Christian Fundamentalists have hijacked the word, “evangelical” and I’m ready to take it back.
The word, “evangelical,” comes from the Greek word euangelion, meaning “the good news” or the “gospel.” I believe that the Christian faith can still be good news but there must be a reckoning.
Today, Christian Evangelicals have done enough damage such that the word “evangelical” conjures reactions that belie the word’s meaning. Tell me: The last time you read a headline that said, “American evangelicals ….” did you think, “Oh that’s going to be good news?”
Evangelical Christianity is plainly not good news when accused child molesters like Roy Moore are able to defend their abhorrent actions by citing the bible and their “evangelical” faith.
Evangelical Christianity is not good news when it’s defined by a patriarchal structure that continues to subjugate women and creates fear in the women who speak out against the patriarchal abuse.
Christianity is not good news when “evangelicals” claim moral superiority but let immoral behavior slide so long as it benefits their empire.
It certainly isn’t good news when the term, “evangelical” is associated with white, conservative politics that steers towards intolerant views of “illegals,” the poor, and people of color.
It is not good news when “evangelicals” adhere to a flat reading of scripture that condones violence and oppression against people-groups, most notably the LGBTQ community.
It’s not good news when the majority of “evangelical” Christians believe that God loves them so much that God cannot stand the sight of them and needs a blood sacrifice to make things right.
It’s not good news when those who don’t believe in this particular transaction spend the remainder of their days being tortured in hell by this “loving God.”
The word “evangelical” does not mean good news today. It means holding onto to a particular set of beliefs that create division amongst neighbors and an allegiance to the American Empire that longs to keep racism, patriarchy, and power under the guise of “Making America Great Again.”
It’s time to take back “evangelical.” One might question why I even want to take that word back considering all its baggage. But here’s the thing: I am an evangelical, not in the distorted fundamentalist sense, but in its truest sense. I still believe that the Gospel can be good news.
Christianity is good news because I believe that the inspired and living scriptures challenge me to ask not what’s in the bible but why it’s in the Bible. This inspired reading gives us a bigger picture of how our loving God is still at work in even the Bible’s most morally troubling events and actions.
The Gospel is good news because I don’t believe that we have an angry God who needs a blood sacrifice. I believe that the cross is way more than a transaction that gets me into heaven while others remain tortured.
The Gospel is good news because we’re given Jesus. When we want to know the character or heart of God, we can look to Jesus. When we want to know what God has to say, we look to Jesus. And what does Jesus do?
Jesus changes the flat reading of the scriptures to include those who live on the margins. When an entire nation wants power over their enemies and finds scriptural validation for that promise, Jesus points to a living reading of the scriptures that calls us to love our enemies and to show unlimited forgiveness. That’s good news!
The gospel is good news because when Jesus encounters the oppressed, he invites them into his life and brings dignity their humanity. Jesus’ actions mean that evangelicals get to do the same. We get to restore the humanity of our brothers and sisters who have been reduced to the label of “illegal” or “dangerous refugee.”
The Gospel is good news because the miracles of Jesus are often the epitome of civil disobedience, as they often provoked the ire of the religious elite and those in power. His miracles mean that we stand with the oppressed who continue to protest injustice and we kneel with them to bring about change. We recognize that acts that disrupt the status quo and threaten those who use their power to subjugate others are miracles in and of themselves.
The Gospel is good news because Jesus’s earliest followers make radical calls for inclusiveness of all people even at the cost of their historically orthodox religious beliefs and ethics .The stories and letters of Peter and Paul in our scriptures teach us that radical inclusiveness is at the heart of this gospel message. As evangelicals, we continue that trajectory and courageously work to include LGBTQ people in our churches.
Good news means that a white, patriarchal, power hungry, self identified evangelicals are losing their fight to maintain the status quo. The Gospel challenges these systems of inequity and it will not be defeated.
I’m taking back the word, “evangelical.” It doesn’t belong with moral hypocrites like Roy Moore or anyone else who uses their religion to hide behind abuse. It doesn’t belong with those who use their Christianity to draw dividing lines. It doesn’t belong to the American, white elite. It doesn’t belong to those who subjugate gender, and it certainly doesn’t belong with anyone who pursues power at the expense of others.
I am an Evangelical Christian who gives thanks for a loving and gracious God who doesn’t need a blood sacrifice to see me as worthy. I’m an Evangelical Christian who recognizes that our inspired scriptures are not here to bring about subjugation but rather to create equity. I’m an Evangelical Christian because I believe that the actions of Jesus are not for a majority culture in power but for absolutely everyone. I’m an Evangelical Christian because I believe that a the commandment to love God and love others is by far the best possible way to live. That’s good news. That’s evangelical. And I’m taking it back.