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One Does Not Simply Leave Evangelicalism

We agree: It’s a broken word describing broken people in a broken movement. It’s still Good News.
One Does Not Simply Leave Evangelicalism
Image: Oli Winward / Salzmanart

Look, we get it. We’re frustrated, too. Have been for decades, but yes, it’s worse now. When pundits talk about “evangelicals,” they don’t mean what we mean. When pollsters count “evangelicals,” they usually don’t count how we count. And when a supposed “evangelical leader” says something unbiblical, we, too, are tempted to tweet our disavowals.

Defining evangelicalism as a political movement is not new. When polls, politicians, and journalists see everything through a political lens, it’s not surprising that their main question about any group is “how will they vote?” Remember, the term took off in popular parlance in the mid-’70s because it was identified with Jimmy Carter’s successful presidential candidacy.

Still, there’s no denying that a groundswell of evangelical leaders are so frustrated with the politicization of the word and with so many nominal Christians described as “evangelical” that they’re giving up their efforts to reclaim the term.

“Let the political evangelicals have the term,” Northern Seminary New Testament scholar Scot McKnight blogged. “Let the rest of us call ourselves Christians.”

Baylor’s Thomas Kidd gave the same advice: “Historians (including me) will keep on using the term ‘evangelical’ and examining what it has meant in the past. But in public references to ourselves, it is probably time to put ‘evangelical’ on the shelf. … [J]ust identify with your denomination. (For me, that means Baptist.) Or you can tell people you are a follower of Jesus Christ, or a gospel Christian.”

Back in October 2016, Alan Jacobs urged, ...

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