How to Be Evangelical After World Vision: I Mean, Why?

In my first post on how to be evangelical after World Vision, I admittedly assumed something. 

Namely, that anyone would actually want to be evangelical after World Vision.

I mean, why?

Why would we even want to carry on this label, if the loudest voices driving the popular perception of “evangelical” are the conservative gatekeepers who have fully farewelled the centrist/nuanced, progressive, and emergence voices?

Why not just adopt the more generalized “progressive Christian” or perhaps simply identify with a denominational description (Methodist, Episcopal, Baptist, Mennonite, Presbyterian, etc.)?

Why not just go by “Christian” and be done with the silly labels entirely?

Two points here.

First, the evangelical label has to mean something to you. If a person whose views are out of step with conservative evangelicalism has never actually identified as evangelical at one point in their lives, then there is probably no reason to start now. In other words, the reason “why” would start with some kind of relational or experiential attachment to the label. I have grown up within the tent of evangelicalism; this is my people, my tribe, even the conservatives!; I have been nurtured by the core positive aspects of evangelical identity; therefore, I am compelled to and see value in retaining the label.

Second, labels are inevitable. There is no such thing as “just Christian” and there never will be, despite any objections to the contrary. Your interpretive and practical approach to living Christianly will, when described with actual words, be different from others who claim to live Christianly. Hence, labels. Labels are not the problem. It’s probably a much bigger problem to deny their existence.

Therefore, being evangelical after World Vision will have some significance for some people who identify as evangelical but are out of step with the conservative majority voice.

And let me add that the decision of many to jettison the category entirely in light of the World Vision controversy, after having held it for a time (and even a lifetime), is a totally valid decision, and one I respect completely. If anything, I’m hoping to offer something to those who want to hold onto it, who see value in it, while affirming those who don’t.

So I’m interested – how about you? Do you see any value in retaining the label? Or do you think it is permanently poisoned by the current politicized perception?

I’d love to hear from you as I put together a definition of “evangelical” for the next post.

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About Zach Hoag

Zach J. Hoag is a writer and missional minister from notoriously non-religious New England. He blogs here at Patheos and HuffPost Religion. His book, Nothing but the Blood: The Gospel According to Dexter, released in 2012. Most importantly he binge-watches TV dramas and plays in the snow with his family.

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