The rise in evangelical Christianity is caused by a rise in individualist
consumer-driven culture. Discuss.
If asked what do I think about this is one thing - add the word discuss and I feel I have to write a text book essay first defining the agreed terms - analysing different general theories concerning these and extrapolating the causal links between them.... but I am going to not be contained by these expectations - whether mine or academia's. I will say what I think in note form as if in a normal conversation over a pint or a pot of tea - Here goes....
I think consumer Christianity is definitely egocentric - it is generally about what one - I - myself - get from church or faith position, although not exclusively - co-dependent worshippers dig how much they can slavishly give or masochistically suffer!?!? But ultimately it is about consuming as an individual rather than worshipping corporately. Catholics and traditional Anglicans, Methodists and Baptists tend to go to church from a sense of community, tradition, duty etc,. and (here I am generalising for the sake of non thesis proportions) less for individual satisfaction with the quality or style of service. Although, arguably people are creatures of habit and therefore often likely to prefer worship in the context of the traditions from which they originate ( I wanted to use the verb Ken?? so which word is my dysphasia groping for??? Call me Spooner and hit me with a Mallaprop) so the issue of personal preference may not be out of play as such - just operating within different expectations??
So I take this as pretty much given and directly relate it to the growth of "supermarket" churches - charismatic, evangelical, modern (ish - they wish!!) Where people drive to large places of worship often away from their geographical community.
BUT I think evangelical Christianity as a whole has grown because of separate factors - there was definitely a tangible backlash against liberal attitudes within culture and a 'call to arms' against pervasive lapses of traditional Victoriana Morals - Mary Whitehouse and others like her resounded the horn of Christian Morality to hold sway over the media and society at large rather than go gentle into that good night - less acceptance and tacit silence, more placard waving and standing outside Jerry springer on cold winter evenings.
The concept of Christians being the moral guardians of the 'lost'!?!? Forgetting that: 'He who is in me is greater than he who is in the world' and 'it is not for us to judge those who are not of the church'. The idea people needed saving from sin rather than a recognition sin was inevitable in all and irrelevant after the cross - that yes we should protect the weak but that God is bigger than sin - I believe what he wants is for Christians to glow with the healthy benefits of being in relationship with him - not try to club a heathen over the head and drag them back into the safe CONFINES of the church!!??!! Nor try, or even think it possible, to make the rest of the world morally right without that relationship with God.A fallen world - or at least a human world is going to be fallible and broken - Eden it will not be - neither is the church, we just pretend most of the time and can be worse under the surface from the pretence. Just like environmental policy people need more than fear or judgement to make them change in any way effectively. Aesop got it with the tale of the sun and the wind - ( pertinent illustration for global warming lectures!!) People respond far better to the carrot than they do the stick!!
I think the evangelical church grew because people wanted more certainty within a dramatically changing society - post modernism, mass media and massive population movement has resulted in many feeling unrooted and insecure - the evangelical church - like Islam offers far more definite certainty and rules - a line to stand one side of and feel safe and sometimes even better than those on the other side. In my mind this regional, national and global social insecurity is the bigger causal factor of both individualism, evangelical Christianity and fundamentalism as a whole - itself caused by the migratory changes in human organisation. Communities are now fluid - generally anonymous and often not geographically based - people are strange when you're a stranger -solution a new tribalism??? Essentially people want to belong and want clear identifiers of that belonging. Culturally it is a fighting battle to see worshipping locally as a viable long term option- communities are now far more about shared interests and experiences than localities - so you cannot just belong because of where you live there needs to be clearer parameters and the evangelical church where it has grown has arguably provided those. Arguably at the cost, and what a cost, of focusing less on Jesus' enigmatic uncertain parables and more on the modernity of Paul's definite teachings.