Over the past decade I have noticed, and have at times participated in, the increasing evangelical ethos of self-hatred. This comes through many mediums: social networks, personal conversations, university lectures, blogs, et al. Through these mediums the term evangelical is often used by those still in the movement in a pejorative way to explain something bad/wrong/naïve. Socially we cannot move forward because evangelicals will not give up on their clearly outdated views. Politically evangelicals are often cited for the rise of the Tea Party and the extremist repositioning of the Republican Party. Theologically, it is those silly evangelicals who are keeping us from progress towards [fill in a theological position here].
All these claims are true in certain instances, and examples can be given to justify these and many other claims. However, this self-hatred (by which I mean hatred towards the movement and those in it from within) and the way that it continually perpetuates itself has become cliche and somewhat destructive in my opinion. So, I would like to offer these three responses to my evangelical brothers and sisters: 1) Everyone and everything has problems; 2) We need to properly differentiate between fundamentalism and evangelicalism; and 3) We need to love the Church despite itself (in the same way that we need other Christians to love us despite ourselves).
First, everything and everyone has its warts. Name a tradition and I will tell you something bad about it. Name a person and I can do the same. This is the milieu of postmodernism. We tear things down with the same tools that modernism used to build them up. Now, heroes only exist in fantasies (Bilbo Baggins) and comic books (Spiderman) because one bad thing can be used by us to invalidate all of the good that they did. We love the cloudy complexity of protagonists in our television shows, the Don Drapers and Walter Whites, but we often do not allow for the same in our real life. Rather, we want everyone to be Jesus Christ and naively forget that the Son of God was the only person to live a perfect life. Sure, evangelicals have done some horrible things. Here is one example: some evangelicals supported slavery in the antebellum south. But did you know that the first anti-slavery sermon in the United States was delivered at Park Street Church, an evangelical Church on Boston Common? Yet it is the first narrative, and hardly ever the second, that I consistently hear about online. Let’s talk about both.
Second, in our effort to appear smart, both to each other and to those outside of the
movement, we often make our own tradition into a straw man and then light it on fire. This straw man often blurs the line between historical evangelicalism and contemporary fundamentalism. Indeed, many of us probably cannot even delineate this difference, so this blurring may be unintentional. But regardless of intent this categorial sloppiness is unfair to thoughtful evangelicals of the 19th-21st centuries. The media also has a difficult time making this differentiation, which simply exacerbates the problem. We must recognize that there is a great difference between the Christianity perpetuated at Bob Jones University and that at Wheaton, a great difference between Pat Robertson and Tim Keller. Learn this difference and understand the nuances. Often, the straw men that are named evangelical actually represent a different branch of Christianity.
Finally, remember to love the Church. We all probably conceptualize Church a bit differently, but for most of us we define it at the least as other Christians. So, can we all at least follow Christ’s admonition not to call each other raca? Hate ideas, by all means, but do not let that slip into hatred for other evangelicals (or anyone). Most evangelicals were raised with the phrase love the sinner, hate the sin. A helpful amendment to that which is apropos would be: love the person, hate the idea. For those of us with a bit higher view of Church, Cyprian of Carthage once said: “He cannot have God as his Father who does not have the Church as his Mother.” Don’t hate your Mom.
In closing, please do not hear me saying that we as evangelicals should not be self-critical. Evangelical support of slavery in the antebellum south should have been and continue to be condemned. I am simply asking for a more robust understanding of the movement and the individuals therein coupled with a moral commitment to love people amidst hatred for their ideas. You don’t have to hate yourself…even if you’re smart.
 George Marsden’s Fundamentalism and American Culture, 2nd ed. (Oxford, 2006) is a great resource for such an endeavor.
 De unit. 6 from: St. Cyprian of Carthage, On the Church: Select Treatises, trans. Allen Brent, Popular Patristics Series, ed. John Behr (Crestwood: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2006).