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Questions for Hanna, Jeff, Jerry, and Michael (David Kuo)

posted by nsymmonds

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?



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Michael Lindsay

posted October 18, 2007 at 2:47 pm


David, these are great questions. Let me offer just one example, and hopefully, this will spur further conversation.
One of the under-reported developments that surprised me most among the business elite were the number of leaders who had chosen to live signifincatly beneath their means. Ralph Larsen, CEO of Johnson & Johnson, told me how he and his family had decided not to move into bigger houses as he climbed the corporate ladder. For him, it was a way of bearing witness to his faith. On the other side of the country, venture capitalist Kevin Compton said almost exactly the same thing. In fact, I found a dozen or so business leaders who chose to put limits on their spending and their lifestyles as a form of religious devotion. That goes entirely against the materialist tendencies among most elites, including some of the people I studied. So when I came across this counter-cultural lifestle, it really stood out.



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roy

posted October 18, 2007 at 8:14 pm


To All:
Just remember God love you. It Free and Eternal.



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Jeff Sharlet

posted October 18, 2007 at 8:15 pm


Michael: What did they do with all the money they saved? Scratch that — who cares. I don’t mean to be dismissive of their convictions, but respectful of them. These execs seem to think it’s virtuous to have less than they actually have. So — besides living very, very well instead of fabulously well, what are they doing — given their positions of power — to change the system in which they work so that future execs don’t have to display the exceptional self-sacrifice they do?
The fact is, these personal displays of piety seem to me to be more grotesque, in the real sense of the word, than greed. The ascetic rich man is a tradition as old as American evangelicalism. I think most of all of Finney’s backer Phelps, who, if I recall, was not as bothered as the truly hellish conditions of his copper mines as he was by the flamboyance of his fellow titans. Phelps set an example by spending less and giving to good works — but he never came close to sharing power. Or, maybe the greatest example: Rockefeller sr., praying in the beautiful church his millions built while his men gunned down families in Colorado. That’s not ancient history. Dennis Bakke of AES is a great example, an admirable man in person, author of books on being a good Christian businessman, and responsible for projects in Uganda and the nation of Georgia that wrought untold misery. But as long as Bakke lives relatively modestly, and doesn’t snap at his underlings, there’s nary a peep about the disconnect between his personal piety and his corporations predatory style.



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Martha Hammonds

posted October 19, 2007 at 2:56 pm


I like to call it a “simple” lifestyle. Five years ago I ended a high paid consultant lifestyle making well over six figures. No matter what I acquired, what assignments I received, fancy hotels and first class travel, I wasn’t happy. I did assume, however, it would just take more to actually be happy. By chance my husband was transferred to Ohio where we bought a little farm in Amish country. As we lived in this ultra simple lifestyle, the weight of money, possessions, position and prestige dried up and blew away. This is the amazing part. Our lives did not get smaller, are lives got bigger. Our days became rich in laughter and appreciation for each other. Thrills over a new car were replaced by the joy found in a ripe tomato and contentment in the quiet peace that settled over us each night. These are the true blessings of life. Those of us who choose a simpler life, choosing contentment over the next rung on the ladder do it because we know that is where the treasure truly lies.



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Athol Dickson

posted October 19, 2007 at 3:42 pm


Jeff asks: “What did they do with all the money they saved? Scratch that — who cares.” Well I care, for one, because the answer to this question makes all the difference between piety and hypocrisy for the men concerned, and for Jeff.
I hope these “ascetic rich men” are living right for the right reasons. I care about that first of all for their sake, not for the sake of “changing the system in which they work so that future execs don’t have to display the exceptional self-sacrifice they do.” These men are fellow sinners, and that makes them my neighbors, whom I have been commanded to love. Love means caring about them as people first, at the very least.
After first claiming he means to be respectful of their convictions, Jeff moves on to call these men’s apparent piety “grotesque,” based on nothing but the actions of a few completely different men. Using identical logic, we could say the same of Billy Graham. After all, he is still living in that same old house outside of Asheville after all the countless millions of dollars his ministry has raised. Graham claims he’s living that way to remain faithful to the Lord, and he claims he established a financial audit system to apply to his ministry and to others, but how can we really know for sure what he has done with all the money that he has not spent upon himself? Think of all the televangelists cut from the same basic cloth as Phelps, Rockefeller and Bakke. Because of them, should we ask why Graham hasn’t changed the televangelism system?
Heaven preserve us from such cynicism.
To Jesus, all people are precious souls above all else, and no person is a mere symbol. It seems to me evangelicals have lost the moral high ground in the public square largely by acting like we don’t know that. Jeff’s comments are a classic example.



