Evangelical–a Much Abused Term

As a biblical scholar and ordained minister, I have long been puzzled, and even angered, by the American ‘christians’ abuse of the term ‘evangelical.’ Etymologically, it’s simply wrong. Having studied biblical languages and the languages of surrounding cultures of the period in which the scriptures were written, I have the background and knowledge to back up my claim.

Simply put, the “evangel” comes from two Greek roots: eu(v) + anggelos, Greek, euanggelion. It means ‘good news’ or a ‘good message’. And what is the good news? In a nutshell it’s the message that Jesus brings, that God our creator is loving and forgiving. For most of us screw-ups, that’s pretty good news. No old man on a throne ready to fry us eternally after death.

However, in the cult known as “evangelical christianity” (I use the lower case, because their message bears no resemblance to that of Mr. Jesus who has a clear bias for the poor, the outcast and the dispossessed) it has become a politicized term laden with with white supremacy, extreme right-wing politics, anti-democratic values, anti-pro-choice & anti-women’s rights and ‘In Guns We Trust.’ Basically, they are saying, “If you aren’t like us, you’re going to hell!” Where is the good news in that?!

There is no logic to their cult. For instance: they say they are “pro-life” yet they support the Second Amendment as sacrosanct. Let me think about that…life is sacred in utero, but once a child enters the world outside the womb, you can blow it away with an AR-15 or the gun of your choice. Remember the Lockerbie disaster?–the bomb that brought down Pan Am 103, 32 years ago this month? All 259 people on board died. Americans were up in arms (literally!) about that, but gun-carrying Americans kill that many of their fellow citizens every two days and they are unconcerned! As Archie Bunker famously cried, “It’s my God-given right to pack a rod!” And it is that kind of oxymoronic thinking that defines “evangelicalism” in America. If they really believe in the motto, In God We Trust, why can’t they sleep at night or leave the house without a gun?

By the way, I have long considered myself an evangelical Christ-follower, because I believe in the hope that Jesus offers us. It is a hope founded in compassion for those who are not like us. It is founded on the healthy principle of love of God, neighbour and self. Evangelical Americans don’t seem to have read either Testament wherein it explicitly tells us that the same God made all of us. Therefore: All murder is fratricide! Rather, they treat the Bible as some kind of talisman that will ward off evil, but if that doesn’t work, pack a rod. That kind of ‘faith’ is no faith at all.

May God save us from our neighbours…and ourselves.

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