Book Review — After Evangelicalism: The Path to a New Christianity

I’m an Adventist, so why do I now feel like an ex-evangelical? This question irked me as I read David Gushee’s book After Evangelicalism: The Path to a New Christianity. Detailing the rise of the evangelical movement in the twentieth century and its success in acquiring sub-cultural Christian dominance and overt American political power, Gushee also shares his own journey along the border and around the centers of theologically conservative white American Protestantism. 

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at
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I appreciate the review. A few thoughts following the book club discussion:

First, I think much of American Anglo-Adventism is at least culturally evangelical, even if we are aware of theological differences. That would explain why Adventists are so aware of Veggie Tales and James Dobson. Of course, our theology is influenced through this cultural exchange.

Second, I think Gushee’s analysis of evangelicalism can be really poor. He calls evangelicalism an “invented religious identity,” as if Christian humanism (or Adventism for that matter) isn’t? What identity isn’t invented?

Third, I think Gushee’s historical take on evangelicalism is generally atrocious. He treats evangelicals as a “rebranding move” undertaken by certain fundamentalists. While the Neo-evangelicals didn’t completely abandon fundamentalist ideas, Gushee ignores the differences. Carl F.H. Henry, a founding neo-evangelical, indicted fundamentalism on a number of accounts, including an indifference to the welfare of society. Evangelicals were more than re-branded fundamentalists and to claim otherwise is too cynical for me.

Fourth, on politics and social issues, I think Gushee ignores the beginning AND the end of this Neo-evangelical movement. In the Civil Rights Era, Carl F.H. Henry wrote that the Christian “should be concerned about relations between nations and minority rights. There is no reason at all why evangelical Christians should not engage energetically in projecting social structures that promote the interests of justice in every public realm; in fact, they have every legitimate sanction for social involvement.” Toward the end of this movement (that is, today), I think he ignores both the growing racial and political diversity of evangelicalism. The SBC has never had so many congregations of color which – while a comparative drop in the bucket vis-a-vis white ones – is not nothing. Russell Moore, while remaining conservative politically and theologically, nevertheless called out his tribe when it came to Trump.

Maybe these differences won’t impact the central thesis, but it’s hard to have absolute confidence in the cure if the physician does a sloppy job explaining the disease.

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“These witnesses call us to look past the powers that be, to see, what we might become, beyond any -ism.”

Two thumbs up!!

That’s a very well put breakdown.

One of the issues with US politicization of everything is broad brush strokes that never exist as such in any reality.

In short, “evangelicalism” is too broad of a category to label American Christianity, even if much of it fits some stereotypes.

It seems to be the latest trend of making everything political even if it shouldn’t be.


I haven’t read the book but did read the entire article. The evangelical push to gain political power is definitely scary and against Bible principles. I also think that the social justice push in our churches puts the priority in the wrong place. Many young sda’s look to political figures like Bernie, AOC, and BLM, as a hope for making society more “just”. But no political party can save this country or world. Evangelicals want to defend unborn babies, which I agree with, Democrats what healthcare, which I agree with. But there are so many policies on either side that are terrible that neither can save this country. One way or another each side will bring this country down.

Our focus needs to be more on sharing Jesus and our need for a savior, and less in public policy changes. And here’s where evangelicals get it way wrong, and social justice advocates as well.

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Should a person have remained a Nazi in the hope of changing Hitler?

Or would abetting his criminal activities have been most effective way to correct Charles Manson’s “issues “?

Is there anything one can teach a person who knows he “is on the side of the angels”, or believes he has messages from heaven assuring him that he has nothing to learn?

Not to toot my own horn, nor in an effort to justify my decision, but I left SAD-ism over 40 years ago not with the futile hope of changing the church or with the furtive objective of trying to correct the ills I perceived in the denomination, or in Christianity, in general, from the outside.

I left when I realized that religion is not a perquisite for communication with one’s creator and, indeed that it is most often anathema to such. Further, I had grown tired of religion’s incessant efforts to change me and dissuade me of this realization.

Based on the reaction I get to many of the comments I add at this forum, this “holier than thou”, Church Lady Superiority Dance remains an overarching motif of “The Faithful “.

As the old saying goes, “When you dance with the devil, the devil doesn’t change, the devil changes you!”


I think this is a naive way of thinking that leads one into exactly the same paradigm one is fighting.

We never ask question about whether the core idea of “city of millions” rules by a handful of people who can’t possibly understand their contextual needs … is a good idea.

The new solution is an attempt to monitor and consolidate everything using technology that properly informs technocrats … Who then can make more accurate policy, but that’s an illusion. You can’t fit the whole world into a box.

So, it’s always ironic to meet people who are very much for policies far worse than Hitler’s regime was in its limited scope, yet they point to Hitler as a justification for why their policy is a better alternative. (It’s not a swipe at you, although it could be :blush:)

If you were trying to take a swipe at me you’ve missed!:rofl:

I’ve never voted for any politician or switched to a different religion after I left SAD-sm.

Instead, my thinking is that I don’t want to join any group that would have me for a member.

(With apologies to Woody Allen.:rofl::rofl::rofl:)

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Looks like identity politics has invaded the SDA elites as well. If “Veggie tales” rings a bell you must also be (have been) a fan of the “700 Cub” while waiting for the rapture. You would have had to have spent the last quarter of the century stuck in the stacks of the Andrews library no to be familiar with most of that list.

The only connection between “evangelicals” (whatever they actually are) and the SDA church is the country church with “country folk” (not that there’s anything wrong with that) from which all the academics have fled once they received their letters after their names.

This all sounds like the “woke Adventism” has added yet another layer to its superiority. What’s next - the BLM flag next to the American flag on the podium?

My tea leaves tell me the “new Christianity” is turning out to be a “church and state” combo with lip service to social justice thrown in for good measure.


Without wishing to sound too picky, the reviewer uses the term ‘bare’ more than once, when I believe he means ‘bear’.


@juge You are correct. The spelling has been fixed and we regret the error!


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