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Craig

posted October 19, 2007 at 3:48 pm


Two words can help solve some Christianity today. Conservatives and conservative Christians. Conservatives follow the morals of Christianity but don’t have an active, maturing relationship with God. Conservative Christians are those who have a growing relationship with God. The end result of a growing relationship of God is a clean heart. Our actions follow our heart.
Jesus up did the world in the way of goodness, because he didn’t just die for himself or only for good people, he died for his enemies as well. If somebody dared do that in this century, they would only copy-cat Jesus. Jesus’ forgiveness of our sins cleans the slate. We do our good deeds not to balance the scales or to gain a good reputation, we do them because we love God and love people.



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Jeff Sharlet

posted October 19, 2007 at 4:40 pm


Athol, it requires no cynicism to describe Billy Graham — a man who claims to have “forgotten” the rank anti-Semitism of his past, and who urged Nixon to take actions in the Vietnam war that even Tricky Dick considered too murderous — as “grotesque.” The men Michael describes may take heart in knowing that their grotesquery of is of far more modest order. But “grotesque” is indeed the word. Dictionary says: “Characterized by ludicrous or incongruous distortion, as of appearance or manner.” “Incongruous distortion” certainly applies to an executive who accepts the label of humility and takes credit for modest living even as he pulls down a salary in the millions — while his lowest paid employees struggle for a basic living. Yes, such rich men are your neightbors, Athol, but aren’t the poor your neighbors as well?
As for declaring all people “precious souls above all else” — that’s exactly where you get into trouble in a pluralistic society. That’s fine as a personal belief — but when you govern or administrate based on that principle, you do damage to those of us who feel that we are also flesh and blood. Thanks for your spiritual concern, but I’ll take care of that myself. You want to help? How about some health insurance? How about these executives “bear witness to their faith” by using the power they’ve grabbed for themselves — nobody simply floats up the corporate ladder — to make sure their neighbors aren’t sewing up injuries themselves, as a friend of mine did recently, because they couldn’t afford to go to a doctor? Once the open wounds are closed, you can start talking about the souls within.
This sounds harsher than I mean it to. Most American evangelicals would do whatever they could to help that person on an individual level. Recent studies have shown that evangelicals give more to charity than do non-evangelicals. The question is: Why does this great generosity of spirit turn to stinginess or disinterest when it comes to thinking about ways to work together to address these situations more permanently?



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Bradley L. Fowler

posted October 20, 2007 at 4:48 am


Reading some of these reviews I find this subject interesting. being a member of the Christian Writer’s Guild sponsored by Jerry Jenkins, I am always pleased to see how people discuss the idea of faith. But as a writer and strong believe of faith I must say, some of what the bible reads is not absolutely all truth. Comparing scriptures from one bible to the next, I find too many changes that have occured over a short period of time. After reviewing several bibles published by Zondervan and Thomas Nelson Publishing, much of what Jesus is suppose to have have said has been revised. Question is, why? Since Christain’s base much of their religious beliefs on the concepts within the word, I have found many do not even understand the bible or what it was originally written for. In order to grasp a full understanding on the word, one must study several bibles. Incorporating other study guides also helps, I recommend the Dead Sea Scrolls. If you want to learn more about what I am explaining, log on to my website at http://www.bradleyfowler.com



