What is an evangelical?

Unlike many blogs I have always referred to this blog simply by its name. The sharp-eyed among you will notice that the word ‘evangelical’ has reappeared in my title. It has been there before but now I feel it must return!

The trigger for this new-found desire to ‘label’ myself as an evangelical is watching jolly blogger being called a liberal! Actually he was called an evangelical-leaning-liberal. We are not 100% sure what that means and a hilarious discussion has ensued about the historical-gramatical method of discovering what the writer meant.

Of course the easiest thing is to simply ask Life in the cult lane what he actually meant by the comment, and I do hope to hear some more from him at some point. In the meantime, lets see what he has to say about evangelicals in this post and elsewhere on his blog.

Some interesting thoughts on Culture War from the evangelical-leaning-liberal perspective at Jollyblogger.He continues this series in subsequent posts. I find it intriguing because it recaps the thinking I grew up with (and my dissatisfaction with it, at the time, that I couldn’t quite place a finger on).

Fortunately living in New Zealand I was mostly shielded from the utter seriousness with which the 1990s American Christian Right took itself, but still we lived with the fallout – which, at one cultural remove, made even less sense than it presumably does in its home turf. But there are a lot of churches in the wider Anglosphere which fairly uncritically source resources – books, speakers, seminars – from the US and don’t always put a lot of attention into trying to work out what the agenda is. Anything Christian is our friend, right?

(I did grow up with a very strong ‘the world is a battlefield and Christians are soldiers, show no mercy’ ideology, dating from the 1940s Pentecostal movement, and consider myself still in recovery from that mixture of paranoia/terror/elitism even now – but for the most part, the Religious Right was opaque and bizarre to me. I had no idea who Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson were even as late as September 2001. I think a lot of evangelical Christians, outside the USA, are in a similar position: unconsciously influenced by these ideas without quite knowing why.)

It would seem from this post that to the author the evangelical view is not one that is necessarily positive. Evangelicalism is identified almost completely with the American Christian Right. Coming from outside of America, I am familiar with the mixture of distrust and envy with which many people view everything American.

Thus perhaps to the author the word evangelical is associated strongly with ‘paranoia terror and elitism’. Does this concept stack up with how he talks about evangelicalism elsewhere in his blog?

Clearly the concept of ‘evangelicalism’ is important to Nate. He mentions it in his blog into-

This journal is about whatever crosses my mind. At the moment that’s mostly my struggle to make sense of the massive feeling of spiritual dislocation brought to a crisis by 9/11 and the 2003 Iraq War. There’s more but that’s the starting point. My name is Nate Cull. I’m a New Zealander by birth and residence, a Gen-Xer by cohort, a sysadmin by trade, a Post-Evangelical Christian by religion, and politically your guess is as good as mine, but I would have once called myself conservative. Like a lot of things so far and to come, that part of me is now in flames. But there’s hope, I think, for the world and for people like me. I don’t quite know how or where, but if it exists, I mean to find it.

This concept of being spiritually dislocated would seem to be pretty much what is meant by ‘post evangelical. In another post he highlights a petition to remind Americans that God is not a republican or a democrat which although perhaps overstated has echoes of my posts on Christians and Bush and Kerry.

This then leads him onto the subject of a “controversial new right-wing evangelical church” who’s protest was in his mind ‘disturbingly fascist looking’. His comments about agreeing with the views of the church but not the methods and feeling that “If the moral foundation of Western law and civilisation falls apart – well, that’s better than trying to hold it together by force. Sometimes there’s nothing you can do and you just have to let things die.”

So perhaps post-evangelicals are those who still believe in God but are feeling rather hopeless about the state of the world today, and have lost the faith in the onward march of the gospel felt by evangelicals? Perhaps, they also dislike the stereotypical view of the evangelical as ‘bigotted’.

These days many people focus almost exclusively on the negative connotations of the concept of the evangelical. For example, on the issue of the moral aspecs of homosexuality many see evangelicals as hopelessly out of step with society and quiet frankly full of hate. The notion of speaking the truth in love is unfortunately absenst from some that takes

Does this view of what is an evangelical stack up with the way others use the word? According to the World Evangelical Alliance an evangelical is “someone who believes in the authority of the Bible and salvation through the personal acceptance of Jesus Christ” and for whom “the gospel is at the centre of his thinking and living.” Having explained the central importance of Christ, the scriptures and the Holy Spirit to the evangelical the article concludes “the evangelical man or woman is, above all else, a product, and a bearer of the gospel.” Another article on the site which comes from the UK EA makes the point that an evangelical must be one by lifestyle not only belief.

Which Christian on that definition wouldn’t want to strive to become more evangelical rather than less?

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