Image via WikipediaLook, I think one of the things that comes through on this blog and in my reflection is that I have pretty good evangelical roots. It’s not something I got in New York so much. I was 15 and under when I was there. But it’s something I got in my years in Indiana when surrounded by Wesleyans…not of the United Methodist kind but of the actual “Wesleyan Church” kind. Evangelicalism was somewhat “in the water” of Indiana, inside and outside of the United Methodist Church. And it was a pretty conservative sort of evangelicalism.
And, to this day, I really do believe that being an authentic follower of Jesus Christ requires one to have some type of conversion experience (“justification” for my good, old Methodist friends out there) and some type of growth in faith (regeneration or “sanctification” for said Methodists). I believe in confession of sin and I believe that Jesus Christ is the only way for this to happen, and, therefore, it is right and good and important to share the message of Jesus and live in such a way that persons can see Christ’s love through one’s actions. Saying all of this, I think, makes me an evangelical in a pretty classic sense.
That said…I think there is a lot of room for interpretation in there. There’s a lot unsaid in all that’s said above. And, in spite of believing all of this, I know that my theology is sometimes questioned and sometimes questioned to my face…even believing all that I do about Jesus.
(Please note, this really isn’t commonplace for me…the whole questioning thing. I don’t walk through life with persons shaking their heads every time I open my mouth. I am surrounded by a bunch of people who know me and appreciate me and, I pray, see Christ working through me and can hear the depth of my faith in my preaching, my speaking, and in my writing. But I do occasionally get the “head shake” or the “I’ll pray for you.” Some base it on nothing other than knowing I’m part of the United Methodist Church. And some within the United Methodist Church base their opinions on nothing more than my location, now, in the West — a bastion of what some see as liberal Methodism.)
And so, I was more than a little amused as I stumbled over to The Pangea Blog and a post by Kurt Willems. It’s entitled “You Might Be an Evangelical Reject” and I resonated with many of his bullet points. Clearly he has struggled with self-identity over the years, probably from a much more evangelical side of evangelicalism. His points made me think and ponder…which is a good thing. See the original post for a complete list of his bullet points.
In so far that evangelical means the belief in repentance and conversion into a genuine relationship with Jesus Christ through the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit, the term describes me. What I continue to find, is that such a central conviction is NOT enough to appease those who want the term to mean other things. So, based on my experiences, I want to let you know that: You Might Be an Evangelical Reject If…
- You’re uncomfortable calling other branches of Christianity “apostate.”
- You have significant questions about controversial theological “hot button” issues of the days and are some-what comfortable with the subsequent cognitive dissonance.
- You read theologians from all across the spectrum.
- You think that science and scripture both reveal God’s truth in complementary ways.
- You think that what we believe about the so called “end times” actually matters for how we do mission today.
- You recognize culture wars as pathetic attempts for Christians to grab for power.
- You don’t use the word inerrancy to describe biblical authority because its too rigid a definition and a modernist categorical imposition on the Holy Spirit inspired Scriptures.
- You think women should do anything BUT be silent in the church. (Can I get an AMEN from my sistas?)
- You think that postmodern philosophy helps theology more than it hurts it.
- You drink alcohol sometimes (in public).
- You believe that there are significant parallels between the Roman Empire of the 1st Century and the United States of modern day.
- You believe social justice is central to the gospel of the Kingdom.
- You’ve said “I’m not that kind of Christian…”
- You considered or actually voted democratic in the last two elections.
- You think that African American Activists have valid points when it comes to justice issues.
- You have gay friends.
- You’ve been in a conversation where the other was appealing more to the constitution of the USA than actually biblical theology.
Perhaps we can argue (rightfully so, I think) that his bullet points which claim him as an “evangelical reject” are not classic evangelicalism. Instead, evangelicalism has come to mean “conservative evangelical” or “politically conservative” or “socially conservative.” It’s gotten away from the the priority of the “evangel” or “Good News” and has come to mean a lot of other things along the way. But this has come to be the new understanding of “evangelical.” And, by that, with Kurt Willems, I sometimes find myself outside of a circle I once dutifully drew myself in.