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Ilene

posted October 22, 2007 at 1:39 pm


Too much discussion over something so simple, it boggles the soul? The late great Sidney J. Harris wrote a book called Clearing the Ground. It is one of his collection of fine essays. One essay that he wrote in that book is pertinent to the issues surrounding evangelical Christians in terms of sincerity. The problem isn’t always hyprocisy verse honesty; sometimes it is between sincerely believing and acting upon a value that can actually kill millions of people, degrade millions of people, deny human rights to millions and billions of people. Adolph Hitler wasn’t a hyprocrit; he honestly and truly believed in what he was doing. Whether an Evangelical Christian is sincerely anti-Gay, anti-abortion, sexist, racist, and so on, or is sincerely pro-Gay etc., etc., etc. is the issue, not his or her hypocrisy, but his or her sincerity. A hyprocrit can usually spot him or herself as such, especially if pressed, but a sincere believer in something is much more dangerous as we can easily see throughout inhumane human histories. A sincere believer and doer in what he or she believes is either more beautifully beneficial to humankind or lethally destructive to humankind, but seldom sees him or her self as being anything other than absolutely right. And absolute righteousness is the most judgmental, vile, and hateful form of so-called “love” to which I and many, many, many others continue to be subjected to in terms of oppression, victimization, and other dehumanizing forms of “evangelical” abuse. Christianity is NOT compatible to this kind of sincerity. Evangelicalism, in its real sense as Christianity, is NOT compatible with this kind of sincerity. Because, after all is said and done in all religious, political, social, and spiritual contexts, paradigms, and so forth, nothing, absolutely nothing, is more important then deep understanding, empathy, and compassion for everyone, Gay, straight, purple, green, Chinese, American, Jew, Muslim, scholar, bohemian, homeless, killer, abuser, evangelical, hippie, dopey, sneezy, grumpy, and the wicked witch of the West (mixed fantasies), mixed marriages, multicultural diversity, multiple points of view, and so on and so forth ad infinitum, and I mean that most sincerely. Of course, my hypocrisy shows up when I fail to live up to what I believe in most sincerely. I’ve always enjoyed aiming for the highest good and proving to myself that I am not perfect and neither is anybody else. And I also mean that most sincerely. . . .



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Donny

posted October 22, 2007 at 9:18 pm


The Evangel is the Gospel. It’s what the word means. Liberal versus conservative was dealt with by Jesus and His Apostles. Conservative values came out as the core values of the Gospel. Looking at what the Sanhedrin members did to the Biblical record is where you find an altering of the meanings of scripture to advance a political agenda.
It is not a two issue situation within Evangelical Christianity because abortion and homosexuality are incompatible with Christian life, so, those two issues are off the table. They are only dealt with by Christians now because Liberal and Progressive political zealots have tried desperately to somehow justify both abhorant things by masquerading as Christians and inserting both issue into social problems.
It is not a difficult thing to measure modern-day evils with those of the early Churches world. Nothing has changed in human nature. It cannot. When comparing what the adversaries of Christians (Evangelicals) desire, to what the Apostles wrote about, it is an easy situation to uncovering deception and deceivers.
The question that should be asked is:
Why do those that diametrically oppose what the Apostles wrote and encouraged believers to follow, and what Christ Jesus taught about right and wrong . . . why do they brazenly portray themselves as Evangelical Christians?
Obviously it is not a “two issue” situation.
The term Evangelical refers to:
The church’s commitment to the proclamation of the Gospel (the ‘evangel’), and
The church’s belief in the reliability and authority of the Scriptures (as being without error in the original languages and the final authority in all matters of faith and practice).
Clearly there are many people claiming that the word Christian defines them, that do not believe the above. What’s the word that defines that?



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Julia

posted October 23, 2007 at 10:11 am


Greater than the division of Christian and non-Christian, evangelicals and non-evangelicals, even denominational sects, is the greater abyss between religion and relationship.
Having no belief in the existence or participation of a Greater One — whom many call God, or the intervention of His Son, Jesus Christ into the earth as God-appointed Savior, is a religion of its own. Christianity can not be defined as religion because any belief or even absence of belief can be categorized as religion.
I believe Christianity and religion are oxymorons. Jesus was moved with compassion to those around Him, yet the religious leaders repulsed Him. He was openly oppositional to those who had a “form of godliness but denied the power therein.” They looked the part, but their hearts were polluted with selfish gain and misinterpretations of the law, invoking fear and heaviness on the people to be perfect – or else.
Some magnify the hypocrisy of others to nullify Christianity but the truth is it’s a gospel of “once and for all.” Jesus Christ came so that His ultimate sacrifice would be paid once for all mankind. He even healed those who would later crucify Him. He’s all about looking past the current condition of a person and seeing their potential and purpose.
The Bible clearly defines our salvation as personally unattainable and an act of kindness from the Creator towards all mankind. Anyone who wants it can have it, regardless of their past, in spite of who they are. Religion demands performance, relationship grants acceptance. The invitation reads, “Come as you are.”
We are short-sighted, looking only at the appearance, analyzing only the actions of a man according to his proclamations. Christians are responsible to judge sin, not the sinner. After all, looking diligently to our own lives is a full time job.
I am one of “those Christians.” But I believe my position is not to prove I am holy because of what I do or don’t do, but that my Lord is so loving that even when I was a sinner Christ died for me . . . and He died for you, with disregard to your worthiness.
My job is to invite to the party, not scream, “burn the witch.” Nobody is good enough for God’s free gift and religion demands that we earn it. However, relationship guarantees a rich and rewarding adventure on this side of Heaven.



