What are we evangelicals afraid of?
In using the title for this blog post I mean to use the question in two ways. First, I want to look at a few of the things that American evangelicals are fearful of, and then on the second usage of the question I want us to consider why this is the case in light of our scriptural tradition.
Let's consider the first way to look at the question, What are evangelicals afraid of? Some answers to this come by way of the Baylor Religion Survey Wave 5 from September 2017, published as "American Values, Mental Health, and Using Technology in the Age of Trump." In this report Baylor looked at evangelical Trump voters, a large majority of White evangelicals, as well as those from other religious traditions, but with those from various Christian traditions representing the majority of those surveyed. Some of the results of the survey are categorized under fear of the "other", and this includes:
* Fear Muslims and refugees from the Middle East.
* Belief that Muslims and atheists want to limit our freedoms.
* Nearly half of Evangelicals believe that Muslims are a physical threat.
*1 in 3 Americans who go to church regularly say that Muslims present an imminent danger.
These fears are especially high for those who view the United States as a Christian Nation, or that it used to be in the past. So we are afraid of Muslims, refugees from the Middle East, and atheists, believe that people from these groups want to limit our freedoms, and that they pose a physical threat to us. These are some of the things we evangelicals are afraid of.
Then there's the second way I want to look at this question, What are we evangelicals afraid of?, and that's to pose the question in terms of why do we have such fears? I recently interviewed Carrie Graham of The Church Lab in Austin, and one of the questions I asked her was what biblical texts she draws upon to ground her dialogical way of relating to other religious traditions while "doing church." She acknowledged texts that emphasize love of neighbor and stranger, but she specifically mentioned 1 John 4:18. From the NIV:
18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
Previously I hadn't personally connected this verse to my work in multifaith engagement, but I think it's perfect. This is especially the case given that fear drives so much of the ways in which evangelicals respond to those in other religions. This includes not only the fears mentioned above from the Baylor Survey, but fear of worldview contamination and loss of doctrinal purity as well. But in light of 1 John 4:18, I wonder why evangelicals are so fearful. Where is our confidence in Christ and his perfect love?