Opinion

A suggestion for younger evangelicals: Lose the label

Evangelical supporters place hands on and pray with President Trump in the Oval Office of the White House. Photo courtesy of Johnnie Moore

(RNS) — My unsolicited suggestion for younger evangelical Christians and those young in spirit: Time to lose the label “evangelical.”

As a veteran communications person and a writer who has done copious research on evangelicals, I am convinced that “evangelical” no longer means what it once did. And for the Jesus-following religious people it’s supposed to describe, it’s doing more harm than good.

That original and intended meaning, of course, was “good news”: the good news of the gospel and the life-transforming power of Jesus. Those who promoted and embraced the term were motivated in part by the desire to separate themselves from the scowling visage of the fundamentalists, who in no way lived up to the “fun” in their name.

Evangelicals were the theological conservatives who smiled, engaged the culture, and were happy to share their faith.

But the label and reputation became marred over decades of culture-war politics and an often-hostile relationship with the rest of the culture over divisive social issues — issues on which today’s younger evangelicals often have a different take than their elders.

What was damaged has become irreparably broken over the course of Donald Trump’s campaign and presidency, obscuring the existence of millions of nonstereotypical evangelicals who are not white, or not anti-gay, or not anti-environment, or not anti-social justice, and not automatically Republican.

Now and probably for a long time to come, “evangelical” communicates a political fact more than a religious identity: the fact that 81 percent of white evangelicals voted for Donald Trump, and that many of evangelicalism’s most prominent leaders have wholeheartedly embraced him and his presidency.

The point here is not to add to the barrage of liberal criticism of Trump and his supporters. It is, rather, to worry about the standing of evangelicals, and Christians more broadly, outside the 30-something-percent-of-the-public bubble where the president can do no wrong.

Given how things have gone in Washington and the historically high public disapproval ratings that have followed, this dynamic has not been a good advertisement for Jesus.

To most of the rest of Americans, the public face of evangelicals has become a snarl, not a smile. And the prospect of interacting with them is the opposite of “good news.”

These are the reasons why more evangelical people and organizations are ditching the label these days, or at least shying away from it.

In a Christianity Today survey taken after last year’s election, a third of evangelical pastors said they felt less comfortable identifying as evangelical around non-Christians than they did before the election.

One ex-evangelical, the writer Amy Julia Becker, laments how the label has taken on an exclusively white and politically conservative meaning. She writes: “For people like me who have identified our version of Christianity as evangelical but who don’t want our religious identity to signify political or racial identity: What should we do now?”

Becker decided to stop identifying as evangelical, opting instead for “Christian.”

In a similar vein, the Princeton Evangelical Fellowship at Princeton University announced earlier this fall it was changing a name it had been using for more than 80 years. It’s now the Princeton Christian Fellowship.

“We’re interested in being people who are defined by our faith commitments and not by any sort of political agenda,” explained the group’s director, Bill Boyce.

Also losing the label are prominent academics and writers such as Scot McKnight and David Gushee. McKnight, a seminary professor and prolific author, wrote in Patheos that it’s time to “bury” the word, adding, “Let the political evangelicals have (it).” Gushee, a Christian ethics professor and theology center director, announced in the spring he was abandoning not just the word but the religious community itself, in part because of its rejection of LGBT people.

To be sure, some non-Trumpian evangelicals are vowing to retain the term and fight for restoration of its original nonpolitical meaning.

Evangelical author and activist Ron Sider believes the term is still necessary to distinguish theological conservatives like himself from Christians with more liberal beliefs about God. “Over time,” writes Sider, the president emeritus of Evangelicals for Social Action, “we can help the larger society come to a better understanding of what an evangelical is.”

Maybe. And maybe people like retired Fuller Theological Seminary President Richard Mouw will find lots of company in their commitment to retain the term “evangelical” and fight for the reclamation of its religious meaning.

But given the baggage it’s taken on, the term is probably not salvageable. The effort to redeem it is probably not worth the cost in time and energy.

