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social sciences

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Evangelical Christians  
page: 1  2  

Enthusiastic, uninhibited worship practices, including not only speaking in tongues but spontaneous singing, shouting, testifying, and being "slain in the spirit" (that is, fainting in ecstasy), have made Pentecostal churches popular among the disenfranchised, especially African-Americans and Hispanic-Americans. Moreover, Pentecostals tend to be urban rather than rural. Among the most important Pentecostal denominations are the Assemblies of God, the United Pentecostal Church, the Church of God, and the Church of God in Christ.

Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism

Fundamentalism is a social movement within Christianity and other religions that combines a literal interpretation of sacred texts with authoritarian leadership and an anti-modernist philosophy. While many fundamentalists are not evangelical and many evangelicals are not fundamentalist (and bitterly resent the use of the term), the two are highly correlated: for instance, 93% of Assemblies of God members but only 27% of Roman Catholics believe that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God.

Sponsor Message.

The high percentage of evangelicals who are fundamentalist can be explained by the very urgency of evangelization: it depends on the conviction that billions of years of agonizing physical punishment await those who have not been born again according to very specific guidelines (for example, those who have not been baptized in water, baptized in the Holy Ghost, sanctified, and so on). Evangelicalism is difficult to maintain without a literal interpretation of the Bible to provide evidence that the lake of fire actually exists, plus an authoritarian church leadership to point out repeatedly that unsaved family members and friends are doomed.

Anti-modernism is also useful, since unless one can demonstrate that "the world" is dangerously evil, those who have been born again may be tempted to backslide into their old, sinful habits, and rejoin the ranks of the eternally lost.

Evangelicalism and Homosexuality

There is no logical reason why promoting the experience of being born again should be associated with , yet within the last thirty years most evangelical denominations have embraced anti-gay agendas. With few exceptions, evangelical denominations teach that homosexuality is a grave sin that imperils the soul. Individual evangelicals, believing that one should "hate the sin and love the sinner," are often quietly tolerant of gay and lesbian family members and friends, but official dogma exhorts gay people to pray for forgiveness from their "sinful" desires and to sin no more.

Some Holiness-Wesleyan and Baptist denominations go farther, asserting that gay people are minions of Satan dedicated to the destruction of the world. Some Pentecostals suggest that the root of gay identity is demonic possession, and offer deliverance ministries. The Southern Baptist Convention, the most politically powerful of the Evangelical groups, is obsessed with homosexuality, frequently passing resolutions attacking the gay and lesbian rights movement and actively lobbying against glbtq interests. In Southern Baptist churches, homosexuality is routinely excoriated in sermons and Sunday school lessons.

Evangelical homophobes frequently cite Biblical passages that appear to condemn same-sex practices. However, it may be that Scripture is really used as a justification of homophobia rather than its source, since many Biblical literalists believe that those passages do not apply to gay people at all, and even the most literal interpretation of the Bible excludes passages irrelevant to modern life, such as those that explicitly promote slavery.

Given the promotion of homophobic beliefs by their churches, it is not surprising that Evangelical Christians are an important part of the New Right political constituencies opposed to glbtq rights.

Jeffery P. Dennis

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social sciences >> Overview:  African Americans

Glbtq African Americans frequently experience racism in predominantly white glbtq communities and homophobia in heterosexual black society, but the multiple oppressions faced by black glbtq people are now being recognized.

social sciences >> Overview:  Canada

In 2005 Canada became the fourth country to recognize same-sex marriages; the milestone victory solidified Canada's position as a leader in the struggle for glbtq equality.

social sciences >> Overview:  Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons)

The socially and politically conservative Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has long been antagonistic to the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people.

social sciences >> Overview:  Gay and Lesbian Churches and Synagogues

Spurred by the gay liberation movement of the late 1960s, a number of religious groups--including specifically gay-oriented churches and synagogues--have been formed to address the needs of gay and lesbian believers.

social sciences >> Overview:  Lutheranism

Lutheranism is riven into numerous denominations, which vary widely in their attitudes toward homosexuality and in their acceptance of gay men and lesbians as full participants in church life.

social sciences >> Overview:  Metropolitan Community Church

The Metropolitan Community Church, a Christian denomination founded to minister to the glbtq community, has grown into a worldwide ministry with over 40,000 members in 18 countries.

social sciences >> Overview:  New Right

The New Right, which emerged during the last two decades of the twentieth century, combines evangelical Christian morality with a political agenda in opposition to glbtq equality.

social sciences >> Overview:  Roman Catholicism

Historically, the Roman Catholic Church may be the institution most responsible for the suffering of individuals involved in same-sex sexual relationships.

social sciences >> Overview:  Salvation Army

An Evangelical Christian sect founded in the nineteenth century, the Salvation Army has recently become an arm of right-wing conservatism.

social sciences >> Overview:  Southern Baptists

The Southern Baptists have become the most intolerant of the major American religious denominations, especially (but not exclusively) for their opposition to equal rights for gay men and lesbians.

social sciences >> Overview:  Spirituality

Today's glbtq spirituality movements must be seen as part of a long history in which gender-special people were considered sacred to their tribe or family because of their obvious spiritual gifts.

social sciences >> Overview:  United Church of Canada

The United Church of Canada has been instrumental in the increased acceptance of glbtq rights, including same-sex marriage, in Canada.

social sciences >> Overview:  United Church of Christ / Congregationalism

The United Church of Christ has attempted to make its churches a "place of extravagant welcome" for glbtq people.

social sciences >> Gomes, Peter

After coming out publicly in 1991, to protest a homophobic incident at Harvard University, the Reverend Peter Gomes lent his eloquent voice to the cause of equality for glbtq people.

social sciences >> Perry, Troy

Troy Perry is the founder of the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches, a Protestant denomination devoted to ministering to the spiritual needs of glbtq people.

social sciences >> White, James Melville "Mel"

Mel White spent over thirty years serving the Evangelical Christian community; after struggling with his homosexuality for many years, he broke his ties with anti-gay religious leaders and became a glbtq activist.


Ammerman, Nancy Tate. Bible Believers: Fundamentalists in the Modern World. New Brunswick, N. J.: Rutgers University Press, 1987.

Balmer, Randall. Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory: A Journey into the Evangelical Subculture of America. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997.

Dorrien, Gary. The Remaking of Evangelical Theology. Nashville, Tenn.: Westminster, 1998.

Hart, D. G. That Old-Time Religion in Modern America. New York: Ivan R. Dee, 2002.

Herman, Didi. The Antigay Agenda. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997.

Noll, Mark A. The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1995.

Synan, Vinson. The Holiness-Pentecostal Tradition. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1997.

Woodberry, Robert D., and Christian S. Smith. "Fundamentalism et al.: Conservative Protestants in America." Annual Review of Sociology 24 (1998): 25-56.


    Citation Information
    Author: Dennis, Jeffery P.  
    Entry Title: Evangelical Christians  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2004  
    Date Last Updated June 10, 2008  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2004, glbtq, inc.  


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