Politics & Evangelicals

November 11, 2006 § 1 Comment

Amid the recent elections and the huge upset for the Republican Party, there was talk that the results of the election were because Evangelicals disappointed with Republican failures left the party high and dry at the voter’s box. On the contrary that couldn’t be further from the truth as polls suggest even more Evangelicals voted Republican than in the 2004 Presidential Election. But one question remains for many that is not so much associated with the election but the Evangelicals themselves and that is ‘What is an Evangelical’?

Daniel Engber reports,

“It’s hard to say for sure. Evangelicalism has no unified church of its own, and it cuts across the various Protestant denominations. The evangelicals might include Pentecostals who speak in tongues and believe in faith-healing, for example, as well as Methodists or Baptists who do no such thing. Even so, these disparate groups share certain basic attitudes toward God and the Bible.” (D. Engber, Slate) audio2

Interestingly, Engber suggests that there could be more than 100 million Evangelicals in the United States. But what I would like to ask is: are there Evangelicals in Europe, Asia or Africa or is the U.S. the largest haven for Calvin’s theological tributaries?

I find that Europeans are far less superstitious than us, my reason for saying so is that the underlying beliefs of Evangelicals seem particular to this culture even when compared to Calvin’s notes and writings. But one thing is for certain that emphasis is on Jesus and the Bible as dicussed in the Engbers article,

“Evangelicals believe in a strong personal relationship with Jesus, and most make an active conversion to their faith at a discrete moment in their lives. (Those who grow up evangelical are often “born again” as children, or in their teenage years.) They also tend to be very active in their churches. They are apt to form organizations to help needy people and to proselytize nonbelievers. They place enormous faith in the Bible and treat its specific teachings with gravity, and they emphasize the notion that Christ died on the cross for our sins.”

I have been approached many times by what I consider an “Evangelical”, and I have often entertained their interest in discussing the “personal relationship with Jesus”. Needless to say, the conversations tend to end at an impasse. However, it often discourages me that there is such a rigid appraoch to faith in the Bible that the reluctance to engage me on points I raise is hard-pressed. I wonder what would an Evangelical say about recent efforts by theologians such as Robert Beckford and others? I also wonder is Modern-Evangelism is what was intended at its inception or has it morphed into something specific to the culture and color of todays America? What does Engber say of the origins of Evangelism? Well he says,

“Modern evangelicalism emerged from an early-20th-century conflict between Protestant liberals and fundamentalists. The fundamentalists felt that the liberals had strayed too far from the teachings of the Bible and urged a return to the most orthodox teachings. The evangelicals staked out a middle ground—more conservative than the liberals but not quite as old-fashioned as the fundamentalists. The evangelicals and fundamentalists remain two distinct groups, though they share a belief in the importance of a personal relationship with God and the Bible. In general, the fundamentalists tend to be stricter and more isolated from mainstream culture. An evangelical parent might encourage his kids to listen to Christian rock, for example, while a fundamentalist parent would object to all music of that kind.” (D. Engber, Slate)

In conclusion, it appears that the truth of the matter is that outwardly, I doubt Evangelicals seem much different from some groups of Muslims. However, I am not as much concerned with outward appearance but more so with the kernal, the hidden intelligence behind all functioning religions and factions of religions. And from what I understand the Evangelical movment has its philosphical roots in the writings and works of: John Calvin, John Wesley, George Whitfield and Francis Asbury, which resulted in a 20th century movement of fundamentalism.

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§ One Response to Politics & Evangelicals

  • Dirty Butter says:

    I’d say you have an accurate view of what an Evangelical Christian is, at least from my viewpoint. I consider myself to be one. I know fundamentalist Christians, with whom I have strong differences of opinion on several topics of Biblical interpretation. I don’t know any “liberal Christians,” however, who don’t take the Bible as the Word of God in the same way I do.

    In our church, at least, we take the Separation of Church and State extremely seriously, and nothing is said at church about politics other than an encouragement to go vote.

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