I used to be a Christian, and then I realized how stupid Christianity is. You can’t see or hear God, and religious people suck. And none of the other religions really appealed to me, so I became an atheist. But the whole time I was an atheist I still believed in love; and at some point it became less hard to believe in Love, the person. I always thought if someone created the world he or she would have said something about it a long time ago, and so I found myself believing in Love, the person — Jesus, son of ancient God — again. Although now I try not to suck.
But you can be a Christian or appreciate Jesus without being an Evangelical, I mean… gross. And I’ve done that, too. For a long time I thought organized church was a sham, mainly because a lot of it is; stuff like hymns and robes and easy answers from pastors doesn’t really have that much to do with Jesus. He was probably pretty dirty a lot of the time and most of his answers made no sense at all. So I thought we should just sit around and come up with our own thoughts about God and consult the Bible occasionally. But then I read some other people’s thoughts about God, spanning millennia, and it became fairly clear that this stuff was really valuable. And, it turns out, so were the people at my church, people of all ages I never would have met outside this sometimes-silly program. I kept going.
For a while, then, I was this big Traditionalist, and I wanted to be whatever kind of Christian reads ancient and medieval theology for fun (OK, I’m still that kind of Christian). I didn’t want to be an Evangelical, though. I didn’t want to talk about “witnessing” to my friends, I didn’t want to hate evolution, I didn’t want to only have Christian friends, I didn’t want to go to Christian worship concerts, I didn’t want to fear gay people, I didn’t want a political party. And I still don’t do those things.
There are two things I can’t escape, though. The first one is my Personal Relationship with God. Evangelicals get this, even though they use annoying language to talk about it. And even though I believe an individual’s relationship with God is incomplete without a community, I believe we each have our own journey, too. Plenty of other Christians believe this, but it’s a big deal to me and it’s a big deal to Evangelicals.
The second thing is, I actually like these people, despite how they usually make me angry or disappointed several times a day. We all have our own special forms of idiocy, and we can all tolerate others’ special forms of idiocy to varying degrees. And I like Evangelicals in spite of themselves. I grew up with them and I know a ton of them. By and large they’re good people; they feel they’re doing the right thing (doesn’t everybody?). Even more importantly, there are a lot of others like me — non-partisan evolutionists who have escaped the Christian subculture but still have a fondness for their churches and their Personal Relationship with God. We stick around to help each other not suck.
So when you use the word “Evangelical” as a synonym for “raving lunatic Tea Party idiot,” I don’t actually blame you, but you should know that your label includes a group of people who have wrestled with it, kind of hate it, but retain it for various thoughtful reasons. And honestly, I don’t actually expect you to buy my definition of that label. But maybe you can believe my story.