I’m a life long card-carrying evangelical Christian. And yet I find it more difficult every year, especially every four years, to call myself “evangelical.” I blogged here recently about the news media labeling advocates of the “prosperity gospel,” the “gospel” of Word-Faith, “name it and claim it,” as “evangelical.” Now I see the news media labeling Falwell-founded Liberty University “evangelical.” (This is in news articles and broadcast stories about “democratic socialist” (his own label) Bernie Sanders’ campaign appearance there.
I would very much like to hear from someone in the news media about how two such disparate groups can be lumped together with the same religious label: In your minds what makes a person or group “evangelical?” What criteria do you use in deciding whether they are truly evangelical?
What do Liberty University and Paula White have in common that causes you to label them both “evangelical?”
And while we’re at it, perhaps you could explain what you mean by “the Bible Belt.” I’ve seen every state from Nebraska to Indiana and from Iowa to Georgia labeled “Bible Belt.” What does that mean? What do Nebraska and Georgia have in common that make them both part of a “Bible Belt?”Are you (the news media) really being helpful with these broad stroke brushes for religious description? Can’t you take the time and trouble to come up with more specific appellations for religious groups and religious ecologies?
As you (the news media) use “evangelical” it has become virtually meaningless. The same goes for “Bible Belt.” Apparently the only places in the U.S. that are NOT “Bible Belt” are New England and the West Coast.
Your credibility is at stake; you seem to know very little about religion in America. It’s so much more diverse than you seem to realize. So are those who even call themselves “evangelical.” IF you are going to label BOTH Liberty University AND Paula White and her ministry “evangelical” you need to add some kind of distinguishing words. Otherwise, you leave the impression they belong to the same branch of Christianity.
I would be happy to help you with this, but, I also recommend noted experts on American evangelicalism: Joel Carpenter (Calvin College), Mark Noll (Notre Dame), Randall Balmer (Dartmouth), Candy Brown (Indiana University), and David Bebbington (Baylor University and University of Sterling [Scotland]).