Menno Simons on Evangelical Faith
In recent U.S. history (not so much elsewhere in the world), the term “evangelical” has become synonymous with rightwing theology and, even more, rightwing politics, especially the demonization of sexual minorities, embrace of civil religion/nationalist religion, attempts to get federal money and other special favors from the government, cheering capital punishment and war, and hating church/state separation. Even as recently as the 1970s “evangelical,” meaning “gospel centered,” had a much broader meaning and those who pursued the goals listed above were a much smaller percentage of the evangelical spectrum.
I’ve always favored the definition coined by the nonviolent Dutch Anabaptist leader Menno Simons (1496-1561), whose direct followers became known as “Mennonites,” but whose writing also influenced early Baptists. Menno said it this way:
True evangelical faith cannot lie dormant:
It clothes the naked;
It feeds the hungry;
It comforts the sorrowful;
It shelters the destitute;
It serves those that harm it;
It binds up that which is wounded;
It has become all things to all.
When I use the term “evangelical” as a self-description, it is with Menno’s definition in mind.
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