Life in America: The Reagan Years, A Webography

American Evangelicalism: A Very Short Introduction

Evangelicalism is a Protestant Christian movement which began in Great Britain in the 1730s.  Its key commitments are: 1) the need for personal conversion (or being "born again");  2) actively expressing and sharing the gospel;  3) a high regard for biblical authority, especially biblical inerrancy;  4) an emphasis on teachings that proclaim the death and resurrection of Jesus.  David Bebbington has termed these four distinctive aspects conversionism, activism, biblicism, and crucicentrism, noting, "Together they form a quadrilateral of priorities that is the basis of Evangelicalism."

The contemporary North American usage of the term is influenced by the evangelical/fundamentalist controversy of the early 20th century.  Evangelicalism may sometimes be perceived as the middle ground between the theological liberalism of the mainline denominations and the cultural separatism of fundamentalism.  Evangelicalism has therefore been described as "the third of the leading strands in American Protestantism, straddl[ing] the divide between fundamentalists and liberals."  However, according to Christianity Today, "The emerging movement is a protest against much of evangelicalism as currently practiced.  It is post-evangelical in the way that neo-evangelicalism (in the 1950s) was post-fundamentlist.  It would not be unfair to call it postmodern evangelicalism."   While the North American perception is important to understand the usage of the term, it by no means dominates a wider global view, where the fundamentalist debate was not so influential.

Source:  "Evangelicalism."  Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.  Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.  17 Dec. 2010.  Web.  19 Dec. 2010.

Web Resources about American Evangelicalism

Religious Tolerance

Score:  13

Summary:  This site lists the tenets of Evangelical Christianity. These include resurrection, the Holy Trinity, and the Virgin Birth. This site is the most basic that I have come across. Every item on the list is simply and succinctly explained. The writers also included a few beliefs that are “in flux”. These include “fire and brimstone Hell” and Biblical Inerrancy.

Evaluation:  A Canadian religious tolerance group sponsors this site. The point of this page seems to be to clear up misconceptions about Evangelical Christians by explaining their beliefs simply. While knowing what is correct about a belief system is important, I would prefer for them to have written a more detailed description. I rate this page with a 13 out of 18. The site isn’t entirely up to date, as the last update was in 2008.

Grace Communion International

Score:  11

Summary:  The Grace Communion International webpage has a very in-depth description of what makes a person evangelical. This includes the origin of the word (Greek), typical politics of believers (more conservative), and what makes an evangelical different from a fundamentalist (education and unity). The writer of this site lists the specific sections of the Bible that evangelicalism is based on, and also includes sources at the end of his article that show the divide between fundamentalism and evangelicalism.

Evaluation:  This site is very simple to navigate. Links with drop-down menus are shown across the top of the page. These include a list of churches that participate with Grace Communion International, writings on what makes God “God”, and a history of the original Grace Communion International. I would say that this site is a reliable source, as it is members of the church writing about themselves and their beliefs in a non-confrontational manner. This site earns an 11 out of 18.  This is not a scholarly site; rather it is the page for a specific church that has spread throughout the nation.

National Association of Evangelicals

Score:  11

Summary:  This page is the information page for the National Association of Evangelicals. This organization is based in Washington, D.C, and represents evangelical Christians around America. The site is easy to navigate, with links across the top of the screen. These links include the group’s mission statement, their chaplains, world relief, and they also include a description of what an evangelical is.

Evaluation:  This page is very simplistic in design, which allows for easy navigation. It is subtly designed, which aids in finding needed information. I appreciate that the designer and writer of the site attempts to give a message of peaceful organization, and also that this group seems to be moderate. I support the fact that they attempt to provide world relief, and promote human rights and aiding the poor and vulnerable. This site scores an 11 on the rubric scale. It earns this because it is not a scholarly site, rather it is the website for a governmental organization.

Resurgent Fundamentalism: Marching Backward into the ‘80s

Score:  11

Summary:  On this page, the author analyzes various factors that seemed, to him, to be devolving Christianity going into the 1980’s. He indicates the Ayatollah Khomeini taking power, Beijing’s “Democracy Wall” being abolished, and the ideas of Hans Kueng being found “in contempt” of the Catholic church. He also discusses how evangelical Christians attempted to “widen the gap” between themselves and Fundamentalists. Many evangelicals became educated in Christian sciences, creating a gap between them and uneducated Fundamentalists. At the end of the article, he discusses how Fundamentalists like Harold O.J. Brown are advocating a return to traditional values, and he wonders just how many will go with that call.

Evaluation:  The purpose of this article on this page is allowing the author to comment on how Christianity seems to be devolving from educated evangelicals to Fundamentalists who only practice biblical inerrancy. The strengths of this website are that it features over 6000 articles on religion, and that the writers of the articles are very credible. The disadvantages are that the site looks very basic, as if it hasn’t been updated for many years. The article on evangelicalism, for example, was written in 1980, and the page it is on looks very archaic. This site scores an 11 on the rubric’s scale. This is due to being fairly out of date, and moderated by a singular person.

