Now finally I could define what Evangelicals are. Evangelicals, at least in its American form, are obsessed in determining who is in and who is out. It is a necessary task for them to do so as twentieth-century American Evangelicalism was historically formed within the context of Fundamentalism-Modernist controversy. Seeking the third and middle way, conservative Christians from various denominations gathered themselves to hold forth against the influence of liberalism, while at the same time disavowing exclusive and escapist mentality of the fundamentalists. Thus, the question of identity inescapably would come out to the surface, as now their confessional identities would not be enough anymore. Indeed, that’s the very reason they called themselves Evangelicals, to separate themselves from the so-called “mainline” Christians in their respective denominations. It is not enough to call oneself Protestant or Presbyterian or Episcopalian (or, indeed, Christian!). What makes you different from the “mainline” Presbyterians in your denomination? Thus, in itself Evangelicals must define who is one and who is not. An identity could be helpful, but it could be severely divisive and inward looking as well. The latter is what has happened in their most publicly visible manifestation in America, which is the right-wing Republican/Tea Party evangelicalism. They, I believe, have gone a long and wrong way from what their predecessors have intended to do with evangelicalism. But again I guess it is a somewhat logical development of the movement, as evangelicalism is latent with sectarianism since its conception.

The more astute readers would identify the irony in this post. I have become one of them in being obsessed in identifying what Evangelicals means, although I do it for the opposite purpose: to disown myself from the label.


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