Source: Sojourner Mail November 16, 2012
The day after the election, Southern Baptist Seminary President Albert Mohler said, “I think this was an evangelical disaster.” Not really. But it was a disaster for the religious right, which had again tied its faith to the partisan political agenda of the Republican Party — which did lose the election. But Nov. 6 was an even deeper disaster for the religious right’s leaders, because they will no longer be able to control or easily co-opt the meaning of the term “evangelical.”
During this election, much of the media continued to use the word as a political term — as a key constituency of the Republican conservative base. But what the media really means when they use term “evangelical” is “conservative white evangelical.” All other kinds of evangelicals are just never counted. Just as the 2012 electoral results finally revealed the demographic transformation of America — which has been occurring for quite some time — it also dramatically demonstrated how the meaning of the word “evangelical” is being transformed.
It is sad how some words can drastically change their meaning over time. One word like that is the word “gay”. I looked it up in the dictionary just now and the first definition relates to homosexuality. “Bright and pleasant; promoting the feeling of cheer” is much further down the list. Please don’t get me wrong here I am not lamenting homosexuality, everyone has a right to be who they are. What I am mourning is the transference of the word gay. I think of myself as a gay person but would never use that description now.
Another word in this category is “liberal”. The Republicans have defamed that word for so long that it is not used much anymore. I now have to describe myself as “progressive” at least in the social sphere area. That is a good descriptive word in itself but I am still consider myself, at least in my heart, a “bleeding heart liberal”.
As cited above the word “evangelical” has come to mean a religious person who holds radically conservative political views. The word also has a Christian meaning but that is again being lost due to the overwhelming political connotation. As Jim Wallis says above maybe it is not too late to take back this word and put it back totally in the spiritual realm. It would be nice to take this word back from the politics of today. It would be nice to win one once in a while. But I kind of think the word has probably been tainted too much now.
For those who follow my RedLetterLiving blog you know that I have the same feeling about the word “Christian”. To me being a Christian means that you are a follower of Jesus Christ. You live your life as he taught you. You do your part to bring the kingdom of heaven to earth. Today being a Christian most often means that you cite a litany of “beliefs” about Jesus (and often time country) instead of trying to “be” what he taught. Someday I hope we can rejuvenate that word also.