Not to imply that faith and evangelism are primarily a public relations gambit. But Christians dedicated to sharing the gospel need to communicate effectively. That means avoiding terms that fail to register with listeners or, worse yet, repel them. Old-school Christianity has lots of problematic jargon of this sort.

Propositions like “God has a plan for your life” and “being salt and light” mean nothing to the growing number of people not steeped in church culture.

The term “evangelical” is even more problematic. The problem isn’t a lack of meaning but too much meaning of the negative variety — meaning that is inaccurate when it comes to the newer generation of evangelicals. Why should they have to carry that burden?

It’s not a question of losing their religion. But for the sake of being properly understood, it’s time for a new label for the kind of faith practiced by younger evangelicals — a faith whose public expression bears little resemblance to the negative stereotypes now set in the public mind.

Or maybe no label at all, other than simply “Christian.”

(Tom Krattenmaker is a writer specializing in religion in public life and communications director at Yale Divinity School. He is the author of, among other books, “The Evangelicals You Don’t Know: Introducing the Next Generation of Christians.” The views expressed in this opinion piece do not necessarily reflect those of Religion News Service.)

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Tom Krattenmaker

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  • So, better change the brand name before the brand gets any more tarnished.

    Meanwhile, this just in. 53 Pastors Hail “Unconquerable” Roy Moore For His “Immovable Convictions For Biblical Principles”.

    http://www.joemygod.com/2017/11/13/53-alabama-pastors-hail-unconquerable-roy-moores-immovable-conviction-biblical-principles/

    Well, since evangelicals voted 81% for a thrice married, self announced fornicator and adulterer Grabby McPussy, they should have no trouble standing for the immovable biblical principles of Grabby McKitten either.

    Evangelicals supported slavery, and quoted heir bibles to prove it. They supported Jim Crow and segregation, and had their bibles to prove it. They routinely attack other Christians for not being the right sort of Christian, and have their bibles to prove it. They attack atheists, gay people, uppity women, Muslims, Mr. OBama, Mrs. Clinton, Catholics, Mormons, and everyone else.

    Yeah. Better lose the label.

    I really could go to town on Mr. Krattenmaker’s entire column, but he isn’t the problem. It’s the money grubbing, power grubbing, dominiongrubbing, boot licking amorality of the people that claim to be the guardians of morality, as he so rightly acknowledges.

  • “In a Christianity Today survey taken after last year’s election, a third of evangelical pastors said they felt less comfortable identifying as evangelical around non-Christians than they did before the election.” I guess the fact that 60% had no difficulty with it wasn’t newsworthy.
    “Also losing the label are prominent academics and writers such as Scot McKnight and David Gushee. ” David isn’t an evangelical. He is a heretic and that does give evangelicals a bad name. He was more interested in the good old days of Sodom and Gomorrah to evangelize anyone.
    “The views expressed in this opinion piece do not necessarily reflect those of Religion News Service.” Has RNS stopped supporting hatred toward Christians? Apparently, this author hopes differently.

  • ” It’s the money grubbing, power grubbing….” I’ll ask again, did Bean have a nice house Ben?

  • I think I would be concerned if I was looking at the potential loss of a third of affiliated churches and would wonder what the church might be doing wrong to shoot itself in its proverbial foot with respect to mission.

  • Now that we know that gay George Takei once forced even the super-liberal Howard Stern to ask, “Do we need to call the police?”, regarding Takei’s favorite method of “comforting” broken-hearted gay men (heh!), it would seem that Mr. Trump’s past activities are no longer in a class by themselves.

    But that’s merely the sideshow. It’s ancient history, just like Bill, Hillary, Bush ’41, JFK, and even MLK Jr.

    The fact is, I still trust BOTH Takei and Trump (combined!), more than I trust WaPo. WaPo is virtually the final word in Biased Slimy Radioactive Hazmat Ethics.

    And those 53 pastors? Well, win or lose, they are at least speaking up while they can. In the “Age of Getting Thrown Under The Bus For Political Expediency”, that’s a welcome start.

  • Thank you for clarifying what an evangelical is. I never associated evangelicals with a race. I always assumed that they were Christians that just couldn’t read the Bible.