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David Tayler

posted October 29, 2007 at 3:08 pm


hello to whoever is reading this, I come to you as a concerned Christian. It seems to me that there is a war going on and the United States is a key player. Its not the war in Iraq, its the war between liberals and conservatives saying that God is a republican or God is a liberal and I say how dare these people use the almighty to promote a certain political agenda, liberal or conservative it needs to end stop the feud brothers and sisters and regarding the “self sacrificing humble attitude” of evangelicals I am as I said a christian but I know that I’m not self-sacrificing and that I could be more humble I dont consider myself humble I try to be but I know I’m imperfect I thought thats what Jesus taught



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Steve Witmer

posted October 31, 2007 at 11:12 am


First I want to thank Don for defining what it means to be an evangelical. As those committed to proclaiming the Gospel and honoring the Word, we go forward to express the love of God to a lost and dying world that desperately needs a Savior, Jesus Christ. Instead of talking about people and judging them solely on the basis of their behavior, we as evangelicals are to look past the behavior and simply implore others to carefully examine their own heart, not before us, but before holiness of God. He is their judge. We are to proclaim that freedom is available, that light has come to expel the darkness, and that reconciliation between people and their Creator has been provided for through Jesus Christ. It is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict men in regard to their transgressions as they are confronted by the teachings of Christ. We are all under accountability. The question is, will we submit to Christ’s authority in our life? For as we say yes to Christ, His spirit cries out for holiness within us, for unity with God, for empathy and the desire to serve our neighbor. So may each of us examine our hearts, for that is the part of us that Jesus was truly concerned about.



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bruce fishburn

posted November 14, 2007 at 8:23 pm


the Christian faith is instructed to evangelize. i don’t believe we’re specifically to do so with our mouth or by our walk or in the way we tithe to God, but we are to evangelize with our talents. we all have our individual talents. regardless of our denomination, as Christians, we are instructed to evangelize. so that makes us what? yes, evangelists. we are in this together.
politically, i don’t see the assualt on evangelists alone, but believers in God. this would include the Jews as well. we all agree upon the book of Genesis, let’s not forget. prayer in school, one nation under Whom, in Whom we trust. grateful as i am for the Saviour, it is the Creator Who is under attack. as a result both the chosen and the saved will be the victims.



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David

posted December 4, 2007 at 1:08 pm


There are many evangelicals left behind your definition of evangelical, historically and presently.
For the sake of being more generous with our definitions let me suggest that evangelicals are those that believe two things are central to their faith:
1) Personal experience with God in the person of Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit and;
2) Belief in the importance and authority of scripture (could include inerrancy, but not necessarily)



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Mike

posted January 24, 2008 at 1:30 pm


I would like to start by saying I have no problem with the Mormon’s statement of faith regarding the Gospels and specific references to St. Paul. What I do have a problem with is the Book of Mormom as it relates to Joseph Smith. Specifically the issue I have is his not testing the spirits from which he received his information. Maybe I missed it but I have not found any mention of his application of 1 John 4;
1 Beloved, do not trust every spirit but test the spirits to see whether they belong to God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.
2
This is how you can know the Spirit of God: every spirit that acknowledges Jesus Christ come in the flesh be longs to God,
3
and every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus 2 does not belong to God. This is the spirit of the antichrist that, as you heard, is to come, but in fact is already in the world.
4
You belong to God, children, and you have conquered them, for the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.
5
They belong to the world; accordingly, their teaching belongs to the world, and the world listens to them.
6
We belong to God, and anyone who knows God listens to us, while anyone who does not belong to God refuses to hear us. This is how we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of deceit.



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jim

posted February 25, 2010 at 2:38 pm


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