evangelical

Journalists exploring U.S. evangelicals’ political impact also need to look overseas

Journalists exploring U.S. evangelicals’ political impact also need to look overseas

The Religion Guy has previously complained that the media fixation on socio-political agitation by U.S. evangelical Protestants tends to overlook “mainline” and African-American Protestants, Catholics and Jews, whose congregations over-all may actually be more politicized.

Also neglected is evangelicals’ important political impact on like-minded churches overseas --  and vice versa.

Background on a half-century of activism comes from Melani McAlister, a U.S. foreign policy specialist at The George Washington University who belongs on your sources list. Her “The Kingdom of God Has No Borders: A Global History of American Evangelicals” is great for background or a story theme and the release in August, allowing  relaxed summertime reading. Reporters seeking galleys can contact Oxford University Press: emily.tobin@oup.com or 212-726-6057. 

There’s perennial debate over how to define the term “evangelical.” For starters, they uphold  standard Christian doctrines such as the divinity of Jesus Christ, but McAlister finds three distinct emphases:

(1) An “authoritative” Bible as “central, foundational, believable -- and true.”

(2) Personal faith in Jesus’ death for one’s sin as “the only path to salvation.”

(3) Passion for “evangelizing the world.”

Please note: McAlister includes U.S. Protestant “people of color,” who are heavily evangelical in faith, though analysts usually treat them separately.

Looked at internationally, she says, “evangelical politics are not just about abortion and same-sex marriage but colonialism and neocolonialism, war and global poverty, religious freedom and Islam.”

Please respect our Commenting Policy

A church's long-dead founder and the KKK -- New York Times article raises a question of relevance

A church's long-dead founder and the KKK -- New York Times article raises a question of relevance

How far back must journalists dig into the history of a given denomination or congregation, and how might a given founder, dead more than seven decades, be viewed in light of today's mores?

Do we really have to know everything about the earliest leaders of a denomination or movement? Just ask biographers of Martin Luther, the complicated ex-Catholic who sparked the Protestant Reformation but who also has been accused of virulent anti-Semitism.

Or how about Baptist or Presbyterian leaders in pre-Civil War America who supported, or tolerated, slavery? Shall we hold modern-day Lutherans, Baptists or Presbyterians responsible for the sins of their spiritual forefathers?

The New York Times raises the general issue in a rather lengthy profile of the Zarephath Christian Church in New Jersey's rural Somerset County.

We start out in conventional territory. This passage is long, but it's important to sense the tone of this piece right up front.

Hundreds of people each weekend drive up the hill to a newly built $12 million church surrounded by soccer fields in a New Jersey community named Zarephath. They worship by singing along with rock-ballad style prayer songs, following lyrics projected on three overhead screens. They sway and lift their arms high overhead, or say the words quietly with their eyes closed.
Drums, several guitars, keyboards and backup singers accompany the prayers. Spotlights shift from purple to blue to red as the mood builds.
“O come to the altar, the Father’s arms are open wide,” about 300 congregants sang during a recent Sunday service, in a sanctuary that resembles a warehouse-style concert hall, save for two small crosses near the stage. “Forgiveness was bought with the precious blood of Jesus Christ.”

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Associated Press repeats mantra: Gosh those 'evangelicals' are standing by their man Trump

Associated Press repeats mantra: Gosh those 'evangelicals' are standing by their man Trump

Pardon me for a moment while I (just back from eclipse gazing here in New York City) ponder mortality, as in my own.

If I was hit by a bus tomorrow, there are two or three things that I have done in the world of journalism that I think would be worth future discussion. Yes, there's young Bono talking about faith and Africa, Mother Teresa talking about AIDS in Denver and Carl Sagan saying that he no longer considered himself an atheist or even an agnostic.

But I also hope -- in this age in which the word "evangelical" has been turned into a political label -- that a few people remember what happened when I asked the Rev. Billy Graham, back in the mid-1980s, to define that problematic word. Here's a flashback:

"Actually, that's a question I'd like to ask somebody, too," he said, during a 1987 interview in his mountainside home office in Montreat, N.C. This oft-abused term has "become blurred. ... You go all the way from the extreme fundamentalists to the extreme liberals and, somewhere in between, there are the evangelicals."
Wait a minute, I said. If Billy Graham doesn't know what "evangelical" means, then who does? Graham agreed that this is a problem for journalists and historians. One man's "evangelical" is another's "fundamentalist."

Graham said he defines "evangelical" in terms of doctrines, not politics or anything else. If a person believes all of the doctrines in the Apostles Creed, he said, their view of scripture is high enough to be called an evangelical. What about Pope John Paul II? Graham said the two men had discussed that. Yes, there is more to that story.

This brings me to, alas, Donald Trump, his house evangelicals and the Associated Press headline: "Trump’s evangelical advisers sticking with him amid fallout." The overture:

NEW YORK (AP) -- One of President Donald Trump’s most steadfast constituencies has been standing by him amid his defense of a white nationalist rally in Virginia, even as business leaders, artists and Republicans turn away.

Please respect our Commenting Policy