Evangelicals for justice
We have heard a lot about evangelicals recently, particularly their engagement in political campaigns.
Evangelical Christianity has been equated with Christian factions that support ultra-conservative governmental policies and seek to apply their understanding of Christianity to political agendas. They are primarily white and Protestant.
Tony Campolo, an evangelical leader, sociology professor and Baptist minister, stated in a 2004 interview that evangelical Christianity had been hijacked. This hijacking has become more evident in recent years as a significant segment has taken on the agenda of the Religious Right.
“Righteous judgment” has become the mantra for many evangelicals. Acceptance and love are afforded only to those whose thoughts and actions align perfectly with theirs. The media have emphasized that some campaigns have courted and secured the support of white, evangelical Christians as a result.
Evangelicals are often viewed as right of the social, religious and political center. There is a perception that they only have a passion for the lost soul and not for the deprived physical and social state of humanity. This has created miscommunication between those who are deeply committed to being an evangelical and justice-centered people.
Am I included? I am not white. But I am an evangelical who seeks God’s shalom. Does my voice count? I — and many of my friends who are evangelicals — have a strong personal relationship with Jesus and can claim a distinct conversion moment. We believe Jesus died for the sins of humanity.
In that regard, I align myself with evangelicals. But being an evangelical means more than having a personal relationship with Jesus.
It’s about sharing the good news that God came through Jesus to reconcile all of humanity to God and each other. Jesus provided the blueprint. Announcing his mandate, he came to “Tell the good news to the poor … announce freedom for prisoners and give sight to the blind, to free everyone who suffers” (Luke 4:18).
Jesus’ good news is about the beloved community, and evangelicals live and work for its fulfilment. Social stratification, hatred, racial and cultural bigotry have no place in our lives. It’s about living out God’s kingdom on earth before we get to heaven.
Evangelicals discern and release the potential for good in all humanity for the pursuit of the common good. Our work is characterized by peace, freedom, justice and equality. We seek to live in such a way that we become agents of Jesus Christ, whose power takes away the occasion for all inequity. We work to eliminate the influences that produce racism and injustice in our communities.
Informed by this understanding and vision, evangelicals live to bring the new order out of the old. They are justice seekers who believe God is at work in all people. God has given each of us an opportunity to be people of healing and hope, fully engaged in reconciliation. Through the redemptive work of Jesus, God calls us to be instruments for restorative justice in our communities.
I, along with many, are evangelists of the good news of the beloved community. We are the voices of marginalized people and communities and are truth tellers to people in power. We build bridges, not walls. As an evangelist, I am unapologetically evangelical and justice-centered. Many people are hesitant to take up this banner. Are we really being faithful to Jesus and his calling on us if we don’t?
Are you ready?
John Powell, of Ypsilanti, Mich., is a regional pastor for Indiana-Michigan Mennonite Conference.
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