season on the West’s Christian heritage. I worry about a West without a moral center facing a politically resurgent Islam.”(3)
Our first concern, of course, must be internal integrity, not external danger. What a tragedy for evangelicals to declare proudly that personal conversion and new birth in Christ are at the center of their faith and then to defy biblical moral standards by living almost as sinfully as their pagan neighbors.
If Christians do not live what they preach, the whole thing is a farce. “American Christianity has largely failed since the middle of the twentieth century,” Barna concludes, “because Jesus’ modern-day disciples do not act like Jesus.”(4) This scandalous behavior mocks Christ, undermines evangelism and destroys Christian credibility.
If vital Christian faith is to survive, we must understand the depth of the crisis, discover why it has happened, and develop obedient, faithful correctives. That is what THE SCANDAL OF THE EVANGELICAL CONSCIENCE seeks to do. My prayer is that this book will renew evangelical resolve to live what we preach.
1. “Beyond Culture Wars,” MODERN REFORMATION, II (May-June, 1993).
2. Tim Stafford, “The Third Coming of George Barna,” CHRISTIANITY TODAY, August 8, 2002, 34.
3. CHRISTIANITY TODAY, October, 2003, 112.
4. George Barna, THINK LIKE JESUS (Integrity, 2003), 40.