First, greetings to everyone. I’m excited to be part of this.
Let me start with something upon which everyone might agree. No matter how some of us wish that evangelicals are currently defined and no matter how much we might embrace or reject evangelical tenets, the word ‘evangelical’ has become primarily a political term.
Whether Hanna is writing about evangelical culture or Jeff is writing about their political goals or Jerry is writing about what evangelicals should be or Michael is writing about how evangelicals are perceived, the reality is that our common definition is largely a political definition. Evangelicals are not defined by their theology in early 21st Century America.
There is a very legitimate argument that says it shouldn’t be this way. Jerry’s post is nearest and dearest to me because I agree so passionately with what he writes. Evangelicals should be defined by their humble, self-sacrificial service. Many, many, many evangelicals are. The problem is very few think of those evangelicals when debating anything about evangelicals.
What people think of when they think of evangelicals – whether it is ontologically accurate or not – are issues like abortion, gay marriage, and furthering a political agenda through the culture.
So, here are my questions. And since we are having this discussion on Beliefnet, a spiritual forum, my questions are going to veer toward the spiritual:
Jerry – How do we begin to change that perception? You give tremendous examples of evangelicals who are serving and loving – how do we get more and more Christians to do that? Christians, for instance, like me?
Jeff – What would it take for you to be less forlorn about evangelical attempts to form/shape/manipulate/dominate the political/cultural scene? And/or, what sort of engagement could you welcome?
Michael – What do you see as the most under-reported but promising parts of evangelicalism today (in terms of living up to Jesus’ Gospel)?
Hanna – Did you see the tension between the spiritual and political play out at Patrick Henry College in a way that was different from the rest of your experience reporting on evangelicals in the political world?