Being an evangelical Christian in the historic Protestant tradition, going back to Wesley, Zwingli, Calvin, and Luther, I am troubled by how the term “evangelical Christian” is used in today’s political arena.
Evangelical Christianity is not Republican or Democratic Christianity. And, it is not American Christianity. Evangelical Christianity is founded on the Good News as Christians know it through Jesus Christ, whose inaugural address at the beginning of his ministry reads, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”
Such an evangelical way of life seems foreign from what we have been hearing and seeing in the presidential campaign. If I have even a slight grasp of what Jesus is saying, it appears to me that the campaign is less about the poor and more about the working class, middle class and the wealthy.
It also occurs to me that little is being said about captives of homelessness, captive children trapped in poverty, and captives of uncontrollable circumstances that breed powerlessness and imprisonment, both metaphorically and literally.
As to the recovering of sight to the blind, there is no substantive clear vision as to how civility, collegiality and unity are going to be restored in the halls of Congress and the legislatures of the states. And, as to setting at liberty those who are oppressed, there is just the opposite … a great divide that has left people of different races, religions, genders, economic statussand generations feeling fearful, helplesss and powerless as to their future.
Being an evangelical Christian, if understood biblically and historically, is not about “my way” but “the way” of truth, justice, humility and love. It is not arrogant or rude, nor does it insist on its own way. It is not grasping at power but emptying oneself of egocentricity and privilege. It is slow to judge others and seeks to see the good in all. It demands a bridling of the sharp and cutting tongue and a refraining from lies and mean-spiritedness on social media.
It constantly demands of us to ask, “Who is my neighbor?”, and expects us to help and heal all people without prejudice or discrimination. It provides hospitality and protection for the refugee and stranger. It breaks down the wall of hostility between people and knows neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, as St. Paul writes in one of his letters.
It honors all creation and expects of each individual a stewardship of the earth, the water and the air. It is a communal way of life calling all people to be in healthy community for the good of one another.
All in all, evangelical Christianity is a global movement calling for love of God and love of neighbor to take priority over parochialism, nationalism and religious sectarianism.
Evangelical Christianity sees the face of Christ in the least of God’s children. Evangelical Christianity is a radical religion of Good News that prays and prepares the way for the harmonious unity of the Church and the world, if not the cosmos.
Fred W. Dorisse, Kokomo