Over the weekend, I shared this article from the New York Times by Nick Kristoff which begins this way:
“One sign of a landmark shift in public attitudes: A poll last year found that Americans approved more of gays and lesbians (53 percent) than of evangelical Christians (42 percent).”
- This statement assumes that “gays and lesbians” and “evangelical Christians” are two wholly separate entities. (i.e. you can’t be both GBLT & evangelical Christian.)
- My tweet linking to this article (“The liberal caricature of evangelicals is incomplete and unfair.”) got more responses than any other tweet I’ve ever posted.
Lots of people “favorited” it. And lots of other people shared their own comments:
- “AND, the same could be said for the caricature of liberals by the evangelicals. A modicum of thought might help.”
- “The extremely vocal minority of any group creates unfair perceptions of the entire group.”
“Nice of evangelicals to do all that brave stuff, now make ’em stop supporting laws that make my life harder.”
- “It’s not a caricature when it continues to be proved true and is manipulated by lobbyists to divide us.”
It’s clear that “evangelical Christian” is synonymous with anti-LGBT sensibilities to most Americans. And this is not new. I remember in my 20s, fresh out of college, a friend was shocked to learn that I was a Christian. “But I’m not like those Christians,” I blurted out defensively.
Today I embrace the adjective “evangelical.” Evangelical = euangelion = the “good news” or “gospel.” Yes, I am an Evangelical Christian. I believe that the message of Jesus is very Good News. I believe that following Jesus is the best way to live our lives. I also . . .
- Take the Bible seriously. I take it seriously enough to study each word in the original languages as best we can (the original documents are long, long gone and the oldest existing codices were written 200 years after Jesus died.) I take it seriously enough to acknowledge that it’s not comprised of “God’s words” as if it was personally autographed by God (that would be Islam) but it is indeed God’s holy, inspired, and authoritative Word. I take it seriously enough to know that it was not created to serve as a history book, a science book, or a sin management book (it is a library of books including poetry, parables, prophesies, stories, laws, letters, and narratives.) I take it seriously enough to acknowledge that it is infallible in Truth but not in truth. In other words, it points to Truth but it wasn’t intended to be scientifically or chronologically true. That was never the point.
- Believe that the way of Jesus is the only way to be “saved.” Clearly, there are many people who claim to follow Jesus but do not. And clearly, there are many people who do not claim to follow Jesus who do.
- Believe that God loves us enough to die for us. (Happy Holy Week.)
- Believe that faith is practiced by expressing the gospel in social reform efforts that help make “earth as it is in heaven.”
“Evangelical” is not a description I am willing to surrender.
As an Evangelical Follower of Jesus I also believe that God fashioned vastly more diversity in creation that we can possibly imagine or measure, and that all God’s creation is a blessing and called to enjoy abundant life and serve according to our God-given purpose. This includes all nations, races, creeds, variations of gender, sexual orientations, abilities, and genetic possibilities.
I believe that claiming “Evangelical” is a political statement – and I’m not talking about Farwellian politics.
On Saturday, I participated in the ordination of two new pastors in the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Egypt. Leaders flew in from Cairo to Kansas City (rather than flying all the Americans to Cairo) to anoint two to be missionaries to the United States of America.
Let this sink in for a moment: Protestant Christians make up only 0.07 % of Egypt’s population. But they have sent two pastors to share The Good News in a nation where Protestant Christians ostensibly make up a whopping 51.3% of the population (or 78.4 % of the population if we include all Christians) according to Pew.
Calling yourselves “Evangelical” in a nation where 94-95 % of the population is Muslim is a political statement. In most predominantly Muslim nations, it is highly frowned upon – if not against the law – for Christians to share their faith with their Muslim neighbors. And so our Evangelical sisters and brothers in Egypt, for example, are making a bold statement: We are all about sharing the Good News (euaggelion or εὐαγγέλιον) even if it’s risky for us.
I, too, am willing to take that risk. I am an Evangelical Christian. And I humbly believe that:
“Marriage is a gift God has given to all humankind for the well being of the entire human family. Marriage involves a unique commitment between two people, traditionally a man and a woman, to love and support each other for the rest of their lives. The sacrificial love that unites the couple sustains them as faithful and responsible members of the church and the wider community.”
Thanks be to God.
Image of recent photos in Egypt of Christians and Muslims protecting each other. Both convey the way of Jesus.