Introduction As Timothy George defined us in Christianity Today, Evangelicals are a worldwide family of Bible-believing Christians committed to sharing with everyone everywhere the transforming good news of new life in Jesus Christ, an utterly free gift that comes through faith alone in the crucified and risen Savior. From the 18th to the 20th century there has been an increase of Evangelicals spreading the word of Jesus Christ and influencing other Christians to do the same. In his book The American Evangelical Story, Douglas A.
Sweeney, who is a historian and an associate professor of church history at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, introduces us to Evangelicals and their influential contributions throughout the centuries. SummaryAt the beginning, Sweeney immediately elucidates Evangelicalism from different historians and how this movement was unique in their own way. In addition, he also showed the controversy of how historians believed that there was no definition to Evangelicalism but, Sweeney gave insight on how there is a meaning.
Throughout each chapter, the author provides scriptures to support his findings, Jesus declared, I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again. Sweeney uses this scripture to explain how the Evangelicals spread the word of Jesus Christ through Pietism and the Great Awakening throughout the eighteenth century. The American Evangelical Story also opens up with the nineteenth century by explaining how the Evangelicals neglected institutions. Evangelicals are not alone in neglecting institutions. As numerous writers have noted, church history abounds with a chronic tension between Spirit and structure, or dynamic spirituality and its static, albeit necessary, structural supports. The part that was intriguing was how Sweeney demonstrated Evangelicalism and racism. He explained how African-Americans and Caucasians who are in a sense a part of Evangelicalism, states that they do not associate themselves with this movement. The evangelical movement has suffered from the sins of racial prejudice ever since it first emerged from the eighteenth-century Great Awakening. While evangelicals did not invent the sins of racism or ethnocentrism, the slave trade, segregation, discrimination, or racial hate groups, literally millions of white evangelicals have either participated in or sanctioned one or more of these things, distorting their common witness to the gospel. Spiritually, Sweeney has proven the purpose of the Evangelicals movement throughout the centuries.Critical InteractionIn Chapter 5 of this book, Crossing the Color line without working to erase it, is something that intrigued me. I think Sweeney intended to explain the racism that occurred during the Evangelicals movement, and also how it affected African Americans in the eighteenth and nineteenth century. Sweeney talks about how the Evangelicals did not create slavery, segregation and slave trade plus more at that time but, whites who called themselves Evangelicals participated in the racial hate groups even though they followed and witnessed the Gospel. The evangelical movement has suffered from the sins of racial prejudice ever since it first emerged from the eighteenth-century Great Awakening. While evangelicals did not invent the sins of racism or ethnocentrism, the slave trade, segregation, discrimination, or racial hate groups, literally millions of white evangelicals have either participated in or sanctioned one or more of these things, distorting their common witness to the gospel. Sweeney explained that many colonies had passed a law stating that Christian Baptism did not allow slaves freedom. In addition, slaves did not have the opportunity to learn or obtain any type of education. It was difficult for them to understand the word of God or what was being preached within the churches. Yet paradoxically, and despite such undeniable moral failure, God has used the evangelicals to promote the gospel of grace among literally millions of African Americans. Ever since the Great Awakening, white evangelicals have engaged in Christian outreach to black people”never adequately but faithfully and consistently. This is something that I do agree with Sweeney about, white evangelicals have engaged in Christian outreach to African Americans because, there are churches all around the world that has people who do not have same skin color as the other. There are white people that participates in the black churches and there are black people who does the same thing in the white churches. Sweeney does prove his point because he provides details of different situations that supports his demonstrations of the Baptist and Methodists churches. The strength of Sweeney are the excerpts from different leaders who were Evangelicals and paved the way for black people to associate with white people in the different churches. Sadly, King was right. The history of evangelicalism is full of white moderate stumbling blocks, spiritual obstacles that reinforced its color line. This is true in my opinion because it is still happening today, African Americans are still going through stumbling blocks and spiritual obstacles in the different churches, I do believe it is not as bad as it was in this era but, it still occurs in America right now. Nevertheless, such relationships are seen as important for demonstrating unity within the church and as one opportunity for white people to learn more about the experience of African Americans. I feel that African Americans want people to understand how the color of your skin can get in the way of religion as well as life in general. Religion and Racism could also deter Christians because of the skin color that is involved with politics as well, which is something that Sweeney talks about in his book. For example, we did have an African American president of the United States and it did cause a lot of controversy even within the churches, African Americans wanted to participate in church more, as well as white people whether they were for the president or against the president. This also occurred during the Evangelical movement. Despite a rich heritage of the nineteenth century activism most twentieth century evangelicals had interpreted political activities as a distraction from their paramount religious responsibilities. ConclusionSweeney did an excellent job explaining the evangelical movement during the eighteenth, nineteenth and the twenty first century. This is something that will continue to move throughout America. According to Sweeney, Evangelicals are gospel people, which is true. They spread the word of Jesus Christ to Christians who wants to become closer to him. There have been some Christians who supported evangelism and some who did not support them because of Racism and politics. Not a lot of people believed in Evangelicals, especially the Baptist and the Methodist churches who are considered Evangelicals, but they do not associate themselves around it. Different leaders, who were slaves or plantations owners helped make this movement better and not only that slaves were also a big part of this era. This period paved the way for how pastors, churches, Racism and religion interacts with each other today in America.