The Common Good

Restoring Credibility for Evangelicals

Writing for Q Ideas, John Morehead examines the 'credibility gap' that evangelcials are facing today:

Evangelicals are having a serious credibility problem in regard to religious pluralism in the public square. This problem is amplified when it comes to Islam in a post-9/11 environment.

Stephen Prothero, in his book Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know – and Doesn’t, documents that most Americans, including Christians, lack the most basic understanding of various religions. This was confirmed in the Pew Forum’s U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey in 2010 where atheists, agnostics, Jews, and Mormons, outperformed “Protestant Evangelicals, mainline Protestants and Catholics on questions about the core teachings, history and leading figures of major world religions.”

Yet this uninformed stance toward other religions has not stopped Christians from forming judgments and taking action on religious issues. After Mitt Romney announced his candidacy for president, many Christians said they would not vote for a Mormon “cult” member. When a Lutheran minister participated in an interfaith memorial service in Yankee Stadium just days after the 9/11 he received emails and letters from those in his denomination accusing him of heresy and terrorism against Christianity. As a result of his work with the Muslim community Rick Warren has been labeled a heretic and promoter of “Chrislam.” And in response to a Hindu offering the opening prayer for Congress, Christians shouted down the religious leader.

If Christians are to overcome this credibility problem, they will have to address the reality of life and faith in the midst of religious diversity. Skye Jethani, Senior Editor of Leadership Journal, has said that if the culture is religiously diverse around us, but the church is not talking about what it means to be a Christian in this environment, then the church will continue to suffer as a result.

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