Larry Shallenberger is a pastor and the author of Divine Intention: How God’s Work in the Early Church Empowers Us Today. He apologizes on behalf of the book titling committee. Visit him at

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On the Need to Start an Ole Boys’ Club For Writers

by Larry Shallenberger 04-26-2012
Writer photo, studio_chki /

Writer photo, studio_chki /

My feeble brain overheated Saturday afternoon at precisely 2:23 PM at the Festival of Faith and WritingJonathan Safran Foer philosophized and Marlynee Robinson rhapsodized. I’d taken in sessions on young adult fiction and memoir. Each synapse in my noggin was frayed by the foot traffic of theory, Cafe Americano, and conversation.

I returned to home base– The Burnside Writers’ Booth– for the safety of familiar faces. Kim Gottschild, a gifted memoirist, was faithfully working the table and I offered to give her a break.

Sure enough, writers visited our booth. But good writers. Intelligent, thoughtful, and witty thinkers, each of them.

The conversation swirled from economics to politics to social justice to theology. My tired brain grumbled at first, but found itself sucked into the conversation. I asked several of these thinkers to consider writing for Burnside. Any one of these authors would be a welcome addition to the Burnside team.

After several of these conversations I noticed two things. Each of these writers had a red sticker on their name tag and each was a woman.

Larry Shallenberger answers, "What is an Evangelical?"

by Larry Shallenberger 12-07-2011
Larry Shallenberger. Photo courtesy of the author.

Larry Shallenberger. Photo courtesy of the author.

Self-identifying as an Evangelical might get me labeled a political activist. Yes, I’m an Evangelical. I’m also a Republican. But touching these two labels together invokes pictures of voting checklist guides, culture wars, and the case of Visine needed to make Michelle Bachmann eyes blink. I‘m not a militant, taking the country back for God.

So am I an Evangelical? Did you know that the family name is actually Swiss-German? That explains our passive-aggressive nature.

The term "Evangelical" is like a pair of hand-me-down underwear. It's been stretched over so many shapes and sizes that it's lost its snap and doesn't fit anyone anymore. It’s been pulled around the circumference of Mars Hill, Seattle and Mars Hill, Grand Rapids. Billy Graham, Ted Haggard, Jim Bakker, Jay Bakker Benny Hinn, Scot McKnight, Don Miller, Jimmy Carter, W., John Piper, Ken Ham, Jim Wallis, and Bill Hybels have all had their turn sporting this hand-me-down garment.  

Ask me if I’m an Evangelical and I’ll ask if you know where that label’s been. It’s rubbed against far too much junk for my taste.

Words lose their currency with overuse, it’s true. But it’s also true that a large part of my issue with being labeled an Evangelical is vanity.