What is an evangelical? I believe the definition has morphed a
bit over some decades now. Evangelicals stress a born-again
experience, have a high regard for biblical authority and stress
the sharing of the gospel of Jesus Christ. When I finally became
"churched" at age 14, it was in a Bible-believing, fundamental
church that was committed to the gospel, to missions, to Bible
memorization and to the abstinence from some worldly pleasures.
Several decades later, I remain an evangelical – but I fear that
evangelicalism may have left the train station without me.
Right from the get-go I knew I was not a part of the "social
justice" agenda. I did not look down on those folks; I just knew
that we looked at biblical issues differently and even looked at
the Bible with different glasses. Christians should
care about the poor, but to me, poverty, climate change, war,
immigration and women's rights were not primary evangelical
Or were they? The times began a-changin' in the 1970s, and by
the 1980s, some were concerned that evangelicalism could get
hijacked. By the 1990s, the term was being redefined. And in the
last 10 years, I fear some of the founders of the
National Association of
Evangelicals (NAE), who first met in 1942 to counter the
liberal Federal Council of Churches of Christ (which would
become the National Council of Churches), were pretty grieved!
The 21st century brought a shift to the left. Let me clarify.
In 2006, evangelicals jumped on the global-warming bandwagon.
Evangelical Climate Initiative was formed. Eighty-six
evangelical Christian leaders decided to back a major initiative
to fight global warming, saying, "Millions of people could die
in this century because of climate change, most of them our
poorest global neighbors." Many in the evangelical community
still see climate change as junk science and see it getting our
eyes off of the prize; that is, sharing the gospel while there
is still time.
In 2010 and 2011,
immigration became the new evangelical cause. OK, what had I
missed? How had this slipped in under the radar screen and
become headline news to Bill Hybels, Richard Land, Mathew Staver,
leaders at the National Association of Evangelicals and others?
Wasn't this owned by the religious left? Or maybe the right had
just moved left. I was starting to connect the dots.
Then came the
"Circle of Protection" in the spring and summer of 2011.
This was a push from both evangelicals and leftists to see that
Congress not cut the federal budget for the poor. The National
Association of Evangelicals and religious left icon Jim Wallis
yoked together, and suddenly the "What Would Jesus Cut?" effort
appeared in headlines. Hundreds of outfits – mainly
left-of-center – signed on.
But on Nov. 8 the stunner came along and has millions
scratching our heads. This time the founders of the NAE back in
1942 just had to feel betrayed! The National Association of
Evangelicals came out
nuclear disarmament. I can't make stuff like this up! I wish
it had happened on April 1 and it was a joke. Say it ain't
so! Their position statement falls just short of urging
total nuclear disarmament while surmising that reliance on nukes
might be idolatrous. Was this position acceptable to
all of the 45,000 local churches that make up the NAE? Is this
statement (and the other issues I've raised) representing them?
None of these edicts represents me!
Here's the answer to that question. Religious left watchdog
writes, "Although most of the NAE's about 100 board members
likely remain conservatives, few have openly dissented from the
NAE's recent stances on the environment, enhanced interrogation,
immigration, budget policy, and nukes." This isn't your
grandma's evangelicalism. Change happened incrementally,
but what I believed had left the building!
In October, NAE officials met with President Obama. They
released a statement saying, "A growing body of Christian
thought calls into question the acceptability of nuclear weapons
as part of a just nation defense, given that the just war theory
categorically admonished against indiscriminate violence and
requires proportionality and limited collateral damage.
Scripture shows that national military might too often takes the
place of trust in God." I am having trouble connecting the
scriptural dots here.
NAE board member Joel Hunter stated, "We are looking to the
Lord for security. Stockpiling weapons for our security may be a
form of idolatry." Other NAE spokesmen talked about loving our
enemies. Are they delusional that Iran and North Korea want to
We have a fallen world! A world without violence would be
welcomed, but on this sin-stained planet, it won't happen until
much later. We have to address such issues realistically and not
idealistically. The enemies of freedom are rogue regimes that
won't disarm just because America does.
Tooley, of the Institute for Religion and Democracy, writes,
"Christians, including evangelicals, understanding humanity's
fallen nature, should shun utopian dreams and prudentially
advocate policies that hopefully contain evil while knowing that
no human actions can eliminate evil."
Eric Barger of Take a Stand! Ministry says in conjunction
with my report, "Methodists, Presbyterians,
Anglican/Episcopalians, Lutherans, Disciples of Christ, and many
other churches and groups had been the 'evangelicals' of their
day 80-150 years ago, until liberals gained control. Gradually,
Bible schools and seminaries filled with unscrupulous – and
unsaved – individuals denigrated the Scriptures, mocked the
supernatural, and attempted to instill doubt and not faith in
all who dared enter their classrooms. The creeds, which the
Apostles and countless believers throughout the church age had
given their lives for, were unceremoniously ridiculed. As the
Bible was denounced, denial became the norm and heresy replaced
truth as liberalism appealed to the flesh and corrupted all who
embraced it. Within a relatively short period of time ideals,
science, and human reasoning systematically replaced the Bible
and began to poison the minds of future ministers, teachers, and
countless lay people. All of this took place but not without a
Is anyone fighting today? All I see is capitulation.
Once again we see a vain "fix the earth" mentality. The
wrongs of this world cannot be made right until Christ's return.
Since that just might be soon, could we please go back to the
fundamentals of soul winning, the calling card of evangelicals
for decades? We can't fix anything on this planet because the
devil is in charge right now. One of the things our government
is assigned to do, and rightly so, is to protect its citizens.
One of the things evangelicals are to do is to share the gospel.
Nuclear disarmament is not a church issue. Somebody do a reality
Liberal theologians, even if they call themselves
"evangelicals," don't speak for me nor do they represent me.
Jan Markell is founder and president of
Olive Tree Ministries.
She hosts a nationally syndicated Christian radio program,
"Understanding the Times," now heard on 416 radio outlets. Her
ministry reaches out to many via website, national conferences,
radio, and print and e-newsletter. Jan has written eight books
and has produced numerous DVDs. She is considered a pioneer in
the Messianic Jewish movement.