Tag Archives: Evangelicals

white-Christian-evangelical

Nowadays, “white”, “Christian”, and “evangelical”, are loaded words. White can mean oppressor; Christian can mean ignorant; and evangelical often means bigot.

Since I could be called a white evangelical Christian, I frequently take offense at the way they are used. The one I find most offensive is “evangelical”. Last month I wrote about the abuse and misuse of that word. But I feel compelled to keep writing about it. Here’s why: though the category evangelical may comprise as wide a variety as the category animal does, most often “evangelical” is used as if the whole demographic belonged to the variety I consider the worst of us: those who use the label “Christian” as a cover for greed, racial and class prejudice, fear and other attitudes wholly opposite from those Christ preached and practiced.

For about ten years, I have attended a church that grew out of a distinct “evangelical” tradition. I will try to deliver an accurate summary, at least as far back as the tradition’s origins in the Salvation Army.

Out of that movement, through her parents, came Aimee Semple McPherson*, a remarkably passionate and effective evangelist and faith healer of the very early twentieth century. Sister Aimee, in connection with her Angelus Temple in Los Angeles’ Echo Park district, founded a bible college. One of the college’s students was Chuck Smith, who later, as pastor of a small church in Costa Mesa, California, actively welcomed the truth-seeking hippies we used to call Jesus freaks. Pastor Chuck, with the help of some highly charismatic young people, most notably Lonnie Frisbee, gathered a following that grew exponentially until it became a denomination of its own, called Calvary Chapel.

A number of Calvary Chapel preachers founded churches that, while not under the Calvary Chapel umbrella, continued in the same tradition. Three of those are among the most popular churches in San Diego, where I live. The first was Horizon, out of which came Journey and The Rock. The Rock, founded by long-time Horizon preacher Miles McPherson, once a football player for the San Diego Chargers, has become a true mega-church. I suppose in part because Miles is black, The Rock is quite racially integrated. The other two, though primarily white, have never, to my knowledge, promoted or condoned racism in any way. Over ten years at journey, I have never heard anything that could be construed as advocating greed, racial or class prejudice, or fear of anything but exclusion from the love of God.

In my mind, “evangelical” is lovely word that describes a belief that “the essence of the gospel consists in the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ’s atonement.**”

If I knew how, I would start a movement to take the word back from its abusers.

* For a fascinating look at Sister Aimee, read The Biggest Liar in Los Angeles.

** Quoted from Wikipedia.

Trump and Evangelicals

Recently I read that four-fifths of “evangelicals” intend to vote for Donald Trump.

As a writer, I’m all about words. And a common word that concerns me is evangelical.

I’ve been a churchgoer for about twenty-five years and a believer in Christ since long before my churchgoing began. I have attended Quaker, Catholic, Baptist, Lutheran, Assembly of God, Methodist, Episcopal, and independent churches. These days, my church is Journey in La Mesa, CA, which grew out of the Calvary Chapel movement. Also, I taught five years at a conservative Christian college. Through these experiences, I have come to distinguish between evangelical and fundamentalist.

In my mind, fundamentalists are essentially about conservatism, holding to traditional ways, while evangelicals are essentially dedicated to experiencing a connection to Christ, understanding his message, and proclaiming that message to others.

In this wretchedly political year, I have far too often read the term evangelical as referring to everyone who accepts the Biblical doctrine that we should be born again.

Given my definitions, I am not in the least surprised if four-fifths of fundamentalists mean to vote for Trump, since his message is all about holding onto or returning to the way things were. But if four-fifths of those I call evangelicals plan to vote for a fellow who is all about power, privilege, and isolation, when Christ’s message is about sacrifice, love, and outreach, I am quite disturbed.

Either I or the journalists had better revise our definition of evangelical. I hope it’s them, because to me, at least, evangelicals and fundamentalists are about as much alike as Sunnis and Shiites.