Political Season 2016 ~ Post 5: “Evangelicalism” – 1940s, Now, and the Way Back Through the 1970s

A post by Tim Fall inspired me to write out this response to thoughts I’ve been having the past few months. His post was Evangelical: the label that left me behind.”

Evangelicalism’s Origins in the 1940s, and Key Characteristics

Tim Fall begins with a definition/description of “evangelical” that he got from the website of the National Association of Evangelicals (which was formed in the 1940s):

Historian David Bebbington also provides a helpful summary of evangelical distinctives, identifying four primary characteristics of evangelicalism:

  • Conversionism: the belief that lives need to be transformed through a “born-again” experience and a life long process of following Jesus
  • Activism: the expression and demonstration of the gospel in missionary and social reform efforts
  • Biblicism: a high regard for and obedience to the Bible as the ultimate authority
  • Crucicentrism: a stress on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross as making possible the redemption of humanity

(What is an Evangelical?)

According to the About page on the website for the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), “The National Association of Evangelicals has spoken as a united voice for millions of American evangelicals since 1942.” So, the NAE has lasted nearly 75 years. (See this page for more NAE history.)

The four points by Bebbington that Tim Fall noted really resonate with me, actually – when integrated, as a holistic set that sets the overall contours of “evangelicalism,” that is. But it’s become apparent to me and to many others that these are no longer interconnected, or kept in proportion with one another. I believe that’s why the term has been drained of its original intent and meaning. What were integral parts got separated and stagnated. Continue reading

Peacemaking and Becoming People of Peace ~ Post 3: Cross-Cultural Dialogue Cracks Through Our Caricatures

Caricatures. Those often funny drawings that take someone’s most prominent physical features and/or flaws, and accentuate them to the point of absurdity – though the person is still recognizable.

We create caricatures with words, too, when we stick labels on people to stereotype their supposed traits – physical, moral, social, political. But these are generally not so nice, and the people behind the profiles may become unrecognizable.

The 2016 political season has been awash in caricatures and stereotypes that show no nuance. They’ve often been used to demean “the opposition,” and replace human faces with plastic masks. In this uncivil war of words, what can we do to reverse this trend and heal the damage already done? Continue reading

Peacemaking and Becoming People of Peace ~ Post 2: Compassion and Risk-Taking in Times of Trouble

AIDS – Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome – was identified in June 1981. The news of this modern plague created an intense level of anxiety, especially because so many things about it were unknown at the outset: what caused it, how it was transmitted, what could be done to treat those infected. Sadly, the Church mostly lagged behind, especially in showing compassion and giving care to those infected or affected.

In 1987, I heard Harold Ivan Smith talk about Tear-Catchers, one of his many books on dealing with grief, loss, and suffering as well as ministering to those in distress. He shared how tears form, and the different chemical compositions of various kinds of tears. I was struck when he talked about tears of emotion, which have a particular compound in them such that they aren’t reabsorbed into our bottom eyelids, but roll down our cheeks instead. “It’s like God meant for such tears to be seen by others,” he noted.

In the middle of his talk, he spoke about different ministries of compassion. Then he calmly said something along the lines of this: “You know, we are six years into the AIDS epidemic, and many people face passing into eternity, potentially without Christ, but the Church has pushed people away. Where would Jesus be in the midst of this, and what should we as Christians do? Someone needs to do something.”

No guilt, just statements of facts. But those three little sentences about a topic no one in churches was talking about reset the course of my life for the next 10 years. I did not know a single person with full-blown AIDS at the time, or even anyone infected with HIV. But I knew in my spirit that I was one of the someones being called to do at least something. Continue reading

Peacemaking and Becoming People of Peace ~ Post 1: Sojourners Under Stress

ABOUT THIS SERIES. Our national election was Tuesday, November 8. I spent much of the next day following up on election analysis, messaging friends to be supportive as we processed the results, and thinking about what I could contribute that would be constructive in such a time as this. I decided to post a series of articles on experiences of peacemaking, and what it means to be a person of peace who welcomes others, stands against injustice, and challenges people and systems that cause harm. I do not know how many posts I will have in this series, but already have selected some pieces that I’ve not previously published.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *

Tea, dates, fruits, and red rose flowers. © LiliGraphie, Fotolia.com #85900594. Licensed to Brad Sargent/futuristguy.

