Four days ago, Skye Jethani wrote a piece in Out of Ur called “Giglio and the Weakness of the Evangelical Brand” (You can see the full article here: Giglio Article). The subheading said, “Why are Catholics welcome and Evangelicals pushed from the public square?” This article stemmed from Louie Giglio’s rejection to speak at President Obama’s inauguration last week because he has called homosexuality a sin.
Then Jethani spent the entire article comparing and contrasting the open activism of evangelicals against issues such as homosexuality and abortion versus the Roman Catholic passive, reserved, unwavering, conservative values. Evangelicals are just not a very popular brand, whereas the Roman Catholic Church is perceived as “an ancient institution that is increasingly out of touch with modern life.”
My biggest problem with Jethani is the error of using the fact that relevancy has been important in the evangelical movement to claim that “when it comes to social morality evangelicals also have a history of adapting for the sake of relevancy.” Citing alcohol consumption, watching movies, playing cards, and dancing as things that have been accommodated to as examples. I don’t think those are very good examples of caving in for relevancies sake. To be honest, I think that partly we have come to see that there are much bigger problems in our world. To say that evangelicals haven’t done as much as Catholics to preserve marriage against divorce completely spits in the face of ministries like Focus on the Family.
While I may agree that the political activism done in the name of Christianity in America has done a lot to hurt Evangelical’s image, it is no excuse for being pushed out of the public square. I think that we need to think more constructively on sharing what our message truly is, and invest in learning ways to explain how we differentiate in the vast world of defined evangelicalism. While there have been times where Christians have made a bad name for themselves, this should not make them less capable of having a voice in public dialogue along with everyone else. The key is being humble and allowing others to have a voice, listening to them, and authentically engaging with them in a hospitable and Christ-like way. These are some principles that I have learned through studying under Dr. Paul Louis Metzger at Multnomah Biblical Seminary through New Wine, New Wineskins (New Wine website). Evangelicalism as a “brand” isn’t going away and we should be careful to suggest that it does. If that catapults too far the opposite way orthodoxy could go with it as well.