  • Whatever terms come into usage, God is not limited, constrained, or aided by human terminology; the message of the Gospel will ring true based on the manner in which it is communicated, the heart and spirit of the communicator, and the openness of the recipient of the message. I would hope that objective people would recognize that when it comes to seeking deep spiritual truth they would look beyond surface labels, with the exception of the first label which evolved at Antioch shortly after the founding of the Church: That term is simply; Christian.

  • I am less concerned about losing 1/3 of affiliated churches, depending on their fidelity to the precepts of the bible. Christians who reject clearly framed biblical doctrines of the faith in favor of evolving standards of cultural practice, which violate those precepts and practices, are a dead weight that need to be pruned from the Branch. We can argue civilly about what those precepts are and how they ought to be presented, but for those that believe “Evangelical” equates to racist exclusivity I would adjure them to look and think a bit more deeply about the matter. A mere change in nomenclature based on what appears to be a marketing maneuver seems a poor strategy to me.

  • Young evangelicals, you might as well forget about Tom Krattenmaker’s very dubious advice, and just work on fulfilling the Truth-In-Advertising laws one day at a time. If you say “evangelical”, or even “Christian” just do the part. All the way.

    Whatever label you choose, you still gotta stick with the Bible and let IT do the talking (instead of swallowing today’s skeptizoid anti-biblical mess), or your label won’t mean too much anyway in a secularized, messed-up climate.

  • “a third of evangelical pastors said they felt less comfortable identifying as evangelical around non-Christians ” “less comfortable” indicates no loss. He is trying to make a point that his data does not support, in a clearly anti-evangelical rant.

  • A fair point, though it seems a number of “evangelicals” are re-thinking their identification with that term. Nomenclature means less to me than adherence to biblical norms. And, of course, communicating those norms in a “loving thy neighbor” fashion, which is sometimes very challenging. I’ve got to work on that even more.

  • Ok, if not “Evangelical”…why not call themselves “Great Commissioners” or maybe “Salt And Lighters” ?

  • 43000 different Christian groups and denominations in the world just about makes the term “Christian” meaningless. The term “Evangelical” different than it was 30 years ago, is nevertheless useful to identify a specific group. I prefer the awkward term “Jesus follower” even though it has it’s own problems, as I am more interested in Jesus than what has been said about him for the last two thousand years. I realize such a radical departure cannot be embraced by most Roman Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestant groups. Yet this Jesus was fanatically opposed to the prevailing religion of his day.

  • I see it as a possible concern to the evangelical community – the next in line for losing membership. My concern would be that those who see themselves as moderates who see themselves as less and less aligned with conservative evangelicals as exemplified byy certain spokespersons. That is if being deemed an evangelical church is important, I would want to know if it is dead weight pruning or if the dead weight has become perceived as being the conservative community.. My sister-in-law’s very large church recently voted to remove themselves from that umbrella – she referred to it as the Trump effect.

  • The life and history of the Christ story do that in and of themselves. There is nothing special about the internet sge other than people spend more time alone and to themselves now more than they ever have.

  • Is money grubbing, power hungry dominionists with a closet full of really dark secrets…..

    Too much of a mouthful?

  • The life and history of the Christ story is an incomplete and conflicting one based on the only document available. A man made document that has been repeatedly subjected to biased interpretation and translation from Vulgate to Tyndale to Wycliffe, etc., etc.
    So, those who possess critical thinking skills, and a desire for completeness, won’t always fall for the typical “you must have faith” non answer to well presented questions.

  • As far as historical validation goes, there are few remote historical figures whose life is as well known as that of Christ’s that were not a head of state, and needless to say, the life of those historical figures was also open to biases.

  • They should also lose their arrogance. They do not always the majority opinion. And their persecution complexes are getting really tiring.

  • They don’t. They ignore them or shout about how mysterious their god is. Because that’s a compelling reason to join their religion.

  • Genuine Christianity has always been underground.
    Even during the time of Christ Himself was His church “the few”. If you want to know the real Christ, don’t enter Brick and Mortars and just pick up the Scriptures.

