Hot topic of the week: North Carolina votes to forbid same-sex marriages in their state, and President Obama publicly states that he is in favor of full recognition of marriage for those same couples. And, of course, people are all hot and bothered — for one reason or the other.
Some see the passage of Amendment 1 in North Carolina as yet another nail in the coffin of the evangelical church and its relevance to the under-30 crowd. A bunch of old, white men fighting a losing battle over issues no one younger even cares about. Nothing new here; religious people have been bemoaning this for decades: Church in danger of losing the current generation.
But my gut reaction is “don’t blame the evangelicals.” Or better put, don’t equate conservative, inflexible, irrelevant religious people with evangelicalism. The very word “evangelical” comes from the Greek word for “Good News”. Guess what? The Good News isn’t stale. It isn’t rigid. It doesn’t rise up to impose its own way. It doesn’t oppress people or take things away from them. It isn’t political. It doesn’t rise or fall with the turning generations. It isn’t even fixed in black and white on the pages of Scripture. Well, the Good News is, but everything the church as linked to it is not. Here is the Good News: God loves the world, and he sent his Son to reconcile the world to him. Those who believe it are reconciled. They are now his children. Done deal. That’s all there is to it. All that other stuff is unrelated.
Those people who become alarmed at the “war on marriage” or the “war on American traditional values” (as though those were handed down from Mt. Sinai), they have little to do with what being an evangelical is all about.
Being an evangelical means I’m concerned about people being separated from God. It means I believe Jesus came to re-unite them with the Father. It means I care that they hurt. It means I try to treat them as I want to be treated. It means that if God’s love lives in me, I must extend that love to others. And I want to see those others brought into the same loving relationship with God through Jesus that I have.
Hooting and hollering on TV and talk-radio, voting knee-jerk reaction measures in Congress or the state legislatures, rousing the troops to get out the vote for the next election … all irrelevant. Politics and voting belong in the civic arena. Faith and relationship with God is the domain of evangelicalism. “Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s” — and let’s not confuse the two.
People of genuine faith are gonna have disagreements about social and political issues. We’re human. It’s automatic. But let’s not let intractable, angry, or even frightened people equate their actions with being a good Christian, defending the faith — or of being evangelical. Those actions do not represent Jesus nor his Church. They’re just the behavior of scared people. Let true evangelicals stand up and say, “we don’t care who you are, or who you love, who you vote for, or what you’ve done. That is not our concern. We just want you to know that God loves you.” And all that other stuff has nothing to do with us.