I hit a turning point today.
It’s nothing new that I’ve been sick of what we call the Prosperity Gospel; the belief that when you know Jesus, you will be blessed with riches, health, a great family, and more riches. This was initially a sect of Christianity in America and around the world, but in recent years it seems to have surged to the majority.
Major proponents of this gospel include Benny Hinn, Joel Osteen, and Steven Furtick (who has received criticism for his $7 million house). There are more, and if you want a full list, just visit the Preachers N Sneakers Instagram. You could make an argument that the creation of that Instagram account marked the moment of death for American Evangelicalism.
But after seeing the affairs of countless pastors, some of whom were brought back into their churches later, or rewarded with other pastoral positions, book deals, and the like,
After learning that a local church here in Colorado rewarded their volunteers with skinny, black, shredded jeans so they could fit the volunteer dress code,
After getting coffee with the pastor of said church and finding that he never went to college and didn’t know the definition of ‘reformed,’ among other basic theological concepts, despite leading a 9,000-person church,
After being turned down for multiple jobs in the church because I was single and didn’t fit their image of the American family-friendly dream,
After seeing a swarm of Evangelical leaders flock to the Trump White House and, rather than speaking truth to power and fighting for the voiceless, kiss the orange, rotund bottom of their morally deficit leader,
After seeing Christian leaders like Johns Piper or Macarthur launch movements against fellow Christians (Piper pretentious tweeting of “Farewell, Rob Bell;” or Macarthur’s Strange Fire Conference),
And after the general decline of Evangelical thought in regards to theology, cultural relevance, loving, logical answers to complex issues in favor of cool churches and money-making fame,
I have finally reached a breaking point: The point where I am unable to call myself an Evangelical Christian. These are more than enough nails to stick in her coffin’s lid.
Call it my own “95 Theses Moment” or whatever.
Originally, the term ‘Evangelical’ referred to 4 simple tenets (sometimes referred to as the Evangelical Quadrilateral), all of which I still agree with:
- Authority and centrality of the Bible
- A conversion experience
- Emphasis on the atoning work of Christ
- Emphasis on activism: making new disciples, feeding the poor, etc.
Most Christians in the world would agree with these points, which begs the question now: What is the use for the term Evangelical?
Language is always shifting and morphing as history and culture continue along.
Look at how the term ‘feminist’ has become weighed down with much more than just a desire for equality. The term now could refer to first- or second-wave feminism, which were fighting for equality and the right to vote (obvious and great things!). But with the dawning of the third- and fourth-waves, the movement became anti-man, pro-abortion, and so on.
All I’m saying is that one can no longer use the term ‘feminist’ without defining what they mean by it.
In the same way, the term ‘evangelical’ has been weighed down with plenty of unwanted baggage. I can no longer call myself an Evangelical without first having to clarify that I never voted for Trump and I’m not a fan of Jerry Falwell Jr.; that I do care about the poor and the environment, and that I’m not trying to burn homosexuals at the stake.
For this reason, I’m abandoning the term.
Christians have called themselves hundreds of things in the past 2,000 years, so clinging to a dying term and the system it represents should not be that hard to let go of. At some point in the past 400 years, American believers stopped calling themselves ‘Puritans,’ as their revulsion against the European Catholic church from which they were trying to purify themselves waned. We now look back on the Puritanical period and extract a lot of good and some bad from their moment.
In the future, I expect Christians will look back on the Evangelical movement and see a lot of good we did, as well as some of the toxicity which infiltrated our movement toward its dying end. Just as Martin Luther revolutionized the face of church as we know it, but went to his deathbed cursing Jews in full tomes of antisemitic rhetoric, we can chew the meat and spit out the bones of Evangelicalism.
Give the diehard Trumpfans the word; we can make a new one. We can initiate a movement which is even better at loving the outsiders and welcoming the Other. We can follow Jesus as He taught us, not how shame did. We can take the good from our Evangelical ancestry and carry it even further than they did.
Will it be a perfect system? No.
Will it likely face new struggles and run its course in time? Yes.
But that’s the entire purpose of fallen humans striving toward progress. Our generation carries it further before handing it off to the next, who hopefully gets closer than we did.
Clinging to a term (Evangelical) because it’s comfortable, because we can’t think of a better one, because it used to represent what we believe, is simply not the way forward.