  • And they should be. In the last 15 years I have come to see evangelicals as bigots, hypocrites, immoral, greedy, arrogant and intolerant. I didn’t before. I know that I am not the only one who thinks this way. And, their leaders go out of their way to prove that all the stereotypes of them are true.

  • I hate it when Christians won’t even call themselves Christians. Or worse, the ones who pretend Christianity isn’t a religion, or that there is no such thing as Christianity. “I’m not a Christian, I just have a personal relationship with Jesus.” That’s what a Christian is. If you’re really so ashamed of your religion you can’t deal with the fact it is a religion, maybe you have some of your own issues to work out before you start trying to convert people.

  • Hebrews 10:25English Standard Version (ESV)

    25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

  • Whataboutism (also known as whataboutery) is a variant of the tu quoque logical fallacy
    that attempts to discredit an opponent’s position by charging them with hypocrisy without directly refuting or disproving their argument, which is particularly associated with Soviet and Russian propaganda.

    When criticisms were leveled at the Soviet Union, the Soviet response would be “What about…” followed by an event in the Western world
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whataboutism

  • meeting together doesn’t have to be in pews with free donuts. You should know better than that Sandy. Eternal Security is HERESY and I know of not ONE brick and mortar who teaches against it. Check out Malcolm Lavender’s works. Peace.

  • There’s always “be not like the hypocrites, who love to pray in public.”

    Ain’t the Bible just great?

  • Actually, there is relatively nothing known of Jesus’s life. Just his ministry. And even that has only one source. Well, four sources, which frequently conflict with each other, when hey weren’t plagiarized from each other.

  • No, more like swaggart, Robertson, Bakker, Osteen, long, and a long long long long long long list of others.

  • Plagiarized? That’s an interesting way of looking at ancient history and writings. It’s not at all that illustrative of an individual who has spent much time sourcing ancient documents–a few discrepancies would absolutely be expected. Of course, there are multiple writings from the early church fathers and additionally the other books in the Bible. Then there are the historical references to Christ, or more interestingly, the lack of refutations.

  • I don’t think I care what you people call yourselves.

    From now on I will have no choice but to assume that anybody calling themselves a “Christian” is a racist, anti-gay, Islamaphobe who gives themselves (and those they align themselves with) permission not to live by the same set of rules that you judge others by and who wants to use the power of government (not to mention economic coercion by employers) to force everybody to live the way you want us to.

    I will always assume that anybody identifying as a Christian is a hypocrite. And the burden of proof is on yourselves. Every single one of you is guilty until you prove otherwise to me.

    It took Donald Trump and Roy Moore for you people to finally admit that this has gone too far? TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE. Why weren’t you having this discussion while The Black Guy’s wife was being called “an ape in heels” by members of your flock? Why weren’t you having this discussion DECADES ago when Pat Robertson started spewing all that vile, toxic HATE every night?

    And don’t get defensive with me. THIS IS YOUR LEGACY. You’ve all brought this on yourselves. You don’t deserve the benefit of the doubt any more.

    Go directly to YOU KNOW WHERE.

  • Thanks for proving that everything I believe about you people is true.

    Hypocrites. All of you. You disgust me.

  • “And their persecution complexes are getting really tiring.”

    I’ve dubbed this, “Matthew 5:10 Syndrome.” They WANT to believe they’re persecuted because they think it proves they’re been saved. And it actually incentivizes their bigotry against gays, blacks, Muslims, Jews, whatelsehaveyougot, because that bigotry inevitably brings a backlash that they label “persecution.”

    Look at the letter Roy Moore’s wife posted, with its repeated references to his (and theirs) persecution. These people honestly believe that Christians are victims of persecution in a country that’s 80% Christian!

  • The difference is Ben, Swaggart, Robertson, Bakker (who I don’t approve of), Osteen – who at best, is a heretic, are not asking the courts to let them pay off their victims as if they are prostitutes, and further endorse sexual abuse of children.
    Two people from the same organization, one a 22 year member both into sexual abuse of children….(edited)
    He had so much shame, as chairman of a homosexual organization that with his homosexual lover, he tried to turn the child they sexually abused into a prostitute. Shows a lot of respect for children; doesn’t it.
    But then, pushing immorality is his objective; isn’t it?

