The “Evangelical” Crisis

Alan Jacobs, an influential Christian public intellectual who teaches at Baylor University, has published an important piece that traces the morphing of the word “evangelical” in public discourse.  He describes how the term that once referred to a vital, denomination-crossing,  renewing impulse within Protestant Christianity has now in the public imagination come to refer to a political and social movement characterized by nationalistic sentiments and a vague religiosity.  Jacobs observes, “By now, God-and-Country Believers are so accustomed to voting Republican—and to being disdained or mocked by Democrats—that few of them can remember doing anything else. And God-and-Country Believers are what most Americans, whether religious or not, now think that evangelicals are.”

In the past, Jacobs has argued that the term “evangelical” should be stolen back from those who have hijacked it for their political and racialized agenda.  However, now he doubts whether such rehabilitation is possible.  This, of course, is a live question for all who find themselves in some way connected with the tradition that has formed much of Protestant church life in North America, stretching from Wesley and Edwards, back to the Reformers, through Augustine to the Apostle Paul.

The full article can be read here.

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