Phil Vischer, the creator of Veggie Tales and recently emerging champion of progressives woke folk who has argued that Democrats are the real pro-lifers and that his success was due to his whiteness, released a new video about the history of evangelicals. In the 22 minute video, he repeatedly makes the case that fundamentalists who believe in young-earth creationism are “anti-intellectual” and are involved with the “rejection of mainstream science.” In turn, he praises evangelicals because they don’t “turn their backs on the culture or science or the life of the mind.”
Explaining the difference between various Christian groups in America in the 20th century:
If you believed the bible was wonderful but really needed a re-write to bring it in line with modern times, you were a modernist.
If you believed the bible was the inerrant word of God and modernists and Darwinists were to be avoided like the black death, you were a fundamentalist.
If you believed the bible was the inerrant word of God but didn’t want to turn your back on the culture or science, or the life of the mind, and thought cooperating with people who didn’t share all your beliefs was maybe probably ok, you were a neo-evangelical (evangelical). [Editor’s note: Sounds like a double-minded position.]
Vischer describes the merging of evangelicals and fundamentalism in the late 60’s and early 70’s. Interestingly enough, given his wokeness on race, he says that “Mainline Protestantism” is comprised exclusively of black folk and that there aren’t any black people in evangelicalism. At the same time he describes mainline protestants congregants as those “whose denominations had either embraced or accommodated modernist theology” which involves “re-writing the bible.”
Three strands of white protestant Christianity in America collapsed back into two. Mainline protestants and everyone else who wasn’t black, and everyone else who wasn’t black was now an evangelical…
Neo-evangelicalism used to be a legitimate movement, embracing a high view of the Bible while rejecting the excesses of fundamentalism, which included cultural separatism, anti-intellectualism, and echoes, sometimes loud echoes, of racism.
He finishes out with a plea to decouple fundamentalism and its view of science-denying young earth creationism and instead embrace evangelism with its embrace of Darwinism and evolution. He also specifically calls out Ken Ham and “Answers in Genesis” as being that which rejects “mainstream science.”
“What is evangelicalism in America today? It’s a hot mess. What started out as high regard for the bible and personal conversion has devolved into a catch-all category of white Christians engaged in conservative politics, a high regard for the bible, a focus on the work of Christ on the cross, the desire to see people choose to follow Jesus, and a desire to help others using our hearts, our hands and our minds.
These are good things. They are neither Democratic or Republican things. [Editor’s note: Definitely NOT Democratic things.] They are biblical things. But today, old currents of fundamentalism are resurgent. The desire to declare war on our enemies, rejection of mainstream science. The belief that the world is out to get us. The longing for an idealized past while downplaying or entirely ignoring racial injustice.
Even the early 21st-century fixation on end times prophecy and the nation of Israel. We could make a video about each one of these topics, but evangelicals like Billy Grahm and Harold Ockenga, and many others sought to resist this fundamentalist tendency while still declaring the bible as the inspired word of God.
That is why I haven’t given up on the name evangelical or the ideals of the neo-evangelical movement. Instead, I want to remind us what the movement was all about and what hopefully it can be about again.