"It seems to me that conservatives, especially Evangelicals, don't consider themselves in the palm of God's hand, but in the prisoner's box of God's courtroom". Ford Elms (on the Thinking Anglicans website)
Occasionally I like to have a look at what sort of things the evangelicals are talking about. I feel a little sorry for the traditional British evangelicals. They are discovering that a large proportion of their younger colleagues have come over all fundamentalist. Heavily influenced by the nonsense emanating from the States, they are antipathetic to evolution and seriously regard accounts of creation in Genesis to be taken literally. Furthermore, the world of the internet from which evangelicals have benefited means that the discussions (I use the term loosely) initiated by fundamentalists take over. British evangelicals of a more intelligent sort find themselves mired in a terrible world of unreality from which they cannot escape.
Short-term no doubt the fundamentalists will make gains in the UK. Creationism and its more cunning younger brother intelligent design are counter-cultural to avowed materialists like Dawkins, (as well as being the sort of thing that appeals to iconoclasts). But long-term it gets them into a long war of attrition with science that they can never win but from which they'll find it hard to extricate themselves.
I recently happened across a review of a conservative evangelical book. The title etc don't matter; you can read the same sort of thing in many places. The topic of the book was along the lines of what you need to be if you want to be considered a Christian and it was evidently written so that the 'kids on the street' will get get it. But that doesn't hide the profoundly unchristian faith behind it. It prompted me to get this off my chest.
I had a Sunday School teacher (Winchester Methodists, Waltham Forest) who told his class that he wasn't going to marry his girlfriend until she became a Christian because otherwise they wouldn't be together after death (she'd be in Hell). I was then a fairly pious sort of adolescent and although I don't remember being immediately horrified, I think it acted as a slowly accelerating conveyor-belt propelling me out of association with that sort of conservative evangelical Christianity. In fact I ended up a fairly militant atheist. And I would maintain still that atheism is a more healthy attitude to have.
Paul said love was greater than faith (or hope) but what matters in that sort of evangelical world is Belief. The criterion upon which you will, or will not, be saved is whether you believe, not whether you've tried to love.
Does this matter? Yes. After you've waded through the gluey adjectives that so many conservative evangelicals use - 'amazing', 'awesome', 'wonderful' - it's not the good news of God's love for the world that is offered, except as filtered through a warped blood-sacrifice. No, the God who offers love is replaced with a God who needs belief.
It is a weak, inadequate, tetchy God. A God sullenly sitting by his scales and dropping the weights of the sin he has made for us into the balance against us. A God who actually doesn't like us very much but has been prevailed upon by His Son to let us into His house rather than wipe us out.
If God is love, this means that the love we experience in our human relationships must be but a dim reflection (I think Paul used an appposite metaphor here) of that divine love. The self-forgetting, the self-sacrifice, the forgiveness, the understanding (not to mention the sense of humour) that we show to those we love must be as nothing to that emanating from God. Yet these people put forward a theology that on examination places God's standard of love significantly below that which we should expect of any parent.
A God of love doesn't get terribly offended and strike us off the invitation list if ignored or even if we don't believe in Him. Such a God wouldn't expect us to grovel in supplication, or to be singing endless hymns of praise and staring in rapt adoration.
If we ignore God the loss, in terms of this life and the fulfilment that the experience of the divine can bring to it, is surely ours. God is going to get over it. No, a God of love is a God of relationship and it is is how we engaged with others that will be the criterion by which we are called to account.
A quick look at the 'blogosphere' shows that the nature of the medium means it is all too easy for a 'blog' to convey the impression that its compiler is, at best, self-indulgent and verbose, and at worst, a narcissistic bore. Religious blogs are by no means immune from this.