The rotten fruit of evangelicalism

The rotten fruit of evangelicalism

If a good tree bears good fruit then why are evangelicals so immoral?  Ronald Sider compiles a list of statistics that reveal most evangelicals are not significantly different from non-evangelicals.

  • The divorce rate is higher
  • Just as likely to beat their wives
  • More likely to be a racist
  • Almost as likely to have pre-marital sex
  • Just as materialistic

Sider tries to offer some solutions but I think they fall short.  I believe we need to search deeper and question our assumptions about the gospel and the church.  One of our faults is that we apply the same answers to the same questions and we keep getting the same results.

  1. #1 by Kevin on January 25, 2005 - 12:06 pm

    I’ve heard these statistics many times and I always have trouble understanding them. I know many people who would call themselves Christians (evangelical or otherwise) but it is obvious to them and the world around them that they are Christians in name only and don’t take their faith seriously. Could this affect the numbers in a significant way? I’d appreciate anyone who has some ideas on this sharing them here.

  2. #2 by graham on January 25, 2005 - 1:31 pm

    Kevin, I wish it were that simple. I’ve known at least 3 men who beat their wives. Apart from that, they were no different to every other “genuine” Christian that I’ve met.

  3. #3 by dh on January 25, 2005 - 2:48 pm

    If a person doesn’t practice what they preach does that make what they preach wrong? My answer is no. There are standards that God wants us to live by but we live in a sinful world that is contrary to God and wars against the flesh. Paul talks a lot about this. So everytime I here from the opposing side “hypocrisy” I always state that doesn’t change the message. The message is still correct. Remember in Elijah’s day there were 7000 out of millions that didn’t bow their knees to Baal. So we as Christians, especially in this culture, need to do the same.

  4. #4 by Leighton Tebay on January 25, 2005 - 11:56 pm


    Over the last 2 hundred years the gospel message commonly presented by evangelicals has changed. I believe changed for the worse.

    If the gospel is the power of God unto salvation, and we see lots of people claiming to follow that message but bearing no fruit of salvation either they are lying, or the message they are following is not the true gospel.

  5. #5 by thelogo on January 26, 2005 - 9:20 am

    I have to agree with Mr. Tebay, any given system is perfectly designed to produce whatever results you are getting. I.E. a good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit.

    Furthermore, we are to be known by our love (john 13:35). Following the command to be light and salt to the earth, Jesus explains that we should let our light shine before others so that “they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” (matthew 5:16)

    Like it or not, the way we live affects our message, much more profoundly than how we speak. On the other side, I think we can fairly ask people not to judge us by the actions of others, so that if we are walking as Christ walked then there is hope others will see and give glory to God. However, the well known hypocrisy of so many Christians makes our words all the more valueless and our actions all the more important.

  6. #6 by Marc on January 26, 2005 - 12:40 pm

    I haven’t read the article yet (it came in this month’s issue of Books & Culture), so I better be careful what I say, but I’m curious to know what the statistics would be for non-evangelical Christians, such as Catholics or mainline Protestants. Would they be any different? How about for those who would call themselves “emergent” or “postmodern” Christians?

    These are honest questions, but maybe they don’t relate directly to this article.

  7. #7 by lylem on January 29, 2005 - 12:09 am

    I saw a good bumper sticker the other day:

    “Go back to God, leave your church.”

    This is obviously a person who loved God, but was completely frustrated with the church as an organization. I have known a lot of people that go to church on Sunday, but are immoral beings the other 6. Being a Good Christian is not a part-time job. It is a 24-7.

    I told a good friend about this bumper sticker and he liked it. He replied. “People forget that they should look for God in their heart”

  8. #8 by Justin Baeder on January 29, 2005 - 12:04 pm

    Leighton said “If the gospel is the power of God unto salvation, and we see lots of people claiming to follow that message but bearing no fruit of salvation either they are lying, or the message they are following is not the true gospel.”

    I think that’s true to a point, but we risk forcing people into a dichotomy of our own creation – if you aren’t good enough by my standards, your gospel is false. This isn’t really going to work as a usable rubric.

    But, LT, I really like your statement that “we need to search deeper and question our assumptions about the gospel and church.” A lot of the searching needs to take place around materialism and the resulting cultural captivity that Christians experience.

    Every time we see Barna’s statistics, we always say “Well, he’s including a bunch of nominal Christians in his polling. If he identified the real Christians, we’d see vastly different statistics.” Yet Barna has tried to separate the nominal from the serious in every way he knows, but the results are still dismal.

    What I would really like to see is similar research done cross-culturally. How do American Christians’ weaknesses compare with African Christians, who probably do not suffer from materialism as we do? Or Asian Christians, who probably do not have nearly the same issues with pride? I think we can learn a lot by stepping outside our own culture to see how much we as Christians have in common with the weaknesses of our culture in general. At the same time, perhaps we can learn from our brothers and sisters in other nations how to transcend these endemic problems.

  9. #9 by graham on January 29, 2005 - 1:11 pm

    Marc, that would be an interesting question to pursue.

  10. #10 by Leighton Tebay on January 29, 2005 - 2:14 pm


    I believe that there are some aspects of character and ethics that can be easily and accurately judged. It isn’t a standard of my creation, but the standard that Christ has set. I’m fine with Christians coming to fuzzy understandings on things like the role and place of baptism, but there really can be no debate when it comes to honesty, integrity, patience, caring for the poor etc…

    However there is a difference between fruit and moral standards. Fruit pertains to the sincere and honest transformation of character, not necessarilly adherance to a specific moral standard. Transformation has a starting point and we don’t all start at the same place. I believe that if there is no movement, then I would question that person’s relationship with Jesus.

  11. #11 by FTM on February 2, 2005 - 2:30 pm

    Nobody ever said Evangelicals are perfect. Perhaps we are just more aware of our flaws.

  12. #12 by PaulT on January 9, 2008 - 8:08 pm

    There are too many evangelicals that are arrogant, self-centered, and in-crowdish. God came in weakness not power, fame, and glory; gave up His selflessness…so why do so many so called evangelicals act so proud at their incompetence.

Comments are closed.