I’m More Evangelical than You

Jon Fitzgerald, who no longer uses the term “evangelical” to describe himself, weighs in on a topic that I’ve often pondered on this blog: What, Exactly, Is an Evangelical? He notes, among other things, how ham-fisted the mainstream media is with the term:

When it became clear that in the popular mind the word evangelical was more a social and political construct than a theological one, it set off a scramble to accurately self-identify in books, articles, and blog posts among evangelicals of all stripes. There are those who defend the theological roots of the term and wish to reclaim it from social rebranding, and others who recognize their own views in the social and political categorization and thus accept the term as is. Still others reject the label outright, ceasing to identify as evangelical altogether.

The result of all this hand wringing and word wrangling is that, in 2012, it is more difficult than ever to know what one means by the term. Today, we have what I call shades of evangelicalism. The term is not going away, but the people it is meant to describe are becoming more and more diverse—politically, theologically, and socially. At the same time, the media is using the term with far greater frequency.

Read the rest of Jon’s column: The 50 Shades of Evangelicalism | Politics | Religion Dispatches.

A Better Atonement: Lean Left, Tony, Lean Left!

Try as he might, Peter Laarman can’t help but sneer at my latest book. Just…Not…Progressive enough for him. Also, not smart enough, too hipster, and too evangelical. He doesn’t seem to like my eyeglasses, either. Or the book’s subtitle. Or Rob Bell. (Wait, what in God’s name does Rob Bell have to do with my book on the atonement? You’ll have to read the article to find out.)

Penitentially present to RD readers for just a minute during Holy Week, I want to welcome a new Kindle-only book from Tony Jones: A Better Atonement: Beyond the Depraved Doctrine of Original Sin.

I have never met Tony Jones, and I was initially inclined to offer a sneer instead of a review. I am still inclined toward sniping, as you will see, but the easy snipe just won’t do this time. I’ve thought about it, and (God forbid) I’ve even prayed about it. I conclude that the old Common Front principle of “no enemies on the Left” really ought to apply right now, at a moment when anyone who is honestly seeking to recast troublesome old Christian doctrines should be seen as an ally and not an enemy.

Read the Rest: Rejecting Blood Sacrifice Theology, Again | (A)theologies | Religion Dispatches.

But here’s the point of the review: Oh, look at the little post-evangelical emergent discovering what we smart liberals have known for decades. How cute!

Spiritual But Not Religious – Defended

Kate Blanchard, a religious studies professor, pushes back on Lillian Daniel, whose post about spiritual but not religious became a meme a couple weeks back:

But most Sundays I don’t go to church because, frankly put, it bores me; I am tired and church fails to provide any compelling reason to get out of my pajamas. (Were I living in a large, cosmopolitan city where churches with high liturgy, weekly Eucharist, beautiful architecture, and trained musicians abounded, my story might be quite different.) Although I like the people at church very much and I wish to support them in their hours of need, I am still unwilling to prioritize membership. I have an emotionally demanding job that takes up all of my time and psychic energy during the academic year, and I would honestly rather get work done in my off hours than act as an usher or sit on a church governing body. (via Spiritual But Not Religious? Come Talk to Me | (A)theologies | Religion Dispatches.)

Blanchard makes a good point, I think.  She also points out in the article that Daniel is a UCC minister, a denomination that might fall into the “boring” category for a lot of people.  Blanchard’s post is a good read, and worthy of consideration.

On Being a (Not Quite Good Enough) GLBT Ally

In the last week, a couple of writers have taken to the interwebs to proclaim that my support of GLBT persons is, well, sub-par.  At Religion Dispatches, Elizabeth Drescher takes offense to the closing salvo in my post, “Homoerotic Churches,” in which I imply that some evangelicals’ taste for the man-on-man grappling in mixed martial arts may mask their own longings. Drescher writes,

Jones has apparently missed the homoeroticism of the quarterback snap in football and the rampant ass-slapping across all sports, gender notwithstanding. In any case, the gays-are-rubber-Mark-Driscoll-is-glue approach to confronting Driscoll’s thug-like homophobia is hardly the same as a clear condemnation. And, I might add, while I personally find MMA, boxing, and wrestling in all its forms distasteful, I’m sure there’s little pastoral grace for either LBGTQ or straight kids who do enjoy these sports in highlighting them as ironically effeminate—even for the sake of pointing out that Mark Driscoll is a jerk. Even the Apostle Paul, disciplinarian of the Early Church, attempted to model the practice of admonishment for bad behavior without resorting to shaming. Just sayin’…

There have been several comments along those same lines regarding my original post.  Was it a cheap shot for me to write, “we preach most fervently against the very sin that we are struggling with“?  Maybe.  But there were also many commenters who agreed with that sentiment.

While I believe that there’s ample evidence to make a claim like that, it was not meant to be universal.  Someone who preaches against a sin is not necessarily under the sway of that very sin.  Nor, of course, do I consider it an insult to imply that some conservative evangelical leaders may be harboring various sexual predilections.  In fact, I, like Dan Savage, would encourage them to honestly confront those.

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