The most recent edition of The State of Theology survey from Ligonier shows that the majority of evangelicals believe Jesus is the first being created by God (more than 80%), that even the smallest sins don’t make a person worthy of hell (about 70%), and that God accepts the worship of all religions (more than 50%). So according to the results of this survey, most American evangelicals believe heresy. And Chandler thinks the problem with evangelicals leaving the church is we don’t address enough culturally relevant topics?*
(Gabriel Hughes – Junction City) I originally wrote this piece on September 12 but never published it. The discussion has resurfaced, and I’ve decided to share. I’ll explain more at the very end.
On Sunday, September 9, Vice News (think Dateline for millennials on HBO) interviewed Matt Chandler about the changes that are happening in evangelicalism. Nothing of the interview was informative to me, mostly because the intended audience was unchurched millennials. I already know what’s going on in the church. They don’t.
Another reason this interview wasn’t very informative was because Chandler’s answers did more to muddy the waters than offer clarity. I’ve listened to the guy for over ten years, though increasingly less often. His preaching and his views have taken a turn into progressive territory. If you’ve been with him for a while, and you’re reading the same directions he is (I’m referring to the Bible), you’re going, “Um, where are you headed, Matt?”
The following is the interview between Chandler and Vice’s Gianna Toboni. (By the way, “vice” means “immoral or wicked behavior,” a curious title for a liberal news outlet.) The transcript is provided word-for-word in bold. My responses are in regular type.
Gianna Toboni: Evangelical America is changing quickly. At the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest evangelical denomination in the country reported that it had lost more than 200,000 members in one year alone. But a new class of evangelical leaders are pushing through these challenges. We spoke to Matt Chandler, who is considered a rising star among young pastors, about how evangelicalism is changing in today’s political environment.
So there’s our lede. Evangelicalism in America is experiencing rapid change, mostly in terms of people leaving evangelical churches. To try and solve this problem, evangelicals are turning to new leaders who look, talk, and present themselves differently than those often termed the “old guard.” Matt Chandler is considered one of the faces of the new class. What does Chandler think about how politics are affecting evangelicalism? Note that this will mostly be about how politics are affecting evangelicalism, not how evangelicalism is affecting politics.
Toboni (to Chandler): Can we agree that President Trump isn’t of the utmost moral character? Chandler: Absolutely. Like are people arguing other than that? Toboni: So this is what I want to ask you– To me, evangelicals prioritize morality, being Christlike, and yet they played a huge part in getting him elected. How did that happen? What do they like about him? Chandler: I think people are frightened. I think they’re frightened at the speed at which things are changing culturally. And so I think they began to grasp for something that might help.
That’s a safe opinion, but I don’t think most people voted for Donald Trump because they’re afraid. I think people are more like Donald Trump than we want to admit.
It’s true that many voted for Trump because there was no other winnable option. Hillary Clinton would have been worse. Anything but Hillary. So they voted Trump. But the majority of Donald Trump’s supporters were not concerned citizens who simply didn’t want Hillary. The majority of his voters really, really like Donald Trump. He was always the front-runner in a crowded GOP pool full of a lot of options. I think Toboni is more aware of that than Chandler was in this interview.
I said in September of 2015, over a year before Trump was elected, that I believed Trump was going to be our next president. The reason why I thought so was because he talked like most evangelicals that I encounter: he always goes to church on Easter and Christmas, always on a major occasion, he drinks his juice and eats his little cracker, he tries to be a good person, and the Bible is his favorite book. Meanwhile, he’s incredibly self-centered, loves a good conspiracy theory, has a perverted mind, and can’t control his mouth. This is like many Americans, even in red states.