What Does the Word “Evangelical” Mean to You?

Wondering what the word “evangelical” means to you? Not completely sure, but I am thinking of quitting — being an evangelical, that is.

Yes, my church is evangelical but that’s neither here nor there to me. I am not my church nor do I agree with every single thing they teach (that would be weird) and I’m not sure I am one any more — an evangelical.

No drama, totally longing for civility here, just wanting your thoughtful response to what “evangelical” means to you, in 21st century America, i.e. today — not originally.  Or perhaps there is an original meaning that is important and was lost.

I think “evangelical” has become both a “dirty word” for non-believers, yes regular non-church going people. And a misunderstood and misused word.

It feels soiled.

Either way, I think it isn’t what I am any more.  Though I am not sure yet what I am.

In this really thoughtful article, My Journey Toward the “New Evangelicalism” By , I found a little of my own heart’s cry:

“… a larger truth is at stake. Will we use the Gospel for political purposes, or make it hostage to any political person or cause? Some sixty times in the New Testament the death and resurrection of Christ are described as liberating, and the Christian life as one of freedom. The apostle Paul declared, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourself be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (Gal. 5:1).

“A demand for political conformity is a form of legalism that must not characterize the body of Christ. Neither should any judgmental or unloving attitudes over differences of opinion. Disagreements, moreover, should not be regarded as off limits but as legitimate and even healthy. They offer the opportunity to discuss conflicting ideas with a spirit of prayer, openness to the Holy Spirit, and unconditional submission to God’s Word. In this way the church is a community that transcends, while never denying, its internal differences. Here is victory over the last great temptation (as the book of Revelation intimates): that of making politics more than itself.”

This is a Story that is only beginning for me.

Why Stay in the Church? (Here’s Why I thank God for Mine.) UPDATED

God has many that the church does not have, and the church has many that God does not have.  ~ Augustine

 

Even though it is totally embarrassing to be labeled an “evangelical” Christian today, mostly because of the politicization of organized religion and because there are so many crazies on the religious right.  (I know.  I’m not helping by saying that.)

But seriously, it’s plain  mortifying to be considered “evangelical” most days especially if you turn on cable television whether it’s MSNBC or Fox “news.”

Still I have been attending mine for more than ten years and have good reasons to stay at my evangelical church.

Sojourners Magazine does a good job of describing the type of evangelical Christian that I consider myself to be.  I care about racial and social justice, the environment, human rights, having a consistent life ethic and trying to be a peacemaker.  I do not always succeed.

The truth is there is no perfect church.

But I think there is an ignorance and arrogance to think that  you do not need a church home.

I’ve already written once at least, that I can remember, about what I love about my church.  It’s here, titled I Like My Church.  They Don’t Tell Me What to Think.  But Rachel Held Evans the author of Evolving in Monkeytown  is discussing why she left the church and why she has returned.  In  a response to this, I replied. I’ve expanded it here.

Why I stay in church?

These are not in any order but how they toppled out of my brain.

 

  1. A significant reason that I stay at my church (even though it has grown into a mega-church since we’ve been there) is because they don’t take sides on political issues.  They teach what the Bible says and they intentionally stay away from hot “issues.”  This shows great maturity and wisdom, in my opinion.
  2. I also stay at my church because although they are more conservative on women than I would like, they love and accept me as I am. (If you are regular reader of my blog, you know that I can be a sometimes ranting, sometimes angry and frustrated, and sometimes hurt feminist, a misfit in the evangelical church.)  I stay because I believe as I grow into God’s grace, I may be heard since the message isn’t mine, but the truth of Jesus.  I stay because although the “church govt. structures (being a part of a denomination)” haven’t caught up with their beliefs, what they are practicing is an affirmation of women fully using their gifts and abilities and serving out of those God given gifts, almost.
  3. I stay because there are people in my church that are spiritually alive and actively living out their faith, who love Jesus and express that through loving one another, in order to reach our community.  I see it every day.  It is beautiful.  It’s radical.  It is only from God.
  4.  I stay because of the community that I have found within a smaller group which buoys my faith, prays for one another, serves our community together, confesses sin and accepts one another quite unconditionally.
  5.  I stay because they have a solid biblical hermeneutic, one that I can believe in.  They don’t read the Bible literally, thank God!
  6. They encourage questions and regularly say that there are varied perspectives and interpretations.  Amen!
  7. Their position on science, faith and creation which fits under number five, but is important enough to me to be it’s own reason. (I’ve listed some links to talks below.)
  8. I stay because through the study of scripture, through learning in community, through developing a life of devotion I am being transformed.  I am not the same person.

 

Everything I write about the spiritual life here on my blog, and I do all the time, it is because of what I am learning, how I am being challenged to grow and develop, because of these things.

This is why, I regularly thank God for my church even though there is no perfect church including mine.  Why are you at your church? Or why not?


Not to Speak is to Speak: Volume 3

“If we could read the secret history of our enemies,

we should find in each man’s life

sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.”  

— Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I am finding it hard to love my enemies.

Rush Limbaugh who obviously hates women and calls them sluts and makes them feel like whores.

Those that do not understand America is made up of oppressive systems and structures for African Americans especially and other minorities. That if we don’t do something about it, we are passive racists– contributors. I read this week that the Bible has “more than 2,000 passages of Scripture about God’s hatred for poverty and oppression. They see God’s desire for systems and structures to be blessings to all of humanity — not a curse to some and a blessing for others.”  Lisa Sharon Harper, Sojourners

(White) people that say our President is not a believing Christian make me angry. Because if he isn’t, then likely they think I’m not one either.

That Olympia Snow despairs enough about our political system that she quit the Senate this last week.

Quick to rush to anger.  That’s me.

'Meet the Sports Illustrated 2011 Swimsuit Models at STK Invite' photo (c) 2011, The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition makes me angry.  Come on!  The ongoing female objectification implies that being healthy for women is all about fitting into a tiny bikini (especially since women very rarely appear on the Sports Illustrated cover otherwise).  The effect of female objectification in mainstream culture huge.   Does an interest in sports necessitate an interest in ogling female bodies? When boys watch their fathers flip through magazines dedicated to objectification, what do they learn about what it means to be a man? And what does this communicate to them about a woman’s place in society?   One positive, a doctor who raises concerns regarding the effects of “our pornified culture on our children”.  Miss Representation offered specific suggestions for creating change: positive change; healthy change. The link is www.missrepresentation.org.

I’m finding it hard to love.  These things make me angry!  God says Pray for those who persecute you.

Sigh, pray for Rush Limbaugh? Pray for racist people and the sexist editors of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition?

Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless.

Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act. —  Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Not to Speak is to Speak is a series I started last year. I’m thinking of reviving it.

Volume 2

Volume 1