  • Thank you Roy. I have no idea or interest in Malcolm Lavender. I’m quite happy with the Bible.
    As far as meetings, I didn’t read in the scripture anything about pews and donuts, which makes Malcolm Lavender’s opinion more suspect.
    God bless you Roy.

  • Lack of refutations: the argument from silence.
    It is well known that the synoptic gospels had a single source. There are no historical writings referring to Christ– nothing contemporary. even the gospels weren’t contemporary. The best there is, is Josephus, who only mentions Christians.

  • There are plenty of Christians who are not fundelibangelist hypocrites. To tar all Christians with that label is every bit as nasty as labeling all gay people as anything.

  • If you’re getting prosecuted for being an apparent pedophile, and you’re a Christian, then of course your being persecuted.

  • It remains the case that the writings are ancient. In the case here, actually thousands of years old in original untranslated form in some parts, without a verifiable peep from the supposed loving “god” described in them since. Your supposedly omnipotent being apparently can’t even produce his own website, let alone respond interactively in a forum.

    That alone is cause for skepticism about the Christian tales, but also of significance in evaluating the Christian doctrine is the content and thrust of the whole Jesus-sacrifice-for-salvation story itself, the foundation of Christian beliefs. That sacrifice-for-salvation story is, fundamentally, nonsense; how is it that a purportedly omnipotent being couldn’t do his “saving” actions without the Jesus crucifixion hoopla? And how was Jesus’ death a “sacrifice”, when an omnipotent being could just pop up a replacement son any time with less than a snap of its fingers?

    Ultimately, I think the Christian mythology is just that; ancient fictional stories from a people who lacked much understanding of the world around them and were easily deluded. Sadly, some people are still in that state.

    Ask the questions. Break the chains. Join the movement. Be free of Christianity and other superstitions.

  • Concern trolling is not what I’m doing.

    concern trolling-noun: informal and derogatory

    noun: concern trolling. the action or practice of disingenuously expressing concern about an issue in order to undermine or derail genuine discussion.

    I am no fan of religion in general or Christianity in particular. I despise fundelibangelists of any sort, and have said so repeatedly. I think moralizing hypocrites who hide behind their faith as the seek power, money, and dominion are not much better than child molesters.

    But I do believe in being accurate and truthful. Statements like yours are neither.

  • Maybe I misunderstood your ‘original’ comment. I got the impression you were “disagreeing” with me by quoting Hebrews. I’m sure you agree…all it takes for ‘church’ is two or more gathered together. It is my belief that there is not a single brick and mortar church that has the True Gospel. Maybe there are a few out there…..I just don’t know of any. And one of the reasons for that is the teaching of “Once Saved Always Saved”. “Penal Atonement” is the major cause for this false version of the gospel.
    Malcolm Lavender has simply written a few books REFUTING penal atonement. He also has a translation of the new testament. You said all you need is the Bible. I agree. You should include his with all the other translations you use daily to better understand the Scriptures. There is nothing wrong with using tools such as Strong’s Concordance and the various translations out there.
    There are two kinds of people according to 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9. Those who do not know the Lord (such as men like Ben and Spuddie) and then those who do not obey. Which means those professing to be Christians. Sadly…..many thinking they know the Lord will be sadly mistaken. Peace to you.

  • Perhaps what is even more sad is that some wouldn’t accept the figure of Christ even if he showed up right in front of them… oh wait, he did And the face of the Roman Empire changed in a way that quite frankly hasn’t happened in the history of humanity in that 15% of the Empire gave up their previous faith to take on another–specifically a minority faith that placed those who practiced it outside of the mainstream of Roman life. That, of course, hasn’t happened again in history, particularly without military intervention. Many who came from a culture that did not espouse doing such gave up their lives in the name of faith. And yet there are those who merely shrug and say “they didn’t have much understanding of the world.” Excuse me while I roll my eyes. To the Christian who has been touched by Christ, to say that there has been nary a peep from Christ is so devoid of reality and so completely false as to be wrong. I guess if we live in a world where only the objective, scientifically-verifiable data matters, perhaps that might be the case. I say that as a MD who has published clinical research, but who firmly holds a belief that nothing in life matters beyond faith. I reject any value to the secular outside of the spiritual, as I have seen that value repeatedly displayed in the lives of my fellow man.

