Thoughts on Being E(e)vangelical – J. McKenna

Can we save the term “evangelical”?

More and more in the media “evangelical” means anti-intellectual, right-wing, fundamentalist who thinks Family First is God’s salvation in Australia, if not John Howard.

As reframers do we think “evangelical” can be reframed to mean anything associated with the good news Jesus announced of the Kingdom breaking into reality, or do we give up on this term for the sake of the gospel?

One of the recent University newspapers associated “evangelical” with George W. Bush and his American god that blesses war and favours nice, rich white Americans. Brian McLaren in A Generous Orthodoxy (which I would recommend as one of the best pop-theology book I’ve read recently, only second to Lee Camp’s Mere Discipleship) goes to lengths to employs an upper case/lower case distinction between Evangelical (Bush fans) and evangelical (what he considers himself).

Would you use either of these terms “E” (or) “e” evangelical?

Jim Wallis in his latest book, (God’s Politics : Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It) is trying desperately in the States to take the term back from the Religious Right. Wallis says that he’s “a 19th-century evangelical who was born in the wrong century.”

What he means is that for Wesley, Booth, Finney and others 19th century evangelicalism meant revival could not be separated from social justice. It was this type of Christianity which ended slavery, fought for woman’s rights, workers rights and rights of children.

But is this the kind evangelicalism we mean?

And we might say a quick yes! and amen! to that but honestly how many of our churches this Thursday at 12 will be outside Perth Cultural Centre to raise our voices for decent minimum wage and to stop unfair dismissal? Catholics will be there in numbers, so will people from the Christian Centre for Social Action and some of those Anabaptist mob. But honestly are we likely to see even one pastor from evangelical churches?

Of course I’m not saying if we’re not there we don’t care about social justice, but what I’m getting at is I’m not sure if the evangelicalism of Wesley, Booth and Finney has much to do which evangelicalism today.

So my proverbial cat among the proverbial pigeons are these following questions:

1. Do you consider yourself an evangelical?

2. For you is that connected with social awareness, (like workers rights, what Thursday is about) is a concern for you or does that have nothing to do with being an evangelical for you?

3. What do people think about the statement, “one of the biggest hurdles in evangelism in our culture is ‘Evangelicals’ whose agenda is adverse to the Kingdom of God.”?

I ask cause I’m not sure. And because I’m thinking of writing a bit on it. I find it odd that I have such a passion for evangelism, yet I have such a hard time with the word “evangelical”. Can others identify with this?

Your brother in Christ,

Jarrod McKenna


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