Editor’s note: This excerpt is taken from Karen Swallow Prior’s chapter, “Why I Am an Evangelical.”

I came to Christian faith at a very young age and never wavered in my faith or in my trust in Jesus as my Savior. Sadly, the message from my evangelical tradition was that while trusting in Jesus ensured I would go to heaven instead of hell, but there didn’t seem to be much else to it —other than avoiding sin in order to get more jewels in my heavenly crown—and, of course, telling as many other people as I could about Jesus so they could go to heaven and wear a jeweled crown.

But a more mature, robust evangelicalism eventually taught me how to think and love like a Christian. Evangelical writers and thinkers helped me face, understand, and challenge the movement’s tendency toward anti-intellectualism and its undervaluation of beauty. Evangelicalism eventually taught me that “being saved” was not just about the afterlife but also the abundant life, not just for me as an individual but for all of humankind.

And so evangelicalism created an activist spirit within me, molding and refining a passion to do right politically, socially, personally. The evangelical leaders of the later 20th century taught and led me in my efforts to promote human life at every stage. And the evangelicals of the 18th and 19th centuries inspired me to knit those efforts into a holistic pursuit of the flourishing of all human life and God’s creation.

I find something powerfully humanizing about facing honestly the weaknesses of my tradition and working to overcome those weaknesses from within. Evangelicalism is far deeper, wider, and greater than its particular foibles born of particular times. ...

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