  • No such figure of a divine Christ has ever appeared. Nothing you’ve posted proves otherwise.

    Now, please respond directly to what you have been challenged with:

    It remains the case that the writings are ancient. In the case here,
    actually thousands of years old in original untranslated form in some
    parts, without a verifiable peep from the supposed loving “god”
    described in them since. Your supposedly omnipotent being apparently
    can’t even produce his own website, let alone respond interactively in a
    forum.

    That alone is cause for skepticism about the Christian
    tales, but also of significance in evaluating the Christian doctrine is
    the content and thrust of the whole Jesus-sacrifice-for-salvation story
    itself, the foundation of Christian beliefs. That
    sacrifice-for-salvation story is, fundamentally, nonsense; how is it
    that a purportedly omnipotent being couldn’t do his “saving” actions
    without the Jesus crucifixion hoopla? And how was Jesus’ death a
    “sacrifice”, when an omnipotent being could just pop up a replacement
    son any time with less than a snap of its fingers?

    Ultimately, I think the Christian mythology is just that; ancient fictional stories
    from a people who lacked much understanding of the world around them and
    were easily deluded. You and other religious folk in your cult are still in that deluded state, your attempted (and inappropriate) argument from authority notwithstanding.

    Ask the questions. Break the chains. Join the movement. Be free of Christianity and other superstitions.

  • I would hope the author was exercising some degree of hyperbole. I confess I did not care for his “voice” in the literary sense of the term. I am especially weary of those who keep declaiming that “Christianity is Dead in the U.S.,” it demonstrates a narrowness of vision and a shallowness of mind with respect to the ultimate power, grace, and authority of Jesus Christ. Christianity may, I say may, indeed “die” in a given nation for a given time. But to declare the Death of Christianity in the U.S. is a little previous. As Twain laconically remarked, “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.” I do not discount valid concerns raised by the author, I simply did not care for the tone he used. Thank you for the link.

  • That depends on who defines the logic and the level of the reason, some gaps are unbridgeable based on the preconceptions of the protagonists.

  • I do not discount the fact that some “evangelicals” have hitched their wagon, with unfortunate effect, to the current chief executive and I am mystified at their unwillingness to distance themselves from him, or at least offer him important cautionary, as well as blunt, advice. When he was elected I was prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt, but in many ways those doubts have since increased for me. I’m more disturbed by the political effect on certain “evangelical” leaders. While I do not agree with the notion that godliness and God should be divorced from government, I do see the wisdom of separating the Church from partisan politics.

  • What did the followers of Jesus Christ of the 1st Century early church call themselves? Nothing. They were more focussed on living out their faith even under those very difficult circumstances. If only modern day “Christians” would remember that. Then, maybe, their exemplary way of life will end up getting the same compliment those folks, way back then, got from their admirers. “Christian” was an identify GIVEN by others who could see how the FOLLOWERS OF THE WAY lived among them . . .

    Btw, I tweet @YonaNonglang. Cheers.

  • They can actually get up of their behinds and go on a mission trip. My lord, did I really say that? What a concept!

  • I’m sorry that you feel that way, but as liberal Jon Stewart (formerly of Comedy Central) recently suggested in a rare moment of fairness, this sexual harassment thing is on ALL sides, and in abundance, from a long way back.

    That fact doesn’t excuse anything or anyone, but it should help you and I to avoid rushes-to-judgment, prosecution-via-press, and/or pretending there’s no “hypocrisy” on whatever side or beliefs you happen to reside on.

