Why I’m Not An Evangelical Christian
By David Metcalfe
December 24, 2018
I have spent a great deal of time with evangelicals. I went to an evangelical school for primary and secondary education and attended weekly church as a child. They are a group I questioned at an early age (“why does this science book say dinosaurs lived 65 million years ago if the earth is 6000 years old?”), and grew to despise at a later age (“so you’re telling me that God allows billions of people to be tortured in hell just for not loving Him? He makes Hitler look tame!”).
I later grew to tentatively and hesitantly accept the religion for myself, thanks to the influence of certain groups, pastors, and theologians (none more influential than C.S. Lewis). Jesus Christ inspired me to live for humility rather than self-aggrandizement, generosity rather than wealth, and chastity rather than lust (among other things). But it was always troubling to be part of a group that loved a God who sentenced people to hell, overwhelmingly supported Donald Trump, and rejected basic science like evolution and climate change. As my secular and Biblical education grew, I became more critical of evangelicalism and found it to be quite contrary to the values in the US Constitution and Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The religion carried a deep misanthropy and hostility towards those who did not identify as evangelical (such as Mormons, Muslims, atheists, etc.), and yet, in my interactions with those people, I found them to be generally good hearted, reasonable, and certainly not deserving of hell, like the evangelicals claimed.
I have since distanced my personal beliefs quite far from those of the evangelical church, but I have not distanced myself at all in a social context. Several of my best friends are evangelical, many of my family members, and I often attend evangelical church services and Bible studies around Edmonton. I continue to marvel at the distortions of scripture, absurd political ideologies, and poorly grounded assertions of “absolute truth” that seem to plague those churches. However, I marvel equally at the sincerity, dedication, intelligence, altruism, and devotion to the virtues of Jesus Christ that nourish those churches. If it were only that first group, I would cast the whole enterprise of evangelicalism aside as something to disparage for the good of humanity. But that second group, seen in people like Francis Chan, Mark Hughes, Ravi Zacharias and Phillip Yancey (and others), develops and maintains a belief within me that Jesus is at work in the evangelical church.
If I died and appeared before God’s judgement, and God said to me, “David, the only true church is the evangelicals.” I would be like, “what the heck, God? You mean the people who thought that Jeremiah 29:11 meant they were going to get a job promotion, that evolution was a maniacal conspiracy by the entire scientific community, that Donald Trump represented the philosophy of Jesus better than Bernie Sanders, that Tim Tebow was being Christ like for praying in public (something Christ explicitly said not to do in Matthew 6), that they should deny goods and services to homosexuals and immigrants, that the Jews were an elevated group of people justified in mistreating Muslims…THESE PEOPLE WERE THE ONE TRUE CHURCH!?!?
God, not that I’m allowed to make the rules or anything, but my suggestion is to go back to the root concept of salvation, like in John 3:16, that “whoever believes in me shall never die but have eternal life.” I pursued truth as best I could and found belief and inspiration in the person of Jesus. I don’t think failing to adhere to the controversial doctrines of an obscure type of Christianity should prevent me from being in heaven. And more so, people should be free to not accept you if they don’t want to.
Freedom of religion actually worked really well for society and I think you could benefit from reading the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. And maybe skim through some 19th century history; we stopped giving people extremely harsh physical punishments, and society benefited significantly. So, take a look at the 19th century reforms from the work of Beccaria and Bentham, and perhaps apply that to hell. Like, I understand you can’t be in the presence of sin or whatever, but the fire and brimstone is unnecessary. Maybe if people were extremely evil, you can give them a bit of fire and brimstone (like Hitler, Stalin, Jeffrey Dahmer, etc.). But most people mean well and don’t deserve any punishment. So, give them a decent living condition or even just allow their existence to cease at an appropriate time.
And sorry, but one last thing to add is that if you want to be popular with the young people nowadays, you are going to have to get with it on women’s rights. I know, I know, you are masculine and so were all the prophets and disciples, and dang it, you couldn’t have made Mary Magdalene a disciple? She was around like the whole time! Trust me on this: people figured out that women are just as smart as men and deserve the same rights and opportunities, so sending a new female prophet would be very trendy. You know what, God? Instead of sending me to hell, you should make me your new head of PR. I know it sounds crazy, but you’re great at creating universes and resurrecting people, I’m great at human rights and culture analysis; we’d be a great team!”
Hopefully, in the extremely unlikely event that the evangelicals are somehow correct, my constructive criticism towards God is well taken. But if He is the kind of megalomaniacal dictator that many evangelicals say He is, then I will reluctantly allow the sycophants their place in heaven, and I’ll be sent to hell. And, after all, if heaven is filled with Jerry Falwells and John Hagees, it certainly wouldn’t be heaven for me. I’d much rather be with the likes of Gandhi, Socrates, Paine, and I would agree with Mark Twain, that one should, “go to heaven for the climate, hell for the company.”