recently i tried to explain to someone why i no longer considered myself an "evangelical." it was a little difficult, because she had a different religion and didn't understand all that term entailed. maybe you don't understand either--i'm not sure that i do either. and maybe it doesn't really matter. maybe labels and titles are something that just get us into more trouble than they're worth. old distinguishing marks that were worn like a badge of honor undergo a change in meaning as time passes, especially when any old anyone can choose that mark for themselves.
actually i don't know if i ever would have called myself an "evangelical," though i went to one of their churches and schools. the term conveys a lot of things--different probably to different people. in many ways evangelicalism has become the face of american protestantism, where many outside of the church and in wouldn't be able to tell you the difference. if you don't happen to know it is a label for denominations to distinguish themselves, usually by a strong emphasis on the bible at the center of all and the need to "save" others.
i've never really been big on denominations. you could call my theology lax, but the difference just never seemed like that big of a deal to me. i think there are important things to be gleaned from every tradition--and more evangelicals should be reading catholic writings, past and present. and more variety beyond that as well--other traditions, other religious literature, classic literature, foreign lit, modern poetry. but hey, i have an english degree so of course i would say that right?
that's not really the point of what i wanted to say in this post--though it connects because i believe current evangelical americans are the greatest offenders, particularly on the political front.
we put our rights above our call to love people.
i mean "rights" in a couple ways. first i mean it in the sense of what we deem to be right. our truths. our beliefs. people gotta get their beliefs right because it's faith that saves us right? we can worry about all that lovey crap after they are good and saved. and what's more it is generally the more loving thing to do to show a person where they are wrong. funny how many evangelicals have a different idea of what "love" is than everyone else. call it sanctified if you want, but i think i cor. 13 might have something to say about that.
in the second and i think far more accepted sense, i mean it in the more traditional sense of the word. we have our rights as citizens of the usofa, as human beings. it's right there in the declaration of independence. it's in our beings, our fiber as americans. life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. and we as american christians agree. evangelicals have done a fair job trying to convince everyone that the founding fathers were devout men of the christian faith. my question is why? i'll give you the puritans and the pilgrims--but the founding fathers, well that's just not historical for the most part. did they do it in order to try to absorb these principles into christian practice so they wouldn't have to be different? or was it more out of insecurity? trying to hold onto the puritan idea of america being the new zion, the new city on a hill?
but perhaps you are asking what's wrong with these principles in the first place? aren't we afforded these rights? well in a way yes. perhaps that is true as humans we should have these rights--they fit within our natural sense of what justice should be. the only problem is that they aren't the way of Jesus. i could have said "they aren't christian," but that wouldn't sound right--they have become quite "christian" indeed.
read i corinthians 9. it's all about paul giving up his rights for the sake of the gospel. read philippians 2. it's all about how Jesus did not hold onto his rights as God but humbled himself. perhaps that's the best word for it: humility. americans have taken the humility out of christianity.
we will love people as long as it doesn't interfere with our rights--our ability to live, our independence, and our own happiness. that implies a lack of sacrifice, but even more it shows which is our priority. we believe in our own rights more than we do in the call to love people. our love has no teeth. who will give up their "happiness" for another? who will submit themselves to losing their independence for the sake of others? who will really lose their life--that whole greater love hath no man thing. nah we'll just leave all that to Jesus. he did it all for us right?
well are we disciples of Christ or are we not? are we Christ-ians? no it seems we would rather be the people who toe the line and follow the rules--our wonderful puritan heritage in its distortion there. and that's how people begin to think that being a christian is all about following rules. the problem is well-intentioned christians think this too. following the rule of grace and belief and no love in action beyond writing a couple checks. maybe that's too harsh, but our sense of "following" Jesus is almost laughable. american evangelicals--what gospel are you reading?
life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? there are the core values of america. and yet it's exactly our ability to lay down these rights that makes us Christian, that makes us truly loving.