  • Yes you go on believing that Jon Stewart gave you permission to vote for Roy Moore. You must be very proud of what you’ve become in recent years and what you’re reduced to defending.

  • Tom Krattenmaker should get in touch with Chris Kratzer. They seem to both be trying to save the Church from its most horrible parts.

  • I get that. I think it has always been necessary to discern what sort of person is wrapped up in religious garb. Is it a nationalist, a bigot? There is a level of religiosity which only reinforces the worst human instincts.

  • I’ve often told my Christian friends that if they would just cool it on all the hell talk and distance themselves from the awful Old testament, they would be more successful.

    Some would respond: But Christianity does not change…which is patently false…it’s been changing ever since 60s CE.

  • I am a secular humanist and I have many Christian friends I love. I enjoy offering them challenges here and there — not to offend or hurt them but to help them define and analyze their faith claims. We tend to find such discussions stimulating.

    I have asked the question (in a non-snarky way) to my friends:

    “You have observed me as a friend. In most every possible way you (Christian) and I (Humanist) share so many of the same values and daily activities and interests. Sell me on Christianity. Tell me how it would enhance my already happy meaningful life.”

    I would invite any Christian on this forum to do the same. Not as an argument but as a way to discuss how we differ and how we agree.

  • I know many people who are UCC — the pastor of our local UCC is gay. They are certainly a refreshing counterpoint to the many Bible Belt Baptists who seem to only love people in their own flock.

  • I often wonder if that is less about attending church and more about a warning not to be a hermit monk. Isolated monasticism was a concern among early Christians.

  • Or perhaps those verses are simply two different accounts by two different authors with differing perspectives on what Jesus said or did.

  • I would say its more that the story itself is more well known. I find it probable that the stories themselves were not very accurate. I could be wrong.

  • It seems highly plausible that Matthew and Luke used Mark as a basis for their narratives. John offered up a very different account but…being written around 30 years later would have been aware of the Synoptic Gospels.

    “there are the historical references to Christ, or more interestingly, the lack of refutations”

    Typically, these references are about Christians rather than Jesus — if you mean Tacitus, Pliny etc. They were basically saying..”this group of people worship/follow this person named Cristos..etc.”

    I would agree that the Jesus narratives were based in some kind of history about the teachings and death of a wandering Jewish sage but not that he claimed exclusive divinity nor did anything supernatural.

  • “David isn’t an evangelical. He is a heretic and that does give evangelicals a bad name.”

    How so?

  • “clearly framed biblical doctrines of the faith”

    Keep in mind that hundreds of Christians sects have what they believe to be the correct interpretation of these doctrines just as you believe your is correct.

  • Christianity will not soon die (and I say that as an atheist!). However, it will evolve and morph…it always has. 1st century christians would likely not recognize the religion of today. Their canon was different; much of the doctrine Christians assume is bedrock was still being debated. Multiple sects were forming.

    Here’s my best guess on the future of Christianity….I think it will probably merge somewhat with more Eastern religious traditions….Jesus meets Buddha. We shall see.

  • And then his followers were willing to give up their own lives with no real Jewish precedence for such, and 15% of the Roman Empire converted overnight because he never claimed to be divine or did anything supernatural. It doesn’t add up.

  • Your willingness to ignore historical context, the acts of those who followed Christ, and your willingness to ignore the Bible as a historical document because you choose to allows you to make the argument you do. There is a reason for that, though I suspect it is more psychological than logical.

  • “his followers were willing to give up their own lives with no real Jewish precedence for such”

    Lots of Jewish martyrdom preceded Christianity. Every religion has events of martyrdom. There does not seem to be a huge amount of evidence that there were lots of Christians standing in line to be martyred. The Roman regimes of Nero and Domitian were more than willing to take care of that for them….up until Emperor Theodosius who executed non-Christians.

    Where did you get the figure “15% of the Roman Empire converted overnight”

    ” he never claimed to be divine or did anything supernatural”

    It really does not matter what Jesus allegedly claimed. All they knew was the writings claimed he said these things.

  • I have no issue with religious people who don’t see their faith as a weapon to be used against others.

