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Published by JasonClark

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Published by: JasonClark on Jun 23, 2011
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02/02/2013

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Title:
The Double Movement of Evangelicalism: The possibility of a reparativeaccount of Evangelicalism and late-capitalist markets.
Abstrac
tMy paper questions current diagnoses of the relationship of the present-dayEvangelical church movements with late-capitalist market social realities. I contrastand respond to two current and prevalent diagnoses of this relationship. The firstdiagnoses Evangelicalism as largely intrinsic to and as having produced the socialrelationships and realities of late capitalism. This account is unable and unwilling tosee the possibility of any countermovement by Evangelicalism. In contrast the secondsuggests that Evangelicalism, in order to be relevant, must embed itself deeper intomarket realities, baptising the socio-logic of market practices as a spiritual practice.We suggest that the first of these accounts is overly dichotomised, whilst the second iscritically naïve to the isomorphic mimesis of late-capitalist markets, activelysubmitting to their socio-logic and social relationships.In contrast to either these overly dichotomised or non-critical accounts, we ask whether we can be more nuanced. What narrative of simultaneous processes of declension and ascension might exist between Evangelicalism and late-capitalistmarkets? How might Evangelicalism contain the resources for a reparative responseto any pathologies of social relationships of late-capitalist market societies?Our paper establishes the need for such an account, then suggests a possiblemethodology for its construction. It concludes with an outline of the contours of suchan account and signposts some arising implications for further diagnosis andexploration.
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The Double Movement of Evangelicalism: The need for a reparative account of Evangelicalism and late-capitalist marketsI. Introduction
A few years ago I found myself at a retreat within my own broader ‘tribe’ of low-church Charismatic Evangelicals, discussing the possibilities of theological trainingfor our constituent churches. At breakfast during the event, an ordained Anglican priest and worship leader from a large Evangelical church asked me what worshipresources I had found helpful recently. I responded that daily prayers, commonworship, observing the church calendar, Eucharist services, and short-term catechismhad been the most helpful.By the look on his face and the subsequent indignant comment of ‘Isn’t thatrather religious?’ I realised that it would have been more in keeping with his questionif I had recited a list of latest worship songs from our church community. Theincongruity of an Anglican priest suggesting that a Vineyard church planter was being‘religious’ was not lost on me.In fact, these worship resources had helped my church community with theentrance into and development of Christian identity in the face of a most perniciousobstacle. That obstacle, encountered within the experience of church planting, is theset of insatiable demands of late-capitalist market society for constructing life andidentity. I fear that Christianity and our church community have become just oneresource amongst many available for the construction of a consumer identity and life.Or, perhaps more crudely, I might describe this problem using the words of DanKimball, who claims that the modern Protestant Evangelical church has become aboutthe ‘dispensing of religious goods and services’ to Christian consumers.
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Dan Kimball,
The Emerging Church: Vintage Christianity for New Generations
(Grand Rapids, MI:Zondervan, 2003), 95.
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That epiphenomenon observed within my missional church-plantingexperience forms the basis of my PhD research. It also begs the question and providesthe immediate focus for this paper. What is the relationship of Evangelicalism to late-capitalist market society, and the need for a new account of that relationship?This paper explores this need, the shape and method such an account mighttake, and signposts some subsequent implications for further theological exploration.My hope is that through this the path being taken by my broader research will beoutlined and questions and advice solicited from readers to contribute to this research.To this end, I firstly outline some of the more immediate diagnoses of therelationship of Evangelicalism to late-capitalist markets. I suggest that thesediagnoses are problematic, insufficient, with most made from outside of Evangelicalism. I then suggest that a reparative account from within Evangelicalismcan be made that is better nuanced and more attentive to the problems of the aboverelationship. A summary is provided of the development of Evangelicalism in relationto capitalism, and an observation is made of a ‘double movement’ of, on the one hand,an intensification of this relationship, and on the other hand, a resistance to it. I propose that the resistance of Evangelicalism to the pathologising forces of capitalismhas become a minority report, and signpost how these forces might be restored for our current context.
II. Cultural Despisers and Cultural Accommodators: Existing diagnoses of therelationship of Evangelicalism to capitalism
Today then, Protestant Christianity may be functional for capitalism. But equally, capitalism isfunctional for the logic of Protestant Christianity carried to a new extreme.
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John Milbank, ‘Stale Expressions: The Managerialist-Shaped Church. A Call for the Parishes of England to Rise up against the Powerful Usurpers of Their Canonic and Constitutional Authority’, in
Society for the Study of Christian Ethics: The Ideology of Managerialism in Church, Politics and 
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