In one Methodist church I attended after leaving the Evangelical movement, during part of the service the pastor would ask “where have you seen God this week?” Invariably the answers would consist of grandchildren, flowers, sunshine, etc. Pretty things, hopeful things, things that cause us to take a moment and reflect on the beauty of the world God has provided for us. There is nothing wrong with that, but to be honest it got a little boring sometimes. I think sometimes we forget that the world is a difficult place and life is hard – we need to see God in those things as well. But to the people in those pews, and most I think attending main stream churches, this is what they want to hear, and this is what they want God to be.
Go to an Evangelical church, like the Baptist churches I grew up in, this Sunday and ask that same question: “where have you seen God this week?” You will most likely here accounts of great “victories”. This Sunday, you will hear of the nomination of a new Supreme Court justice that meets their Evangelical criteria. You will hear how Donald Trump stood up to NATO; and you will hear whatever spin they want to put on the meetings happening the rest of this week. This is what the Evangelical will want to hear, and this is what they want God to be. A confrontational God, a warrior God, a judging God, a God that stands up and fights for their version of what is right.
This illustrates the difference between the Evangelical and the main stream Protestant. Both will see God in the way they want to see God, but, as you might expect from the above comparison, the Evangelical will take a particularly hard line view. Not only that, they will most often express this view very loudly and assertively. If that does not work to sway, they will often resort to insults or bullying get their point across. This is especially noticeable in the rise of right wing media over the last 30 yrs; the goal seeming to be that if you can say it loud enough, mean enough, and often enough, then somehow interject the name of God or quote the Bible, you win, regardless of validity. With the ever increasing popularity of social media, we are seeing the confrontational attitude become more and more prevalent among Evangelicals, and it seems to have reached a fevered pitch since the 2016 election. Winning is a victory for God, and whatever the cost, winning is paramount. Lies can be rationalized, or just ignored as “alternative facts”, anger can be justified, bullying is just a way to look strong; none of those things matter as long as the “victory” can be attained.
This is difficult for the main stream Protestant to understand, unless they happen to be one who has come out of the indoctrination that makes Evangelicals what they are. After waking up the other day at 4 AM by the TV relating how our President was taking hard line (and some will say destructive) approach with NATO allies, this difference however became especially clear to me. Evangelicals simply do not see Christianity in the same way that other Protestants do. To the Evangelical, Christianity is not a message of peace and love (unless it is their version of those things), it is a message of battles – battles to be fought and won by whatever means available.