I have long struggled with the evangelical label–especially having grown up in an evangelical context. Thankfully, my foundational church experience was more moderate, and I never really considered myself one of “those” evangelicals. Even so, any time my religious background comes up in conversation, I feel the need to quickly explain that I am different than the preconceived idea about being Baptist in the South and everything with which THAT is loaded.
Thankfully, Tom Krattenmaker presents us with, for lack of a better term, the “new” evangelicals. He identifies as a person of faith, although more theologically liberal, and writes for the religion section of USA Today. In The Evangelicals You Don’t Know, Krattenmaker provides one example after another of how today’s evangelicals are more than meets the eye–and should be approached less with suspicion and more with the possibility of partnership. These evangelicals have become more progressive in their desire to address complex social issues such as the environment, abortion, sexuality, politics, human slavery and trafficking, and the broader contributors to poverty at home and abroad. These are the things that are making these evangelicals pro-life and prompting a desire to make the world a better place–indeed more like the Kingdom–for everyone. And so it means working alongside of people with different beliefs, or none at all, in partnerships that work to make communities stronger…without the requirement of a conversation about where you would go if you died tonight. These evangelicals are committed to partnerships for the greater good, honest conversations with those who want to have them, and their own theological positions–even if they differ from someone else’s. What Krattenmaker reminds us of in the end, is that both sides of the religious spectrum–as well as those with and without religion–should be more gracious with the other side, more willing to have honest conversations and meet in the middle, and more willing to work for the greater good, putting our theological differences aside. Because in the end, it’s more about what we do for our brothers and sisters than how solid our theological presuppositions might be.
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