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The ‘E’ word: Am I an evangelical?

February 16, 2012

With each presidential race it seems I am bombarded once again by the “E” word.

How will the evangelical Christians vote? What will the evangelicals do if they cannot find a candidate to support?  How much power will the evangelicals have at the voting booth?

And so once again I am confronted by the perplexing question: Am I an evangelical?

I don’t believe all the confusion is necessarily my fault as it seems that the definers of this term, whoever they are, keep changing the definition.  Are evangelical Christians like beauty, only to be found in the eye of the beholder?

A few years ago, a Sunday School teacher citing some religious survey source I cannot now recall said that among the criteria for being an evangelical is that you have to have had a personal conversion experience.

Bingo! I had one, at the age of 10.

However, I no longer believe that any type of personal, emotional experience is required to be a Christian.  I doubt many members of my church have had such an experience, and all you have to do to join is to confess that Jesus is Lord.  That’s it.  One of the greatest transformational preachers I know says he never had any particular identifiable experience that “converted”  him to Christ. He just always believed.

So, if I don’t believe a personal salvation experience is necessary, does that make me a nonevangelical Christian? Can I lose my evangelical label, or is it similar to the doctrine of “once saved, always saved” and no matter what I do, I still have it?

If we define the term by what we read in the papers and see on TV during election season, it appears that evangelicals are very interested in political races and belong almost exclusively to one political party. They are fascinated by a few issues that may or may not have interested Jesus, whom I am not sure would be welcome if he walked in on a meeting.  Of course, I am not sure he would attend any of those meetings since he apparently had zero interest in his day over the question of who was “God’s man for Rome.”

Of course, if being evangelical means sharing your faith is an important part of your life, then again, well, maybe I am one. There’s that confusion again!

Bottom line is this: We don’t talk about baptismal Christians or Eucharistic Christians. And so I see no need for a categorization called “evangelical Christians.” The sacraments and sharing your faith are all important if you are a Christian.

Of course, we could probably have a lively debate over the best method of evangelism, or we could fire quite a few theological salvos back and forth over how the Lord is present or not in the Eucharist or how often it should be taken.

But we have enough labels already.

Words like ‘evangelical Christian” are divisive, confusing and biblically unnecessary, and so I have determined to do my little part to resist them.

I will acknowledge the label “Christian.”  And I do belong to that particular branch of Christianity known as Presbyterian.

But I do not prefer being called a liberal Christian or a conservative Christian. I am not an evangelical Christian or a liturgical Christian. I don’t call myself a Bible-believing or a Red Letter Christian. I’m simply a Christian. Period.

What about you?

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