I want to add my voice to the protest against the conservative right wing on the political scene who have both hijacked and bastardized the venerable and adjectival designation ‘evangelical’ to give legitimacy to their political agenda, which, in truth, is the antithesis of the term. ‘Evangel’ is a Greek word (euangellion) that refers to some thrilling news being heralded, i.e. a military victory, a celebration of some kind, etc. The New Testament chose it as the designation of God’s invasion of his rebellious creation in the person of Jesus Christ to make all things new, to put all to rights, to accomplish a reconciliation between God and humankind. It is translated in our Bibles with the word ‘gospel’.

‘Evangel’ is a word that is filled with hope and transformation, … and a radical new way of living, thinking, conceiving, hoping, loving, … and so much more, all in response to the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. It is anything but a political agenda as is being pushed by the conservative right in our current national political moment. That segment seeks to give legitimacy to is dubious platform by somehow identifying themselves with the Christian faith. Their platform will not stand the scrutiny of the thrilling message of Jesus Christ and his apostles (and the Old Testament prophets).

Consider, as a case in point, this from the teachings of Jesus: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your enemy and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be the sons and daughters (show the family likeness) of your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 55:43ff.) That means that in every dimension of life we are to the living, breathing demonstration of God’s new humanity now being created by Jesus Christ. It includes good new to the poor, help for the helpless, refuge for strangers, food for the hungry, deliverance for those in captivity, clothing for the naked, peacemaking, ministries of mercy and justice. That is the agenda of the true gospel/evangel. It’s anything but that being promoted by those currently passing themselves off as evangelicals on the political scene.

Or, ponder the teaching of the Old Testament prophet Micah: “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.” In all the tragic and destructive policies and inexplicably complex issues facing all the nations of the world, God’s new creation people are to be agents of justice, to be reconcilers, to incarnate costly discipleship that heals and brings hope, … and that comes with the people of God using their political influence as salt and light, as instruments of righteousness, … and in our political scene that will be costly and controversial. But on our radical kingdom agenda and obedience rests the possibility of Jesus saying to us: “Come, blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”

And may the Lord make of you and me the sweet savor of Christ. We are living in a critical moment in a global community, in which global community are all those communities of God’s new creation people such as we. All of this explains my protest! Peace be with you.

About rthenderson

Sixty years a pastor-teacher within the Presbyterian Church. Author of several books, the latest of which are a trilogy on missional ecclesiology: ENCHANTED COMMUNITY: JOURNEY INTO THE MYSTERY OF THE CHURCH, then, REFOUNDING THE CHURCH FROM THE UNDERSIDE, then THE CHURCH AND THE RELENTLESS DARKNESS. Previous to this trilogy was A DOOR OF HOPE: SPIRITUAL CONFLICT IN PASTORAL MINISTRY, and SUBVERSIVE JESUS, RADICAL FAITH. I am a native of West Palm Beach, Florida, a graduate of Davidson College, then of Columbia and Westminster Theological Seminaries.
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