Tea, dates, fruits, and red rose flowers. © LiliGraphie, Fotolia.com #85900594. Licensed to Brad Sargent/futuristguy.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *

Sojourners Under Stress:

Perennial Questions, Present Responses

Written after the events of September 11, 2001.

Nancy* knocked softly on the door of the tiny apartment house while Suzie B. and I stood silently beside her. Behzad peeked through the front window curtains. When he saw it was us, he unbolted the door quickly, ushered us in discretely, and re-locked his door immediately. Meanwhile, his wife, Afsar, finished closing all the drapes. She flicked on another light with a nervous twitch, smiled to greet us, and then offered us tea.

Nancy had befriended several single Muslim college students – one from the Middle East, another from Pakistan – and also a married couple, Behzad and Afsar. Given the current situation, she didn’t want her Muslim friends to assume all Americans were like the ones who were threatening retaliation. Our presence guaranteed at least our goodwill – an atheist, a Buddhist, and me, a follower of Christ. Continue reading

Political Season 2016 ~ Post 4: “This is an opportunity to rise to the occasion, and not to the provocations.”

I woke up early this morning — 4:30 a.m. clock time (body is still adjusting and thinks it’s 5:30 a.m.). Just one thought ran clearly through my mind as I opened my eyes: “Blessed are the peacemakers. This is an opportunity to rise to the occasion, and not to the provocations.”

Certainly this year’s campaigns have brought to the surface myriads of social woundedness on all sides that are in need of healing balm and bandages — and not more contentiousness. We must address our fears about one another — the old splits that again surfaced showing those deep divisions based on race, gender, generation, cultures, urban-suburban-rural, etc., have remained unhealed.

I still believe The Great Physician can best supply what we so intensively need. And this calls for us to embody hope, bind up the wounds, go deeper to the sources in attitudes that have fragmented us from one another. These are the peacemaking kinds of things we need so that *all*of us can move forward — together, with civility — if we are to avoid continuing contempt and uncivil wars of words. Continue reading

Political Season 2016 ~ Post 3: Living Dystopia, and the Final Fragmentation of Two-Party Politics and of “Evangelicalism”

So, a friend from Australia posted the link to a Los Angeles Times article by John Scalzi, titled, “Dystopias are fantastic in fiction. But do you really want to live in one?”

I’ve been studying dystopian fiction the last eight years while writing extensively about spiritual abuse and recovery. And I’ve run across some provocative books that analyze this genre. So, on my friend’s Facebook post, I put a link to a book from 15 years ago: Dystopian Fiction East and West: Universe of Terror and Trial, by Erika Gottlieb. A thread that runs through her analysis is this: Dystopias produced by writers in the West (Europe, North America, etc.) are the worst they can imagine. Dystopias from writers in the East (Eastern and Central Europe) are riffs on what they are already living in or have lived through. Continue reading

The Voices of Redlands ~ In-depth case study in spiritual abuse, advocacy and activism, and (hopefully) eventual restoration.

Because I write regularly on topics of malignant leaders and toxic organizations, sometimes spiritual abuse survivors ask me for help related to their story of experiencing misuse of power by people in ministry. I’m not often able to do that, but occasionally I know I must. And The Voices of Redlands book, video, and website put together by Ryan Ashton, John Baldwin, and their friends was one of those situations. Months ago, I reviewed next-to-final versions of their book. I had a few conversations with Ryan about the purposes of the project and offered feedback on their evidence and analysis.

Today they launched their RedlandsBook website and made their project public. I’ve just watched the seven-minute video of Ryan’s testimony on Facebook, skimmed through the final PDF edition of The Voices of Redlands book they posted, and took a look at their initial website. I would commend this set of materials to you as an important, in-depth case to study. It shows, not just tells, what it feels like to be embroiled in the midst of abuse, what it means to stand up for others as their advocate, how to push back on control as an activist, and ways to support a community that is confused and suffering. Besides being a call to action in their local situation, these all provide tremendous practical resources for anyone thinking through the damaging dynamics of abuse, silencing of victims, and spinning the story.

Continue reading