“I Don’t Recognize Their Piety”

I heard an evangelical leader say this a few weeks ago with respect to liberal protestants, and it further convinced me that posture, as much as belief, is what distinguishes evangelicalism from the historic mainline. I’ve heard mainline leaders say the same thing about their evangelical counterparts.

The posture of evangelical prayer is expressive, warm, personal, and rooted  in the cadences of New Testament epistles. Mainline worship is senatorial, polished, and sounds out the prophetic tones of King and Oscar Romero as much as Amos and Hosea.

To evangelicals, mainline preaching is Biblically illiterate and more about culture than Christ.

To mainliners, evangelical worship is overly emotional.

Of course, posture not only expresses belief but shapes it.


4 thoughts on ““I Don’t Recognize Their Piety”

  1. What do you mean by “posture” – a stance, a position, an attitude?

    I dislike the intolerance, presumptions, on both sides. Like there is a right way to find God! That if you don’t workshop my way, with my brand of piety, God is not listening. People’s minds are smaller than God of dinosaurs, geology and love, that I know. However you hear God, you are blessed.

    1. Hear hear.

      By “posture” I mean the defacto habits. The evangelical leaders I grew up with prayed publicly with sighs and “justs” like they were conversing with an intimate friend. The people I learned worship leadership from at a Presbyterian seminary wrote well-crafted prayers and led them monologues. One is neither “right” or “wrong,” but if you equate faith with one then the other feels foreign.

  2. I’m not sure I agree with your generalizations (recognizing you know the limits of generalizations already). My experience of evangelical worship has left me wanting more scripture. Often scripture isn’t read, but a verse or two are read or referred to in the sermon. While more people may bring bibles to evangelical worship services, I’ve heard more scripture read in mainline services. Biblical illiteracy looks different in different places. Clearly there are mainliners who never bring a bible to church. But when the pastor at an evangelical church preaches without scripture, I’m not sure how much biblical literacy is being promoted either.

    Was the “I don’t recognize” comment meant to say “it is just different from what I know” or was it meant to say “it isn’t valid”? I’ve experienced both from comments like that.

    1. It was more like “it isn’t valid” or “it’s not the same thing as what I do.” I too have experienced the Biblical quotations (usually attended by chapter and verse citations), and the application is almost always individualistic. That’s the posture.

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