It is rarely clear whether sweeping statements conflating Evangelicals with extremists are borne out of anti-religious, secular prejudice or sheer ignorance of that branch of theological thought. Alan Judd, writing an otherwise interesting and informative piece in the Telegraph discussing why certain free school applications fail, has made such a statement. Of faith-based applications, he writes:
The trouble is, as always, when it’s taken to extremes, whether it’s evangelical Christians, totalitarian Muslims or segregationist Jews. Such applications need careful vetting, not because there shouldn’t be far-out religious and ideological beliefs, but because the taxpayer shouldn’t pay to propagate them – and because children should be able to participate in a wider society without having their horizons narrowed by fundamentalism.
Whether Mr Judd’s categorisation of Evangelicalism under the same banner as ‘totalitarian Muslims’ or ‘segregationist Jews’ is borne of ignorance or prejudice is somewhat immaterial. What is material, as Archbishop Cranmer notes, is that “this is a senior adviser to the Secretary of State for Education, involved in the vetting of applicants, who equates ‘evangelical’ with ‘totalitarian’ and ‘segregationist’, thereby writing off an entire corpus of Protestant theology and our nation’s history with murderous regimes and sectarian bigotry”.
Certainly, there are one or two extremists who term themselves evangelical. But every denomination of every religion has its fanatics and extremists. Consider the outrage if Alan Judd had written:
…when it’s taken to extremes, whether it’s Catholic Christians, totalitarian Muslims or segregationist Jews.
…when it’s taken to extremes, whether it’s totalitarian Christians, Sunni Muslims or segregationist Jews.
…when it’s taken to extremes, whether it’s segregationist Christians, totalitarian Muslims or Orthodox Jews.
It is astonishing that he chose to qualify ‘Muslims’ and ‘Jews’ with adjectives of political oppression or separatism, but for Christians he singled out a distinct theological movement. It is evidence of a prejudicial mindset which some might term ‘Christianophobic’.
If he had written (say) ‘sectarian Christians, totalitarian Muslims or segregationist Jews’, that would have shown impartiality. But he didn’t. And by choosing to disparage a particular branch of Christian theology, the DfE is pandering to the aggressive, extremist secular-humanist agendas of the NSS and the BHA.
Cranmer also goes on to note the distinct impact of Evangelicals in British history and society to, quite forcefully, make the point that Evangelicalism and extremism are truly not one and the same.