I'm a Pundit Too

Friday, August 17, 2007

I Am An Evangelical. Why Does That Scare You?

Evangelical, fundamentalist, and Christian conservative are all terms that have become a lightning rod for debate and scorn from many on the liberal side of the aisle. The often controversial Rosie O’Donnell has even gone as far to claim that evangelicals were far more dangerous to our country than Al-Qaeda. The very admission that I am an evangelical Christian causes some to start to hyperventilate as they rail against my faith. I would like to analyze a few of the most common terms used to describe myself and others who believe as I do, and try to come to an understanding as to what is so frightening to those on the other side of the philosophical spectrum.

Before we start the discussion, I believe it is only fair to express my beliefs so that there is no doubt as to where my thoughts and opinions are coming from. I believe that the Bible is the written Word of God. I believe that God did in fact create the earth, and everything else, in 7 days. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God. He was born of a virgin in the town of Bethlehem. He ministered for 3 years and was crucified on the cross. He was buried in a tomb, and rose from the dead 3 days later. He came to the earth to sacrifice himself for each and every one of us, even those who choose to reject him, so that we would have a way to get to heaven. All we are asked to do in return is to acknowledge that we are sinners, meaning not perfect, and pledge to follow Jesus and his teachings. These are a few of my core beliefs that all of my decisions, morals, and values are based upon.

Merriam-Webster defines the word fundamentalist as a member of the 20th century Protestant movement that emphasizes the literal interpretation of the Bible as being fundamental to Christian life and teaching. For anyone who has read the Bible, I am unsure as to why the very mention of the word, fundamentalist, would conjure up such feelings of angst and sometimes fear. Jesus taught us to love our neighbors, not just those who agree with us. He also taught us to live our lives as living examples of Christ. We all fall short of that example, but we continually strive to achieve that goal.

Webster defines the word evangelical as being in agreement with the teaching of the Christian gospel, especially as it is presented in the four gospels. An evangelical also emphasizes the salvation by faith in the atoning death of Jesus Christ through personal conversion, the authority of Scripture, and the importance of preaching as contrasted with ritual. This definition as well does not portray the vilified portrait of one who seeks to destroy our country.

I realize that there are Christians out there who do more damage than good, by there actions and attitudes about those who do not believe in Christ. I am speaking about the type of Christians like the Westboro Baptist Church. You may recall that this church goes to funerals of soldiers to hold signs that say “Thank God for IEDs”, “Soldiers Die, God Laughs”. Their message is that because of the acceptance of homosexual lifestyles in the United States, God is punishing us with the war in Iraq and terrorism. These Christians are not the typical evangelicals. They do not represent, in my opinion, what it means to be a follower of Christ. I am not a theologian, but my interpretation of Jesus’ teaching shows that he went out to meet with the adulterous woman, an unthinkable act of the time, and helped her to see the error of her ways. I do not see Jesus holding a picket sign outside her house and yelling insults at her from the street. I believe that we could look at any group of people and find a few bad apples. Why is it that all Christians are lumped together with those who blow up abortion clinics “in God’s name”?

Most of the evangelical Christians that I know are ready and willing to share their faith at a moments notice, but they are not the ones that yell and scream insults at homosexuals to try to convert them. No one is ever truly persuaded using strong arm tactics. “A person convinced against his will, is of the same opinion still.” I am unsure of who first coined that phrase, but it holds true to Christianity, politics, or anything else you can think of.

I spoke to a local pastor, one in which I look up to with great respect as a man and a teacher, about what he felt Christians should be doing in the secular/political world. He believes that if Christians would truly be followers of Christ, we could make an enormous contribution to our nation. He sees the role of Christians as one of defender of the helpless. Just look at the story of British statesman William Wilberforce, made into the movie “Amazing Grace”. His deeply held faith convicted him that slavery was wrong and that it should be stopped. One man’s convictions started the debate to end slavery in Great Britain. I believe that is what being a Christian in our country and throughout the world is about. By living my life as a living example of Jesus Christ, I will work to end the injustices in our country and around the world.

Many people are terrified of evangelical Christians being in positions of power. They point to President Bush and say that he has overstepped his bounds in his thirst for war in Iraq. We can debate that over and over again, but how is that decision and example of how Christians would work in a position of power? Where did his faith play a role in that decision? In my opinion, he believed that there was injustice under the rule of Saddam and that played a key role in his decisions. Is the President a perfect Christian? Am I a perfect Christian? The answer is a resounding no. There are no perfect Christians. We all fall short of the glory of God, but we all continue to strive to be better Christians. As I become a better Christian, I become a better man, husband, father, friend, employee, and yes even a better writer.

My faith in Christ is my guiding compass. Just because my guiding compass is my faith, does that make my values, morals, decisions, or opinions any less valid than yours? Your compass has been determined undoubtedly by many things throughout your life. It is comprised of your experiences growing up, at work, at school, with your friends, or even the news networks. I do not discount your ideals because they do not agree with mine, I may debate or argue with you over them, but I do not discount them. It is not place to judge anyone. It is my goal to try to show you a tiny bit of Christ by the way I live my life. I pray that it does not offend you, but it will not change my faith or my desire to show you the way to Christ.

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