You've probably encountered them at some point, either standing on a street corner screaming that God hates someone or something and wants them to die, or on social media posting endless links to articles claiming strange creatures called Nephilim live among us, the Jesuits are behind the New World Order, or that the Vatican is in on a conspiracy to hail alien invaders as the second advent of Christ.
These are the “fringe evangelicals”- a vocal, angry and disturbing subculture some consider the underbelly of religion. More reasoned, orthodox Biblical apologists who attempt to engage these individuals find themselves frustrated. The fringe evangelicals do not (and perhaps cannot) respond in kind. While the orthodox Christian apologist will take into account the entirety of what scripture has to say on any given subject, fringe evangelicals are mostly Biblically illiterate and utilize a set series of Biblical “proof texts”, often quoted without regard to context or setting (in other words, with no regard to sound hermeneutical principles), in an effort to lend a semblance of Christian orthodoxy to ideologies and claims which are anything but orthodox. Fringe evangelicalism has its own infallible personalities; teachers and self proclaimed apologists who interpret prophecy, reveal the secrets of the times hidden from the ignorant and undeserving, and all you have to do to be “in the know” too is purchase their latest book, CD, or DVD. Figures like L.A. Marzulli, Tom Horn, Cris Putnam, Paul McGuire, and others often appear together at “prophecy conferences” to reveal these secrets to their adoring, sycophantic followers- for a fee, of course. And should you dare to disagree with them, their followers will castigate you for your ignorance, declare you a “Jesuit infiltrator”, a fraud, or worse-a Nephilim hybrid!
Where do the odd ideas permeating this subculture come from?
Are they really historical, scientific and Biblical facts- prophecies coming true before our eyes?
Are they really Biblical, or are we witnessing the ancient heresy of Gnosticism in a new form?
Read on and explore the strange, frightening world of fringe evangelicalism.
Those Evil Catholics
While it is true that Protestants (of whom Evangelicals are a subset) have profound disagreements with Roman Catholicism on matters of dogma and religious practices, fringe evangelicalism has taken what was once a matter of dogmatic and theological disagreement, to the level of absolute hatred and xenophobia, bordering on the same sort of hatred displayed by the Westboro Baptist Church for homosexuals and others. For example, in his article titled “God Hates the Catholic Church!”, David J. Stewart writes:
“I tell you with confidence that God hates the Catholic Church with a passion!”1
Writing of the image of Divine Mercy2, Stewart states:
“According to the Pope, the world would receive mercy from God by expressing devotion to the image. To no surprise, the image also contains a New World Order pyramid in the form of a rainbow.”3
The fact of the matter is, there is no rainbow (the image has only two colors of light- one white and the other red), nor does the image display a pyramid. However, such rhetoric typifies the approach of fringe evangelicalism to Catholicism. Distortion is a hermeneutical principle of the subculture. Stewart's feelings regarding Catholicism can be encapsulated in one sentence.
“There is NO Satanic work as dark and hideous as Roman Catholicism.”4
As an orthodox Biblically centered Christian, I can agree that there are certain dogmas and practices of Catholicism that I find antithetical to the teachings of the New Testament, but to suggest that there are no greater works of Satan than these is a bit of a stretch. But as already noted, exaggeration is the central hermeneutical principle of the fringe. Oblivious to the fact that they're a laughing stock to Roman Catholics, they spew the word “Papist!” with all the venom of a Nazi screaming “Jew!”
NEXT POST: Fringe Evangelicals, UFOs and the Papacy
2A supposed apparition of Jesus to a Catholic nun, Faustina Koawlska, in 1931, in which Jesus sends down two rays of light.