Behind the Mask: A Halloween Guide to Telling Christians Apart

The prolific Russell Moore offers a light-hearted Halloween guide to help tell apart various types of evangelical Protestant.  For those of us outsiders trying to make sense of America’s conservative impulses, it is a handy resource.  After all, as Moore points out, there are huge differences between “fundamentalists” and “evangelicals,” between “Emerging Church evangelicals” and “confessional evangelicals.”

To start, Moore paraphrases John Mark Reynolds.  Reynolds had joked, “An evangelical is a fundamentalist who watches The Office.”

With Halloween in mind, Moore came up with the following handy guide to making sense of the kaleidoscope of American evangelicalism:

“An evangelical is a fundamentalist whose kids dress up for Halloween.

“A conservative evangelical is a fundamentalist whose kids dress up for the church’s ‘Fall Festival.’

“A confessional evangelical is a fundamentalist whose kids dress up as Zwingli and Bucer for ‘Reformation Day.’

“A revivalist evangelical is a fundamentalist whose kids dress up as demons and angels for the church’s Judgment House community evangelism outreach.

“An Emerging Church evangelical is a fundamentalist who has no kids, but who dresses up for Halloween anyway.

“A fundamentalist is a fundamentalist whose kids hand out gospel tracts to all those mentioned above.”

I know Moore was just joking around, but I appreciate the field guide.  After all, those of us outside the evangelical tradition tend to have difficulty hearing the different accents among evangelicals.

I cringe when I hear some of my fellow nones or theological liberals clump together all evangelicals into dismissive categories such as “Bible Thumpers,” “Holy Rollers,” or other pejorative terms.  We liberals would never speak in such stereotyped labels about other social groups, but it seems socially acceptable among some folks to use such stereotypes to belittle conservative Protestants.

Worst of all, some of the self-professed liberal folks with whom I interact don’t seem to understand that their stereotyping reveals their expansive ignorance of the complicated intellectual kaleidoscope of evangelical belief in America.

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