The Small god of Modern Evangelicalism

I have always though that most Centrist Orthodox Jews have a kitchen deity that comes to answer there needs to times of trouble. If the average American’s God is a cosmic therapeutic deism those more religious have a God who listens to prayers, gives remission from cancer, helps raise money for the building fund and is an all purpose household deity. What their God is not is the Mighty God of the Bible. Here is an evangelical making the same point.

The Small god of Modern Evangelicalism
from by Chaplain Mike
Today’s post is by guest blogger Daniel Jepsen.

Yes, the non-capitilzation of the third word in the title is deliberate. I don’t think the god I am talked about deserves to be capitalized. For I am not talking about the God of the scriptures, but the god that is worshipped in much of modern American evangelicalism.
This god is good, but small and not very powerful. This god is not able to use the foolish, weak and lowly things of this world to shame and nullify the wise, strong, and powerful

This god and his message must be made appealing to the world, much like Mary Poppins made the medicine more palatable by a spoon full of sugar. The sweeteners of coolness, relevance and freshness coat the message of this god, while those doing the coating tell us it doesn’t change the fundamental recipe. Perhaps not, but the very fact that the sweeteners are added betray a lack of faith in the inherent power of the message, and the power of the god who gives it.

It is not that the followers of this small god don’t believe the message; they just don’t believe it has much power without their help. It’s not that they want to distort this message. It’s just that the don’t reflect on how its distortion flows naturally from the help they give it.
This is why we see increasingly that not only do many of the leaders have a small god, but so do the people in their churches. These are people who view god as some sort of personal life-enhancement, not the author and judge of their life. They obey his commands selectively, and feel free to ignore or re-interpret those that might cause too much change, or that conflict too fiercely with the spirit of the age. They view his church not as something they are deeply privileged to be a part of, but something they consume like any other form of entertainment, and that had better keep the goods coming.

The parishioners do their job on Sunday: they attend. They are happy that their kids enjoy the music, and that the sermon is not too long. The church is full, and seems to have energy, which further boosts their self-esteem for having chosen to be a part of such an excellent church. The message focuses on how God can improve their marriage, and they leave glad that God wants to help them. As one wife would say later in the week, “I just love God! He does so much for me.”
Is it even possible that the children of this church will ever view god as something more than a cosmic vending machine?
This is the morass into which we have sunk.

One response to “The Small god of Modern Evangelicalism

  1. i think this is resultant of the socio-economic-political position centrist orthodoxy (and I suspect evangelism, though I don’t know enough to say) wishes to place itself. if the ethos of centrist orthodoxy is (and i think it is) that one can live a comfortable and respectable life and “still” be orthodox, the religious question is secondary to the socio-economic-political one. god, as it were, worships middle class-edness. In this sense, god’s presence in the kitchen is not so much that he is there to be worshipped as a household diety, however sad that itself might be, but, worse, to worship the household.

    but to change this would be either to move towards the right religiously or the left politically, neither of which most centrist orthodox are interested in doing.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s