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What Does It Mean to Be Evangelical and Has the Term Been ‘Hijacked?’

The term “Evangelical” remains confusing to some, especially in the wake of President Donald Trump’s ascendancy to the White House.

Being Evangelical has usually meant holding high views of the Bible, obeying the mandate to share the Christian faith with others, and trusting in Jesus Christ alone for salvation, among other distinctions. However, for some, the term has come to be associated with ultra right-wing politics and allegations of compromised morality, if not outright hypocrisy—usually when White Evangelicals refuse to criticize the president’s controversial actions and words (read Pro-Trump Pastor: Porn Star Affair ‘Totally Irrelevant’).

This shift, which some would argue has actually been consistency for when whiteness and Christianity intersect, has noticeably alienated Christians of color (read White Evangelical Churches Use ‘Race Tests’ On People Of Color, Study Claims).

As Faithfully Magazine previously reported:

Given the political, racial, and theological baggage of the term “Evangelical,” Christians of color in particular have discussed whether they should even consider themselves Evangelicals. Influential Christians of color, such as Lecrae, have recently announced their move away from White Evangelicalism. “Pass the Mic,” a podcast of The Witness: A Black Christian Collective, recently aired a discussion between women and Black Christians about the issues they see with the term “Evangelical.”

More and more groups and individuals find the Evangelical label either unhelpful or even a hindrance to Christian ministry and witness. Several Evangelically identifying groups have dropped the Evangelical label altogether in light of these and similar issues. Several White Christian leaders have also taken the lead and no longer identify as an Evangelical.

However, White Evangelicals remain among Trump’s most committed supporters.

In light of these ongoing discussions about what it means to be Evangelical in the age of Trump, Al Jazeera/AJ+ took a look at the issue and included among its questions what role the media plays in portraying U.S. Christians.

In the 11-minute video published April 1, viewers hear from Avis Blake-Thomas (Opened Bible Academy), Jim Wallis (Sojourners), and Ikki Soma (City of Refuge) for perspectives on what it means to be Evangelical.

In related news, NPR’s “All Things Considered” program also published on April Fool’s Day a conversation specifically with White Evangelicals about their faith and politics, featuring Johnnie Moore, Karen Swallow Prior, and Shane Claiborne.

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Nicola A. Menzie
Nicola A. Menziehttp://www.nicolamenzieonline.com
Nicola A. Menzie a religion reporter whose bylines have appeared on the websites of the Religion News Service, The Christian Post, CBS News and Vibe magazine. Nicola is the Managing Editor at faithfullymagazine.com. You can find her on Twitter @namenzie. Email: nicola.menzie (at) faithfullymagazine.com.

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