  • Community is the best part of religion. Folks want things to be easy, “wrapped up is a neat package.”..life is hard, scary sometimes. Like today, my car started smoking while Im at a light. Embarrassing, expensive work needs to be done. Got a loan from my credit union. I asked for a ride up the hill which they graciously said. “Of course. ”
    So I visited hell and heaven today.

  • I think Christians can hold whatever position they like about CIVIL marriage. About holy matrimony at canon law (or its Protestant equivalent) if they hold that the church should recognize same sex relationships, or easy serial monogamy, or cohabitation (the last two are a lot more common and popular than same sex relationships) heretics they are.

  • And most, if not all of those sects are in agreement on the primary issues. It has been wisely said, that among Christians the standard should be, “Agreement on 1st principles, engagement on 2nd principles, and toleration on 3rd principles.”

  • Sometimes I am ahead of myself and other times behind but I ran across mention of an Evangelical Manifesto in 2008. Didn’t read the manifesto but did read a 3 part commentary written 5 years later. It appears that a key concern was the need to take back evangelical to be perceived more positively, less political and to properly sort out where they belonged in the context of the public square, Clarity needed re: theology and spirituality Just an FYI because it doesn’t appear many people paid attention.

  • I do not dispute they all generally agree on some doctrines but also have some pretty divergent beliefs on some key issues,

    Get a Baptist, Methodist and Church of Christer — bring up baptism and then RUN

  • Even better is predestination. I count friends among those sects and many others. Outside of what are almost universally considered heretical cults, most Christians find common ground on the really important questions.

  • I would likely favor an evangelical pulling back from the political world, at least under present circumstances. Theologian/Preachers can and should offer spiritual insights without engaging in active political maneuvering in the normal sense of the term. Too often it serves neither government nor God.

  • This seems like a relatively superficial argument compared to the long standing anxiety among non-believers about what to call themselves. The word, “atheist” is a pejorative…so much so that Pew Research studies have repeatedly shown religious people believe them unfit to hold elected office. Some would prefer to be called “humanists”, “free thinkers” or “skeptics”. The word, “atheist”, defines what one is not, not what they are. The commercial media has done little to change that perception. I have no sympathy for those struggling with this issue among believers, especially given the rapid takeover of mass media by Sinclair Broadcasting.

  • I agree and perhaps would go a bit farther in terms of taking a role in affirming a public square, all the voices in that square and the role of churches in that square..Because others also have insights into issues and sometimes they may agree and sometimes not but it would be helpful if issues were seen without labels associated with/dominated by specific groups considering themselves more valid. I actually believe that most people are decent human beings and ultimately could find a level of common ground if there were no ‘echo chambers’, Somehow I feel that lack of a public square is reinforced by a basically binary political system and think many politicians fail to hear/represent all their constituents and adhere to the party line.whichever party that might be.

  • Life is certainly more complex, as you state, than a simplistic binary system, but a binary approach makes it easier for both politicians and media, whose cohorts typically have the attention span of a gnat before they are drawn to the next eye catching event. You, like Ben in Oakland, believe that most people are decent human beings; a belief held by prominent members of the Scottish Enlightenment, The French Enlightenment, and the proponents of Marxism. I think history proves otherwise. In fact, if your sense of humanity is true, than there would be no need for a Savior. Jesus’ sacrifice is null if humanity at bottom is not the base, selfish, murderous race it has regularly shown itself to be. The only mitigating factor against that history is the Judeo-Christian body of doctrine fused spiritually upon those who will receive it. This is an approach of distinct singularity, modulated by the unique gifts and characteristics of its adherents.

  • Sure. I often say a Christian is defined by whether or not a person agrees with the Apostles Creed…it’s not a perfect standard of “Who is a Real Christian [TM] but it’s probably the best we have.

  • Shut up and go do something about the rogue members of your flock and stop whining about how unfair that you’re judged for the company you keep.

  • Seems like the only thing you really believe in is staying firmly on that fence you’re on.

    Maybe some day you’ll know what it means to actually believe in something and fight for it.

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