Sunday, November 4, 2007

Evangelicals don't know much about theology

Michael Lindsay, a sociologist at Rice University, recently told the 2007 Religion Newswriters Assocition Annual Conference about his study of evangelicals. Lindsay has interviewed evangelicals across the United States and written a book, Faith in the Halls of Power: How Evangelicals Joined the American Elite (Oxford, 2007).

While Lindsay's work has done a lot to bust media stereotypes of evangelicals, one thing he told the RNA conference is sadly not surprising: Evangelicals don't know much about theological teachings; they have very little formal theological education.

This recalls the famous statement by the evangelist Billy Sunday: "Theology? I didn't know I had any."

However, some of Lindsay's other findings are more flattering of evangelicals:

MYTH: Evangelicals derive their power mainly in the political field.
REALITY: Most identify themselves with culture and the arts (especially Hollywood), where they feel they can make a greater difference.

MYTH: Evangelicals are mainly in white suburban communities in between the U.S. coasts.
REALITY: One of the largest evangelical churches is a Hispanic congregation in Houston. Another, in New York, serves Ivy League professionals.

MYTH: Domestic issues like gay marriage and abortion are most important to evangelicals.
REALITY:
Evangelical groups are more involved on the global front, with issues like HIV/AIDS and hunger.

Read more of RNA's summary of Lindsay's presentation at http://www.rna.org/action071102.php#evangelical.

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