I’m More Evangelical than You

I’m More Evangelical than You August 6, 2012

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.

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  • I think he’s right. But that is precisely because evangelicalism is a movement not an organization. In this I think Roger Olson nails it. It’s also why I think we should embrace the theological diversity and our evangelical identity and work from within a postconservative environment.

  • What’s wrong with Judeo-Christian?

  • Scott Gay

    The purpose of Fitzgerald’s piece is to educate so that “the religious voices of all denominations does not become further marginalized in the public square”. The late imonk, Michael Spencer, foresaw an evangelical collapse. Notice that Scot McKnight on August 1 in an article on Douthat, Bass, and Christianity said, “dont kid yourself……we are witnessing the crack up of the evangelical coalition”. As numbers, churches, finances decline….it will look chaotic from an evangelical perspective. Mr. Fitzgerald has dropped the label, and attends an epicopalean church.

    He reminds me of when the epicopalean priest and the rabbi have a head on collision, neither hurt. They agree it must be a sign from God. So the rabbi, in the spirtit of providential union, asks if they might share a glass of his mogen david, miraculously unbroken in the back seat. The priest agrees and takes a few gulps and hands it back to the rabbi. The rabbi screws the cap back on. “Aren’t you going to share a drink”, asks the priest….the rabbi says, “no, I think I’ll wait for the cops”. Fitzgerald’s understandings about marginalization( and even denominations) shows about as much wisdom in this article as that priest.

  • We’ve always had shades of Evangelicalism. Let’s look at the three pillars of American Evangelicalism: Billy Graham, Christianity Today, Fuller Seminary.

    The distinctions that were made in the late 40s had to do with abandoning the Fundamentalist anti-intellectualism and the Fundamentalist disregard for social action.

    In effect, it was to address the ways the liberal social gospel had right critiques of conservative Christianity in the early 20th century.

    So, a flagship magazine was started and a flagship seminary, with the public popularizing of a flagship evangelist.

    If we look at these three now we certainly see struggles but I don’t think we see an end to what they represent or the work they are doing. Billy Graham is old, but Franklin Graham is going strong and evangelism movements are still packing stadiums/conferences. Fuller gets hit from the right and the left but is still, I think, at the forefront of global ministry training. Christianity Today still represents a broad swath of Christians–many of whom don’t like each other.

    Evangelicalism dying is significantly more dramatic than saying the emerging/missional church is dying. Maybe in terms of chic interest, but there’s the matter of a whole lot of people still participating in churches that have a common bond not represented by other labels. And these are the churches that are growing in both numbers and depth.