Evangelicalism: What’s in a Name?

“Why do you keep using that word?” Inigo Montoya famously asks in The Princess Bride.  “I do not think it means what you think it means.”

Over the last few decades in America, the term “evangelicals” has become a much more commonly used descriptor of a particular voting block than a religious movement. In the wake of last week’s presidential election, a subset of this demographic called “white evangelicals” have been the subject of a wide array of news stories and blog articles.

Many who cringe at the election of Donald J. Trump to the United States Presidency have pointed the finger at “evangelical Christians” as the main group of people responsible for the billionaire’s bewildering ascent to the highest office in the land. And, over the past week, many Christians have clashed over whether “evangelicalism” has become so corrupted as to be antonymous with Christianity, or, rather, constitutes the last remaining vestige of Christian morals and values in our country.

But is evangelicalism really meant to be understood at all from a political perspective? Have we allowed an unhealthy fixation on political partisanship and progressive legislation to corrupt not evangelicalism itself, but our understanding of what the word actually means?

On this episode of The DBC Podcast, I sat down with regular co-hosts Jeff Reams (Missions Pastor) and Mark Paul (Student Pastor) for another conversation that, on the surface, may sound politically themed, but is actually grounded in the Gospel of Jesus. We talked about the roots of evangelicalism, all the way back to the etymology of the word itself, and by tracing the “evangelical movement” through history, we contrasted the present embodiment of it in America with what has historically defined an “evangelical Christian.” We talked about the proliferation of this label, and discussed whether or not the term is irrecoverable, and even if that should be the concern or not.

We welcome your comments, as a conversation this important shouldn’t end after only an hour of three pastors pontificating. Let us know what you think by writing to us in the section provided at the bottom of this post.

As promised in the episode’s sign-off, here are some links to other articles detailing the impact of the term – and concepts related to – evangelicalism:

  1. Washington Post article on the influence of the “white evangelical” voting bloc at the polls.
  2. An article from The Atlantic examining the role of the majority of “white evangelical” voters’ support of Donald Trump.
  3. Response to the Presidential election from Russell Moore, the President of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.
  4. Blog post from yours truly on the true definitions of evangelicalism. 

To listen to this episode, click on the image below to be directed to our official iTunes page where you can stream or download each episode, as well as subscribe to receive each new episode the moment it is posted online. Or you can listen via the Soundcloud.com media player below. Also, don’t forget to download the Dunwoody Baptist Church app in your smart device’s app store. The app will, among many other things, provide a way for you to listen to a variety of lessons and podcasts including this one.

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About Bo

Please see the "About the Author" section on my blog, Windblown (www.bobowenblog.com).