What exactly is an evangelical?

I think I have a like/hate relationship with labels. I like them because sometimes generalizing, which is what labels do, is a good way to help me get a sense of things. I hate them because they never tell the whole story and I can easily corner myself and others in them. I especially don’t like being cornered with a label by others.

Labels that describe temperaments and personality profiles, for example, are lots of fun and I think most of us enjoy the way they help us understand ourselves and others. Other labels however, like ‘Evangelical’, are not always helpful and can often be confusing and misleading. Perhaps that is because the label is simultaneously becoming less and less precise while also being heralded by some who define it very narrowly by including with it many details that are not always true about all those who would otherwise be comfortable with the label.
Kurt Willems is a blogger I enjoy reading and recommend. A few years ago he posted ‘You Might Be an Evangelical Reject if …‘. I remember really enjoying that post. It struck a chord with me and helped give me freedom to think outside of what I mostly knew, at that time, as evangelical. I was becoming restless and the post helped calm me down a little 🙂
Well, Kurt has written a new post along the same lines. I’d be curious to know what you think about it. Maybe you’ll want to read the original one first.
There is much about the label that I like but there is also much that spooks me. I agree with Kurt that it is becoming less and less helpful as a label mostly because of those who want to own it for themselves while being very narrow in how they define it. Am I comfortable being pegged as a ‘Evangelical’? Well, I guess it depends on who’s asking and what the frame of reference is.
So what exactly is an evangelical? Who gets to define it? Is it even useful trying?

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