I sometimes quip that I am half of a white evangelical; that is, I am half-white, not half-evangelical. But the joke points to a greater complexity. I am half-Japanese, but my faith has largely been shaped by culturally white institutions, many within a broadly evangelical orbit. And even though I come from this white evangelical world, I find it increasingly difficult to understand.

I’m not the only one. Despite recent important books like John Fea’s Believe Me and Thomas Kidd’s Who Is an Evangelical?, the meaning of evangelical continues to befuddle religious and nonreligious alike. Around the globe, evangelicalism connotes a subset of Protestant Christianity that prioritizes Scripture, discipleship, and public expression of faith, as reflected in movements like the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization and the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students. These global movements did not emerge in a vacuum, and some of them import norms that are more Western than Christian. But global evangelicalism differs from the way the label is now understood in the US, as a synonym for white conservative Christians who are increasingly defined by their views about President Trump.

These Christians—whether in urban or rural settings—tend to be isolated in largely white neighborhoods, workplaces, churches, and schools. Not all of them, to be sure. But most. And this insularity often undercuts their own interests and their witness to the watching world. White evangelicals are losing touch with broad segments of this country (and with the global church) that are increasingly nonwhite.

In this cultural context, the meaning of evangelicalism has also become more political than theological. The political ...

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