It’s probably not what you’re thinking! But the word “evangelical” can certainly be a point of confusion.
“Evangelical” comes from a Greek word that simply means “good news.” We use it to talk about the “good news” of Jesus in that we are loved by God and saved by God’s grace. It is a word that goes back to our Lutheran roots where the original Lutheran church in Germany was called the “Evangelische Kirche” (Evangelical Church).
Unfortunately, the word has been hijacked in the past 50 years by the conservative religious right and is often associated with a specific kind of Christian. Associations with the “e” word today imply legalistic theology, a literal interpretation of Scripture, dismissal of opposing viewpoints; perceived hostility toward the LGBTQ community, skepticism of science and academia; and understandings of such issues as masculinity, femininity, family and marriage that many find oppressive. What holds this group together seems to be their position on moral issues like abortion and gun control.
As part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, we are bold to reclaim the word, that in a sense, only in the last 50 years has been stolen by a small group of Christians who are actually more legalistic than evangelistic. As Lutherans, we have been evangelical before some people came and distorted that term.
We are “good news people” and seek to live out this self-understanding by sharing an open, loving, affirming and embracing extension of God’s love.
So, don’t let the “e” word scare you away. It’s time we take back our namesake and teach the world again that evangelical means love nothate, affirmation not oppression, openness notnarrow-mindedness. Let’s share the love of God with everyone, all people, for all need to hear the good news! We are evangelical!