Turn or burn? Among the young, is Evangelical Christianity losing its hell bite?

Is human imaginative sympathy and love slowly conquering fundamentalist dogma?

Perhaps, and it might be because the world is getting smaller, making it more difficult to live an insular existence and project dehumanizing traits onto others. 

This yesterday at NPR (in a discussion of Evangelical Brian McLaren’s A New Kind of Christianity—a book that a number of his fellow Evangelicals are attacking for undermining traditional beliefs, such as eternal hell for non-Christians):

Consider the core evangelical belief that only Christians are going to heaven and everyone else is doomed. That may have rung true for his [McLaren’s] grandparents’ generation, he says, but not now.

“A young evangelical, Roman Catholic [or] mainline Protestant growing up in America today, if he goes to college, his roommate might be Hindu,” he says. “His roommate might be Muslim. His roommate might be Buddhist or atheist. So, suddenly the ‘other’ is sleeping across the room.”

McLaren is onto something here, says David Campbell, a professor at Notre Dame and co-author of American Grace: How Religion Is Reshaping Our Civic and Political Lives. His surveys show that nearly two-thirds of evangelicals under age 35 believe non-Christians can go to heaven, but only 39 percent of those over age 65 believe that. That’s because young evangelicals have grown up in a religiously plural society.

“And, it’s really hard to condemn someone to eternal damnation on the basis of their religion when you know them well and have come to love them,” he says.

The politics of humanity are steadily wearing down the politics of disgust and cruelty, aren’t they?

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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