Brief History of Evangelicals

Score:  10

Summary:  This site provides the base of what became evangelicalism. According to the monk who wrote this page, the evangelical movement goes back to Martin Luther’s Protestant Reformation, since the Reformation was intended to be “…a return to a new Testament ‘Biblical Christianity’”. He then profiles the leaders and developments of various Christian movements by century, starting in the 1500’s with Martin Luther’s translation of the Bible into German, and ending with the spread of evangelicalism to American Catholics and throughout Asia and Central America.

Evaluation:  A monk named Monk Preston designed and wrote this page. This adds credibility to the information he presents, although it all comes from a Catholic perspective. The strength of this page is that the information comes from a man who has devoted his life to religion. The weakness is that he doesn’t discuss the topics he presents on the evangelical page; rather, he just has a timeline with key events and people described. I rate this site 10 out of 18.

History of Religion in America

Score:  8 

Summary:  This site shows the development of American religion from the 1500’s to present day. It begins with Native American religions and finishes with New Age. The discussion of evangelicalism shares the fact that many denominations of Christianity became evangelical in the early days of America. The most successful branch was the Methodists, as they used lively preaching techniques, the idea of a close God, and self help in their spreading of the word of God. They also describe the 20th century evangelical movement, when the ideas became “…elaborate crusades…” featuring charismatic, energetic preachers such as Billy Sunday. The write of this site then move on the 1980’s, referencing the “…personality driven…” evangelism of the 1980’s, and also the trust lost in the movement due to personal scandals in the lives of Jim Bakker, Pat Robertson, and Oral Roberts.

Evaluation:  As far as information presented goes, this site is fairly limited. It provides cursory information about many well-known branches of Christianity, and a touch of information about Native American beliefs. I have the feeling that this site is meant to provide a starting ground for research into these topics. This site earned an 8 on the rubric scale. There is no author listed, and there are many ads on the site. It does have some useful information, but not enough to be useful.

Analysis and Information on the First Great Awakening

Score:  8

Summary:  This page deals with the “Great Awakening” in America. It discusses the political implications of the Great Awakening, and how the idea of questioning the church led to the idea of questioning the political structure of British colonialism. What this site suggests is that being filled with religious fervor allowed the early white Americans to begin to take responsibility.

Evaluation:  There is a great amount of information to be found on this site. It discusses the Great Awakening, which formed the base for evangelicalism. The writer includes a list of the key figures in the Great Awakening, and how this Cultural Revolution came about. The writer keeps the site simple in a good way, with links to the pages of the site on the right hand side. I think that the weakness of this site is that once again, the information is fairly limited. The writer doesn't go in-depth enough, and doesn't list his contact information. He did, however, include a bibliography. This site receives an 8 out of 18.

Christian Evangelism

Score:  7

Summary:  This page shares training methods for evangelizing people. These include biblical verses to remember, a 7-step system for evangelizing, and an explanation of the differences between revivalism and evangelism. The writer puts an emphasis on not tricking or shaming people into attending church. The writer also suggests using the 7-step system, but not treating evangelism like a 7-step system.

Evaluation:  As far as instructions for evangelism go, this site is superior to the previous one I reviewed. There are very specific instructions listed to maximize the potential for bringing people to Christianity. They even include useful, pre-written sermons for evangelizing needs. However, I find it irrelevant for the creators of this site to have the ideas up for free on the Internet and also sell a book with the same instructions in it. This site gets a 7 out of 18. It is basically a business in disguise.

Evangelism America

Score:  7

Summary:  This site is a compilation of stories and details about evangelizing Christianity. The most recent post is an argument for Christians to become full time evangelists, rather than going out for two or three hours each day after work. This site is clearly new, as there are only three posts, the earliest being in December 2010.

Evaluation:  There is not too much to this site. While I think it would be important for an evangelical to be able to evangelize, there really isn’t much here to guide them in the right way to go about it. This site is just too un-used. I rate it seven out of 18. This page is not scholarly at all.

Bible Prophecy: Christian Apologetics at the Jeremiah Project

Score:  3

Summary:  This site is a response to the “liberal left. The writer points to the “rewriting of American history”, the anti-religious educational establishment, and the need for a restoration of America. The Jeremiah Project, which this page is for, is a far right extremist Christian organization. On the home page, they make highly stretched connections of modern events to biblical stories. They also have links to sections that bash liberal America, calling it the “Trashing of America”.

Evaluation:  I feel that this site is fundamentalist beliefs written by someone claiming to be evangelical. This site uses fear tactics and appeals to patriotism. For example, on the homepage, the first picture is of one of the World Trade Center towers blowing up, next to text describing America as “…deteriorating rapidly”. This site would be a good source for aggressive, “tough love” Christian information. This site has no author listed, no sources, and many ads on the sides and top of the page. This site earns a 3 out of 18. It is not scholarly in the least bit.

Content created by Nick Rybak.