Which explains, by the way, why so many evangelicals dislike the poor and are quick to render a negative judgment on them as "lazy." A self centered upon itself, it's good works and spiritual devices, always renders a negative judgment of others who, in whatever form of evaluation is used, are somehow less than the person making the assessment. A self-centered life always needs to have "folks below" in order to sustain the illusion of superior value.
Evangelicalism talks endlessly about God's love, but it's really all about how smart evangelicals were to "receive Jesus" and thus be saved by their own decision, their will, their ability to grab the prize offered by God, and hold on it to it.
The whole business of "going forward" at a revival service to get saved advances the ego, creating an attitude of elitism among the "true believers" who bolster one another with ever-intensifying efforts of high-energy worship and prayer, to sustain their sense of power and the rightness of their beliefs.
Such an effort requires living in a bubble, where all who are within are friend, and those without, foe.
And tied into "saving one's soul from hell" confirms the self all the more, as various preachers play upon the fears inherent in human weakness.
Turn this outward to others, and it very quickly becomes a harsh and judgmental attitude that the poor are poor because they're making all the wrong choices, as opposed to said evangelical who made the right choices. That some should be making poor choices only serves to confirm the ego of the evangelical, because in the end, they will be saved for paradise, and others will be sent away to darkness and everlasting death.
Powerfully, clearly, the believer is at the very center of evangelicalism.
Truth be told, in evangelical circles, God plays a relatively small part ... God offers something, or does something good, "like dying for our sins," but to no avail unless someone realizes the error of his or her ways ways and decides to accept Jesus, be baptized, and stay the course.
"Let me tell you all about the day I accepted Jesus ..." goes the evangelical witness, which is a very clever way of maintaining the ego.
Whereas in the Reformed World, it's all about God from A to Z ... God does it all ... not only offering what is supremely good, but enabling the power of faith ... at no point in time, then, can the Reformed Christian speak of "accepting Jesus," but only of how God/Christ has accepted the believer from before the creation of the earth, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, revealing such to the believers and confirming that in the believer's life, protecting the faith, and bringing it to perfection.
From beginning to end, the work of salvation is an operation of grace ... none of it deserved, all of it merciful, all of it rooted in the heart and mind of a loving God, whose love has no boundaries, who loves has said a magnificent Yes to all of creation.
In terms of building community, community built upon gratitude, and the humility of gratitude, there is no firmer foundation. If God has done it all for us, and if we then discover that we love God, and love God's ways, God's ways become our ways, and to everyone around us, we turn the face of love, and will do everything we can to ameliorate suffering and promote the welfare of all, body and soul, and we do this cooperatively, which, of course, means government, the means by which we live together and protect and promote the welfare of society.
This is not simply charity, which mostly serves the ego of the giver, but a systemic effort to create a just and loving society, a society that maintains the means to help the poor, to help everyone and anyone who, for whatever reason, cannot run the race of life as well as others can. And those who the race well, turn with gratitude to God, who enables all of it, and turns toward the other with kindness, and a willingness, indeed, a desire, to share the blessings of life with everyone.
This is the Reformed notion of life and society.
Sadly, the Reformed World lost out in America ... with the Anabaptist/Methodist mode of thought prevailing, wherein the believer remains at the center, by the power of choice, displacing God, moving God to the margins. Such a mode of thought corresponds well with the American self-made-man attitude, the guys and gals who conquered the frontier, got rid of the despised heathens and made America great, in large part, built upon the backs of slaves, who were themselves less than human. The exulted white man, hero and defender of truth, didn't want to hear the message of grace, but rather the message of self-improvement and God's pleasure in those who take the bull by the horns and make this a righteous world. Everything from Billy Sunday to Norman Vincent Peale to Joel Osteen and the mega-rich, mega-churches, promotes the self at the expense of God, and creates the elitist attitude that looks down its nose at the poor, and just about everyone else who is either "too dumb" to make the right choices, or "too rebellious" to care.
Hence the American revival service, which is all about the self - all the noise, the energy, the tears, the loud music, the hellfire and brimstone preaching, dancing and prancing - it's about saving yourself. God has come this far, but it's up to you to go the rest of the way.
The hardness of evangelicalism is rooted in this world-view of God offering, but of the believer choosing, claiming ... so that in the end, salvation is an accomplishment of the self, a work, an achievement of some merit of believer, and given time, this merit soon consumes the whole of the mind and heart. Once this kind of spiritual pride is loosed, there's no stopping it.
God may have provided the way, but it's the believer who chooses it, and, of course, hats off to the believer, then, who was smart enough to make the choice, and smarter still to stay the course.
Evangelicalism is corrupt at its very core by the clever but decisive way it puts and maintains the self at the center.
In the end, evangelicalism has no mercy, because it's god is of limited mercy ... and if there's a screwup, the evangelical god is more than pleased to maintain justice and pronounce the death sentence.
And so the need for a healthy dose of Reformed Theology, a theology that exults the goodness and mercy of God, and God's good work, from A to Z, to save the world - not only the intent of God, but the realization of this work ... indeed, from beginning to end, for God is the Alpha and the Omega, and all along the way, it's God who brings us into fellowship with God, it's God who sustains the relationship, and it's God who brings it to culmination.
Reformed Theology can save the evangelical from the suffocating ego and turn the believer outward with a merciful eye to all who need help ... those who need clothing, good schools, medical care, and all the rest. And with a merciful eye, full of gratitude to God, working with others of good heart and mind, to build a town, a nation, a world where life is given, help is provided and like Micah the Prophet put it:
God shall judge between many peoples,
and shall arbitrate between strong nations far away;
they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more;
but they shall all sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees,
and no one shall make them afraid;
for the mouth of the LORD of hosts has spoken.