Why explore the White American fundamental evangelicalism?




I have received a lot of pushback when I talk about researching the White American evangelicals. There has been expressed frustration and even statements that I am attacking a faith that I have been immersed in and have been taught is the only one True religion.


My aim is not to assess the doctrine or apologists within the faith, but to explore the subcultural dynamics affecting those within and outside the community. Defining the terms being used within this blog will be essential in providing context and showing the separation of spirituality vs religion/religious culture (Reference the Definitions of Key Terms below).


More specifically, the White fundamental evangelical Christian culture entails a fundamental religious system, “characterized by beliefs that one’s religion is infallible, unchangeable, and the only true religious path,” entailing a patriarch structure where White males are in a position of authority (Adams et al., 2018, pg 2; Barr, 2021). Numerous research studies and reports have shown how this structure perpuates a close system where children and women encouter abuse while the men are protected (Barr, 2021). Even though Christianity has evolved through out history and been adjusted culturally and linguisticly, there is a rigid view of the White American fundamental perception as being the correct interpretation.

Additionally, the White fundamental evangelical system differs from other evangelical cultures through the close association with Christian nationalism, a belief of America being God’s chosen nation and must be defended as such (du Mez, 2020). The American Republican party, consistently associated with fundamental Christianity, has been utilized to encourage others to adopt White fundamental evangelical religious values on others (Dein et al., 2020; Forster, 2019; Herrmann, 2020; Lassen, 2021; Perry et al., 2021). This governmental alliance can be seen through topics such as abortion and marriage.


A pattern of utilizing Christianity to justify a system that harms others has been observed. These dynamics are readily seen within how other groups are treated who do not align with the larger Christian culture. Through increased Christian nationalism, the belief America is God’s chosen nation and must be defended as such, and holding to a patriarch structure, White fundamental evangelical culture has been identified to have elevated stigma and prejudice towards others who are not in alignment with their fundamental religious values (Adams et al., 2018; du Mez, 202; Herrmann, 2020; Judd et al., 2018; Lloyd, 2021; Perry et al., 2021).





Definitions of Key Terms

Christian Nationalism – the belief America is God’s chosen nation and must be defended as such (du Mez, 2020).

Evangelical(ism) – An individual or group holding to 4 key tenets: 1) belief in the inerrancy of Scripture/Bible, 2) belief in the sacrificial death and resurrection of Christ to save mankind, 3) focus on conversion or accepting Christ as one’s Savior, and 4) emphasis on witnessing and activism for social reform (Joustra, 2019; Stokes & Schewe, 2016).

Fundamental(ism) – A way of thinking or worldview marked by authoritarianism with intolerance for ambiguity (Peteet, 2019).

Orthodoxy – Acceptance of doctrine central to the religious system (Adams et al., 2018).

Patriarchy – A society promoting male authority and female submission (Barr, 2021).

ReligionA person’s adherence to beliefs, values, and practices proposed by an organized institution devoted to searching for the divine through prescribed ways of viewing and living life (Garssen et al., 2020; Veselska et al., 2018).

Religious Fundamental(ism) – An approach to a religious system characterized by believing the religion is infallible, unchangeable, and the only true religious path (Adams et al., 2018).

Spirituality – A subjective experience in striving for and experience of a connection with the “essence of life” or higher power in which the experiences of meaning in life and connectedness are central elements (Garssen et al., 2020; Veselska et al., 2018).

Stigma – A stereotype or negative views attributed to an individual or group of people when their characteristics or behavior is seen as different from or inferior to the societal norms (Ahmedani, 2011; Henderson & Gronholm, 2018)


References


Adams, K. S., Tost, J. R., Whatley, M. A., Brown, M. C., Dochney, B. J., Taylor, J. M., & Neal, M. H. (2018). Relationship of Christian beliefs to attitudes toward people with mental illness. American Journal of Psychotherapy, 71(3), 104–109. https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.psychotherapy.20180022


Ahmedani B. K. (2011). Mental health stigma: Society, individuals, and the profession. Journal of Social Work Values and Ethics, 8(2), 41–416.


Barr, B. A. (2021). The making of biblical womanhood: How the subjugation of women became Gospel truth. Brazos Press.


Dein, S., Loewenthal, K., Lewis, C. A., & Pargament, K. I. (2020). COVID-19, mental health and religion: An agenda for future research. Mental Health, Religion & Culture, 23(1), 1–9. https://doi.org/10.1080/13674676.2020.1768725


du Mez, K. K. (2021). Jesus and John Wayne: How white evangelicals corrupted a faith and fractured a nation. Liveright.


Forster, D. (2019). New directions in evangelical Christianities. Theology, 122(4), 267–275. https://doi.org/10.1177/0040571x19843746


Garssen, B., Visser, A., & Pool, G. (2020). Does spirituality or religion positively affect mental health? Meta-analysis of longitudinal studies. The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 31(1), 4–20. https://doi.org/10.1080/10508619.2020.1729570


Henderson, C., & Gronholm, P. (2018). Mental health related stigma as a ‘wicked problem’: The need to address stigma and consider the consequences. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 15(6), 1158. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph15061158


Herrmann, A. F. (2020). Purity, nationalism, and whiteness: The fracturing of fundamentalist evangelicalism. International Review of Qualitative Research, 13(4), 414–432. https://doi.org/10.1177/1940844720937813


Joustra, J. (2019). What is an evangelical? Examining the politics, history, and theology of a contested label. The Review of Faith & International Affairs, 17(3), 7–19. https://doi.org/10.1080/15570274.2019.1643999


Judd, D. K., Dyer, W. J., & Top, J. B. (2020). Grace, legalism, and mental health: Examining direct and mediating relationships. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, 12(1), 26–35. https://doi.org/10.1037/rel0000211


Lassen, K. (2021). Ties that bind women in Islam and Christianity. Priscilla Papers, 9–13. https://www.cbeinternational.org/resource/article/priscilla-papers-academic-journal/ties-bind-women-islam-and-christianity Lassen, K. (2021). Ties that bind women in Islam and Christianity. Priscilla Papers, 9–13. https://www.cbeinternational.org/resource/article/priscilla-papers-academic-journal/ties-bind-women-islam-and-christianity


Lloyd, C. E. M., & Waller, R. M. (2020). Demon? Disorder? Or none of the above? A survey of the attitudes and experiences of evangelical Christians with mental distress. Mental Health, Religion & Culture, 23(8), 679–690. https://doi.org/10.1080/13674676.2019.1675148


Peteet, J. R. (2019). Approaching Religiously Reinforced Mental Health Stigma: A Conceptual Framework. Psychiatric Services, 70(9), 846–848. https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.ps.201900005


Perry, S. L., Baker, J. O., & Grubbs, J. B. (2021). Ignorance or culture war? Christian nationalism and scientific illiteracy. Public Understanding of Science, 096366252110062. https://doi.org/10.1177/09636625211006271


Stokes, E., & Schewe, R. (2016). Framing from the pulpit: A content analysis of American conservative evangelical. Journal of Communication & Religion, 39(3), 59–75.


Veselska, Z. D., Jirasek, I., Veselsky, P., Jiraskova, M., Plevova, I., Tavel, P., & Madarasova Geckova, A. (2018). Spirituality but not religiosity is associated with better health and higher life satisfaction among adolescents. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 15(12), 2781. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph15122781

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