I grew up hearing sermons about the dangers of popular music styles and being present at record burnings. When I first started hearing artists like Steve Taylor and Petra, there were many sermons, tracts and books claiming that a Christian could not play rock music. There were a ton of ridiculous scare messages circulating, such as “the beat summons demons and agitates young people into sex.” That wasn’t long ago. Today, most American evangelical churches use electric guitars, drum kits and other instruments that were forbidden in their worship and Christian artists are a part of main stream rock, hip-hop and pop.
In the 80s a meme took hold in American churches that claimed true Christians should receive recreational vehicles and expensive houses and that the poor and down-trodden were receiving punishment for their sins. I heard repeatedly that servants who gave of their time and money to help others or advocated for the poor, especially those needy folks who didn’t attend “our” church, were just causing addiction and sexual irresponsibility. Although those ideas are still out there (promulgated in part by political activists like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh), most American churches have returned to their biblical responsibility to care for the “least of these” and are again the leaders in providing, practical, loving aid to our neighbors world-wide.
It seems to me that the greatest strength and weakness of American-style Evangelical Christianity is it’s ability to adapt. Bad ideas can spread rather quickly, until they seem to be ringing from every pulpit and folks think that Christians have “always believed that.” Many people are convinced that the idea of a young earth and literal seven day creation have always been a dominant part of Christianity and are unaware how recently the term “creation” became juxtaposed with the term evolution.
On the other hand, bad ideas seem to be corrected and forgotten and American Evangelical churches seem to learn relatively quickly and without the need for literal religious wars. So, while I sometimes envy our friends and brothers in Orthodox, Catholic and East Asian/Syriac churches that seem immune to ideas like young-earth anti-evolutionism, I’m hopeful that this destructive idea will also pass before much longer. Somehow my faith survived and grew past some of the sermons I heard as a teenager. I suspect that others may work it out as well.