Entering into 2016, I want to travel light. I want to journey with a renewed purity of heart that complexification prevents.
One of the things I am jettisoning is the word “evangelical.” Those of you who know me understand how difficult this decision is for me. Even as I make it, I do so with sadness and regret. I never thought a day like this would ever come. But it has.
My review of writings by alleged evangelicals in 2015 clearly reveals how the word “evangelical” has lost its essence, and has now succumbed to a subjectivism that leaves it largely defined by whomever is using the word. The “evangelical” community is now fractured and imploding, collapsing as a victim to its own judgmentalism and arrogance–now turned not only on the church and culture, but also on people within its own ranks. “Evangelical” is an empty word (compared to the meaning it once had), and I must lay it down, joining others who have chosen, and are choosing, to do the same.
I pray there might be a day when “evangelical” will be resurrected to its historic substance and richness. But that is not happening now. Posts I have read in the past few days are enough to confirm this and to further break my heart.
I want to travel light in 2016, simply using the word “Christian” to describe myself and my faith. In fact, given our penchant to turn any adjective into an extremist position, I doubt that most of our modifiers are helping us these days. We need to get back to “the naked noun” (as Eugene Peterson has described the power of language), and live with the transparency and authenticity that nouns create.
Nouns have the potential to create conversations that adjectives prevent. As soon as I can “modify” a person with an adjective which I do not use to identify myself, I no longer have to remain in fellowship with him or her. And once separated, I can go on to justify almost any attitude or action against the newly-created “other.”
But if I stick with nouns (e.g. “human” and “Christian”), I remain close enough to see and hear people, to claim legitimate commonalities with them, and to ask meaningful questions. Nouns generate conversations, adjectives ignite controversies. Adjectives weigh down and weary the soul, forcing us to work too hard, trying to create the illusion of being “right” all the time.
So, I will travel light this year. I will journey simply as “Christian,” hoping this naked noun will build more bridges than barriers. And I will pray for grace to carry a ladder rather than a lever as I go my way in 2016.