I am beginning to wonder if the time has come to retire the term “evangelicalism” from its role in describing the faith community to which I belong (or rather, less presumptuously, its role in my own self-identification). The problem with using this term at this point in history comes from its association with two different contemporary phenomena:
- The term “Evangelical” has now been used in the media to describe the members of Insane Clown Posse. I quote from an article Elijah pointed me to on The Guardian website: “Insane Clown Posse have this entire time secretly been evangelical Christians.” I’m not sure what exactly in the ICP statement of faith led to using the adjective “evangelical,” but it seems like it is sticking. And if you know anything about this group, we should be heading a million miles an hour in the opposite direction of anything associated with them. But beyond that, the term has also been used in connection with (almost) Koran-burning pastor Terry Jones, God-Hates-Fags-sign-holding pastor/dbag Fred Phelps, the founders and participants in the so-called “Jesus Camp,” and in reference to many more wackos and imbeciles.
- On the other hand, there are a number of quite intelligent Christian groups who want to co-opt the term “evangelical” to describe ONLY those who agree with the doctrines of their particular tradition. In other words, they want to re-write the definition of what it means to be evangelical…and due to their aggressive fervor and polemical methods, they are actually succeeding to some extent! Suddenly, certain leaders, churches and organizations are declaring that Pentecostals are not “truly” evangelical, Arminians are “heretics,” theistic evolutionists are rushing headlong into apostasy, etc. and that only their doctrinally-pure tradition can safe-guard “true evangelicalism” from these heterodox movements.
Both of these appropriations of the term “evangelical” bring me to the point where I feel uncomfortable associating myself with this tradition, although evangelicalism is CLEARLY my background, these folks are “my people” in a cultural and traditional sense, and I have some inclination to maintain my affiliation with the term “evangelical” (albeit with some modifiers i.e. “post-conservative” as described here) in that it connects linguistically to “the Gospel” and historically to a Protestant heritage in which I find much to appreciate.
However, I also wonder if it might be helpful to dissociate from some of the term’s negative connotations for a period and allow a later generation to re-appropriate the term once the “ass” is removed from its “association” with these embarrassing and narrow-minded movements. It seems obvious that Christian groups have often used a variety of labels throughout the centuries to identify their faith stance (beginning with the biblical moniker: “Followers of the Way”) and perhaps it is our turn to “re-invent” ourselves in this cultural era.
- If you disagree and think those of us considered evangelicals should keep the label, how would you suggest we deal with the connotations which are being attached to this term?
- If you agree with me or have the slightest inclination to sympathize with this assessment…what should we begin to call ourselves (consider this a creative experiment intended more for fun–we mustn’t take this all too seriously)?
I have a few ideas, but I’d love to hear any of your thoughts first!
Rather than practicing hospitality through dialogue and consensus-building, today’s conservative evangelicals are too concerned with excluding people. In some cases this lack of value placed on alternity borders on violence. Not physical violence but spiritual abuse which is another kind of violence.