This is not particularly about justice, so it may be cheating. But it was Donald Trump that inspired this post, in a weird way. I've been surprised by the way evangelicals have been embracing Mr. Trump, but I've also been encouraged to see so many evangelicals speak up about how he doesn't represent them. Some of these are my friends and family members, and others are eminent and respected evangelical leaders like Max Lucado.
I am an odd theological duck.
I grew up in a conservative evangelical church in the Wesleyan tradition. A holiness church, it's called.
Now, as a United Methodist (and closet Episcopalian), I'm on the other side of the Protestant camp, in mainline land. Liberal. Lost? I would have said so at one time.
I'm still the most conservative in a room full of theological liberals, and the most liberal in a room full of theological conservatives. (Political conservatives and liberals are a whole different matter.) This does not make me middle-of-the-road or wishy-washy. I'm extremely passionate, especially about my faith, but I don't wear labels easily.
The story of my move from one side of Protestantism to another is for another day, but today I'm thinking about my evangelical brothers with gratitude and love.
I'm thankful for an upbringing that gave me deep roots, but never told me not to think.
I didn't leave the church of my birth because of abuse or even hypocrisy. I simply had theological differences.
So here are a few things my heritage (and especially my parents) gave me:
Evangelicals taught me to take the Bible seriously. And to memorize scripture, lots of it. I learned to read the Bible, the whole thing, and care about what it said, and also what it meant for me. I would not be who I am today without that.
Evangelicals gave me Christian music in the 1980s. And it was nothing like thesaccharine stuff that gets played on Christian radio now. It was Steve Taylor singing, "This Disco Used to Be a Cute Cathedral," and Steve Camp with "Don't tell them Jesus loves them 'til you're ready to love them, too." Not to mention Out of the Grey (okay, that was th e '90s) and the inimitable Charlie Peacock.
Evangelicals taught me about social justice. Okay, I didn't learn that from most of the people in my church, but I did learn it from the books I picked up in the Christian bookstore. I was such a nerd that in high school I got — on two separate birthdays — The NIV Study Bible and Tony Campolo's The Kingdom of God is a Party because I asked for them. I heard missionaries talk about the poor on a regular basis, and while they didn't talk about systems of oppression, they were actively doing something. The ones I remember the most were nurses. And single ones, at that.
Evangelicals kept me out of trouble. I was scared of getting in trouble, but I also had a strong moral compass. The church taught me right and wrong.
So, though I don't say it enough, thank you.