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.