Christian Piatt answers, "What is an Evangelical?"

Christian Piatt.

Christian Piatt.

The “E Word” in Christianity is a funny thing.

In one respect, Evangelicals are self-identified, and therefore, self-defined. On the other, popular culture (particularly media) lays its own meaning on what it means to be Evangelical. In the latter context, the word inevitably translates to “Conservative Christian.”

But I think this definition isn’t fair. What’s more, it’s not accurate.

I’m a self-proclaimed “word nerd,” so I tend to turn to etymology for help. The root meaning of “evangelical,” at least as a paraphrase, means “to tell the good news.”

Sufficiently vague, right? Depends on who you ask.

Afternoon News Bytes: Jan. 27, 2012

Marco Rubio Calls For A Shift In Rhetoric On Immigration; Davos Head Offers To Meet With Occupy Protesters; UN Rights Chief Calls For Them To Be Heard; Global Evangelical Body Plans Egyptian Summit, Calls For Worldwide Prayer; For GOP, Dislike For Obama Trumps All; Who Are Evangelicals?;congre A Scalpel, Not A Hatchet; Climate Change Goes Back To Square Zero; Rick Santorum: Gingrich And Romney ‘Bought Into The Global Warming Hoax’.

Defining "Evangelical" and Other Unsolved Mysteries

Cathleen Falsani by Katrina Wittkamp.

Cathleen Falsani by Katrina Wittkamp.

As someone who self-identifies as an evangelical Christian, often I begin to feel like the subject of a Discovery Channel documentary, particularly in the midst of a heated presidential election cycle.

It’s Evangelical Week here on Discovery! Travel with us as our explorers track the elusive evangelical in its native habitats. Watch as evangelicals worship, work and play, all captured on film with the latest high definition technology. And follow our intrepid documentary team members as they bravely venture into the most dangerous of exotic evangelical locations — the voting booth!

I understand the interest in us evangelicals, I really do. The way much of the mainstream media covers our communities in the news can make us seem like a puzzling subspecies of the American population, not unlike the Rocky Mountain long-haired yeti. 

Are we really that difficult to comprehend?

In a word, yes.

From Sex to Satan, Some Churches Will Try Anything

The Devil Inside movie poster.

The Devil Inside movie poster.

This is a touchy subject for me, as I am a strong advocate of bringing cultural criticism and dialogue into the church, and I’m equally supportive of churches having frank forums where they deal with issues of sex and sexuality. But there is a distinct, if not fine, line between stretching a church to be relevant and jumping on the latest trend simply to draw attention to yourself.

Yes, I know religious institutions are collectively flipping out about the decreasing number of attendees and increased number of church closures. The fact is that some churches will do the world more good once closed than they’re doing today. This is not to say they’re doing active harm (though I’m sure some are), but rather that the tireless, copious use of resources – both human and financial – to prop up dying institutions is to point to one’s self rather than toward God. We get hung up on the idea that the former is a necessary means to the latter end, but not necessarily. Like a fallow field, sometimes it’s best to take what is left, turn it into the ground and allow it to be reborn into something entirely new.

Afternoon News Bytes: Jan. 13, 2012

Evangelical Leaders Struggle To Crown A Candidate; George W. Bush Cancels Visit To Swiss Charity Gala Over Fears He Could Be Arrested On Torture Charges;Class Conflict Awareness Rose Significantly From 2009 To 2011: Report; Evangelicals Taking Second Look At Romney; In The Fight Against Poverty, It’s Time for A Revolution (OPINION); Iranian Government Delays Pastor's Death Sentence For Apostasy One Year Hoping Media Will Forget; Tavis Smiley, Of Poverty Tour, Hosts “Reawakening America” With Panelists Cornel West, Suze Orman, Michael Moore; A Pro Snowboarder's Guide To Climate Change; Okay Progressives, What's Your Alternative To Ron Paul?; Congressional Chaplains Minister To A Sharply Divided Flock.

Justin Bieber's Ecce Homo

Bieber on the cover of the Spring 2012 issue of V Magazine.

Bieber on the cover of the Spring 2012 issue of V Magazine.

You might not have a clue who Bieber is. Or, if you are aware of the existence of the crown prince of Stratford, Ontario, you might not give two hoots about him. But I’m guessing that there is a young person in your life who does.

So, for the sake of the children, please hear me out....

He is, in a sense, laying the groundwork for an awareness of the social gospel for a generation that will, sooner than we realize, become leaders in our society and our world.

Millennials to the Church: Wake Up or We're Outta Here


Quit hitting the snooze button. 

It’s time for the church to wake up! 

According to a Laura Sessions Stepp at CNN.com, evangelical churches are finally acknowledging a trend that statisticians have been tracking for years: young evangelicals are leaving the church in droves.

In the new report, You Lost Me: Why Young Christians Are Leaving Church and Rethinking Faith, Barna Group President David Kinnaman notes a 43 percent drop in Christian church attendance between the teen and early adult years.

Perhaps most intriguing is that research indicates younger people are not only departing from their elders on “social issues,” such as same-sex marriage and abortion, but on wealth distribution and care for the environment, as well.

According to a report in The Christian Science Monitor, three out of four millennials say that wealthy corporations and financiers have too much power and that taxes should be raised on the very wealthy. Two out of three say financial institutions should be regulated more closely.

While the issue of jobs and higher wages remain as important to millennials as they do to older voters, the widening “black hole” of church attendance in the 18-29 age demographic indicates a larger trend — young people are thirsting for social justice, and simply not finding those principles in the pews.

The Friday News: Dec. 9, 2011

Young, Hip Jews Leading a Makeover; EPA Finds Fracking Contaminated Drinking Water in Wyoming; Dick Durbin May Block Religious Freedom Commission’s Renewal Until Feds Buy His Favorite Prison; Against “Taking Things Back:” Rethinking the OWS Slogan; Rick Perry Anti-Gay Ad Puts Spotlight on GOP Consulting Class; Black, atheist and living in the South Benjamin; The New Evangelicals; Why Rick Perry’s New Ads Are Wrong On Religion–And Obama; Latinos Don't Vote On Faith Or Religion But On Economic Issues; Faith And Family Values At Issue In Republican Contest; Children Of Immigrants Ask For Halt To Deportation That Splits Families; Sesame Street Muppet Pitches Government Dependence: Free Food At School; Economic Experts Gather In DC To Explain Why Politics Has Doomed Us.