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The Evangelical Experience

By Anthony ~

The following is an excerpt from my book, The Evangelical Experience: Understanding One of America's Largest Religious Movements from the Inside. In it, I document my de-conversion experience, outline some core doctrines of Evangelicalism, and discuss how these doctrines affect the believer in different ways. This excerpt is from the chapter "Salvation"...

The primary effect that these experiences of salvation have on the believer is a sense that they are markedly different than the rest of the world. Born-again Christians, a group with which they now identify, are filled with the Spirit of God, assured of going to Heaven, and being changed into better people. The rest of the world is not. This creates a massive insider/outsider, believer/nonbeliever dynamic. Those inside the group are generally seen in a positive light, as "brothers and sisters in Christ" who have the Holy Spirit in them. Born-again Christians can say Namaste - "the Divine in me recognizes the Divine in you" - but only to each other. Those outside the group are probably going to end up in Hell and are often seen in a negative light. They do not have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

Stemming from this sense of difference, a related effect of the experience of salvationis a conflicted relationship with those outside the faith. Often the primary reason for an Evangelical to interact with an unbeliever is to convert them. This is almost always done out of an authentic sense of love and sympathy. The believer wants outsiders to come to faith, to experience what the believer has experienced. They want non-Christians to accept Christ and be saved, in every sense of the term. Evangelicals are called to love non-Christians, but the experience and interpretation of salvation creates such a heavy"Christians good/non-Christians bad" dynamic in the believer's mind that this becomes difficult. The apostle Paul displays this idea when he counsels Christians not to become"yoked" with unbelievers:

Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?

- 2 Corinthians 6:14

So Evangelicals often love and serve people from other faiths, but from a distance. Getting too close, unless the unbeliever is going to be converted, is dangerous.

Finally,a highly related effect on the believer is the development of massive cognitive dissonance when they meet kind, loving people who are not part of the faith. Believers are light. Unbelievers are darkness. Real, complex, unique people, often people that the believer cares about deeply, have to be put into one of these two categories. Clearly, dueto the fact that there are genuinely kind people of other faiths or non-faith, the believer is eventually going to run into individuals who strain these categories of thought. Often these relationships can be the first "crack" in the Evangelical framework of faith.


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