Some of the most interesting letters we receive are too long for publication in the magazine. One such letter arrived a couple of weeks ago from a new subscriber, William Mehr of Dumfries, Virginia, in response to our September/October issue. A small portion of his letter will appear in the Letters section of the November/December issue, but I wanted to share the entire letter with you. I'll respond to it in this space next week. (And I hope you will respond as well—I look forward to your reactions to Mr. Mehr's letter.)
The September/October issue was marvelous! It's the second of my subscription, and I'm thrilled. Perhaps it's just the way my mind works, but the articles seemed to flow in a way where one or two central ideas kept surfacing in different form. If that was intentional, bravo to the editor! If it wasn't, … "never mind!"
With your continued indulgence, though, I wanted to ride that train through a few stations and maybe convince you of something that wasn't intended! To begin, the word, "evangelical" in the handy American Heritage Dictionary, 1981, is defined as "of, pertaining to, or being a Protestant group emphasizing the authority of Gospel and holding that salvation is from faith and grace rather than from good works and sacraments alone."
I've been reading the stories of 19th-century abolitionists like John Quincy Adams and William Lloyd Garrison. Garrison was an evangelical of sorts, not one primarily operating through an otherworldly faith and grace but one who moved toward achieving salvation through the creation of justice in culture. These are not mutually exclusive positions. There is discernment, rather, of where obedience lies within the call of an American social gospel.
This summer, ...1