The Annihilation of the Word “Evangelical”

From GetReligion:

Define ‘evangelical,’ please. Alas, many Americans don’t think that this is a religious term
by Bobby Ross Jr.

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Here’s a scary thought: Who wants to dress up as an evangelical for Halloween?

Except, exactly what would that look like?

Would it involve wearing a red “Make America Great Again” hat? Does the term still have any religious and/or theological meaning left?

Those questions came to mind as I perused some of the week’s big religion stories — both news reports and major analytical takes. Here are five such headlines that caught my attention:

(1) Why ‘evangelical’ is becoming another word for Republican: “Instead of theological affinity for Jesus Christ, millions of Americans are being drawn to the evangelical label because of its association with the G.O.P.,” Ryan Burge, a frequent contributor to ReligionUnplugged.com, writes in an opinion piece for the New York Times.

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From the New York Times article:

The knowledge from the Pew Research Center reinforces that — those that grew to become evangelical between 2016 and 2020 had a lot hotter views of President Trump than those that didn’t really feel warmly towards him. The proof factors in a single course: For many Americans, to be a conservative Republican is to be an evangelical Christian, no matter in the event that they ever attend a Sunday service.

The second issue bolstering evangelicalism on surveys is that extra individuals are embracing the label who don’t have any attachment to Protestant Christianity. For instance, the share of Catholics who additionally recognized as evangelicals (or born once more) rose to 15 p.c in 2018 from 9 p.c in 2008. That identical sample seems with Muslims. In reality, there’s proof that the share of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Orthodox Christianity and Hinduism who determine as evangelical is bigger right this moment than it was only a decade in the past.

Yet these non-Protestants are embracing the evangelical label for barely totally different causes. Protestants and non-Protestants have a robust affinity for the Republican Party and the insurance policies of Donald Trump, however non-Protestant evangelicals are rather more religiously religious. For occasion, half of Muslims who attend providers at a mosque greater than as soon as every week and align with the G.O.P. self-identify as evangelical. (Just 20 p.c of Republican Muslims attend mosque annually.) In essence, many Americans are coming to the understanding that to be very religiously engaged and really politically conservative implies that they’re evangelical, even when they don’t consider within the divinity of Jesus Christ.

Any and all of the religious significance of the word Evangelical is rapidly vanishing into thin air. Only the political significance will remain. “Evangelical” = “Conservative”.

Eh. It’s not a huge issue to me, really.

But it does serve as a warning, to Christian Reconstructionists.

When — as postmillennial theology teaches — everyone on the planet, their mother, and their odd-ball uncle decides that it’s socially, politically, and economically useful to call themselves a Real Christian, actual believers will have to fight tooth and nail to keep the word “Christian” attached to any actual meaningful content at all.

The time of hard marching has its real trials and difficulties.

But the time of easy, overwhelming cultural victory is a time of immense danger as well.

It can be said that the conservative movement ended up floating face-down in a vast pool of money. We need to avoid the same fate.

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