Thursday, December 6, 2012

Good Grief Charlie Brown, They called me an Evangelical

All this time, I never dreamed that being called an evangelical was a bad thing.  I also didn’t know that there were several definitions of evangelicals and then, you have to separate the fundamentalists from the evangelicals.

Fundamentalists have been described in Wikipedia as a group that aggressively attacks their liberal enemies while evangelicals concentrated more on outreach and conversion of new members. 

Now even that definition is convoluted because it goes on to describe three different types of evangelicals. 

Quoting Wikipedia again:

1.The traditionalists, characterized by high affinity for certain Protestant beliefs, (especially penal substitutionary atonement, justification by faith, the authority of scripture, the priesthood of all believers, etc.) which, when fused with the highly political milieu of Western culture (especially American culture), has resulted in the political disposition that has been labeled the Christian right, with figures like Jerry Falwell and the television evangelist Pat Robertson as its most visible spokesmen.

 2. Centrist evangelicals, described as socially conservative, mostly avoiding politics, who still support much of traditional Christian theology.

 3. Modernist evangelicals, a small minority in the movement, have low levels of church-attendance and "have much more diversity in their beliefs".

Wow, I have to have a dictionary in order to read a dictionary. 

What is a “traditionalist evangelical”?  Reading that definition, I don’t have a clue.  I personally have never heard of “penal substitutionary atonement”, so I had to look it up. 

According to Theopedia: “Penal substitutionary atonement refers to the doctrine that Christ died on the cross as a substitute for sinners. God imputed the guilt of our sins to Christ, and he, in our place, bore the punishment that we deserve. This was a full payment for sins, which satisfied both the wrath and the righteousness of God, so that He could forgive sinners without compromising His own holy standard.”

I don’t know how you could be a Christian without believing Christ died for your sins.  So now I am starting to sound like a traditionalist. But wait, that makes me part of the “Christian Right”.  Who are those folks?  Are they associated with those crazies that blow up abortion clinics?   I hope not.  But what if I don’t agree with Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson?  Guess I have to know what they believe first. 

But I do believe in my constitutional right to vote.  I am sure that I would vote for a Christian over a non-Christian given the opportunity.  Does that make me part of the Christian Right or is that just one of my American Rights? 

That being said, I think I would rather be called a centrist evangelical.  Socially conservative, but staying out of politics.  Or at least, keeping my politics to myself.  I don’t want people to think that I am crazy.  Hold on, what does “support much of traditional Christian theology” mean?  What part don’t I support?  I know that I support “penal substitutionary atonement”.  Will that belief, preclude me from being a centrist?  I am getting lost. 

Maybe I will just be a modernist evangelical.  Sounds pretty good to me.  Don’t go to church much and I can believe what I want.  Wow, that sounds like the majority of people that I know, yet the definition says that this is a small majority of the movement.  Thinking about it, I do like to go to church and I believe what the Bible says.  Maybe I am not a modernist at all. 

I really don’t fit into any of the three definitions of an evangelical.  Maybe I am a fundamentalist.  Let’s look. 

First of all, we have to back up and define this “liberal enemy” that fundamentalists are attacking.  Is this the guy that just voted for Obama or is it somebody that just doesn’t agree with your beliefs about Christianity. For example: You believe in a strict literal translation of the Bible and another person believes otherwise.  Is that person a “liberal enemy”?  I don’t know and I bet you don’t either.  And the reason I don’t care is because I am not about having a label attached to my beliefs.  I don’t think that I am a fundamentalist either. 

Charlie Brown:  I believe in evangelism.  Jesus told us in the great commission to go and reach people for him.  That should be my goal. 

The media might paint me as a religious zealot that goes around bible thumping and preaching hell and damnation if I was to speak publically about Jesus.  And nothing could be further from the truth, at least in my life. 

As a recovering alcoholic and a supporter of the 12 step system, I adhere to the belief that the only way to help myself is to help other alcoholics that ask for my help.  I mean get down in the dirt help.  I mean helping that other alcoholic with whatever means necessary. 

Jesus taught his disciples to do the same.  Jesus taught love and understanding, not hate and prejudice. 

People throw around names and labels without knowing what they are truly saying.  I find that I don’t really fit into any of the above definitions of evangelicals or fundamentalist, but that’s ok.  Call me what you want.

I shouldn’t worry about the labels; I should worry about whether you see Christ in my actions.  In the end, that’s the only thing that matters. 
Listen to the following song by Johnny Cash.  I think it more than appropriate. 
Heck after listening to the song, I might just be a Methodist...

1 comment:

  1. I guess I'm an evangelical fundamentalist... but my daily prayer is that for this day, and every day thereafter, that I can be a little more "Christ-like". I've got so far to go.

    Thank you for this - I think it's probably your best.