Evangelical: Uppercase or Lowercase?

As a proud recipient of a bachelor’s degree in English *cough*, there are certain grammar opinions that I hold to strongly. I’m an Oxford comma partisan.1 I think the rule against ending a sentence with a preposition should be done away with.2

And I believe that evangelical should be lowercase.

I deal with this surprisingly often. When I was preparing my book proposal and writing the sample chapters,3 I went back and forth with friends and readers about whether I should capitalize evangelical. I changed it a couple of times, but ended up firmly in the lowercase camp.

Why? Well, it’s a combination of reasons: both serious and trivial.

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Did Anything Even Happen in the Centuries Between Paul the Apostle and Billy Graham?

A few days ago, we dropped our latest Believe to See podcast. Anselm staffer Michelle Hindman joined us to discuss a topic I know far too little about: hagiography, or stories of the lives of saints.

First, you should listen to the whole podcast, which is right here (and it’s embedded at the bottom of this post). Second, I have a few takeaways.

  1. The Catholic Advantage

For many issues, I’m happy to have been raised in the protestant-evangelical world. For instance, when a Catholic friend asked me what happened in the book of Esther, I could explain the whole story to him and it’s significance in the greater meta-narrative of the Bible.

But one area where I need to catch up is in my knowledge of the lives of the saints. Between the Apostle Paul and Billy Graham, evangelicals have a lot of blanks on the timeline. They really miss out on the hagiographies. Or at least, on the official hagiographies (more on that later).

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The Opposite of a Cultural Evangelical. Sort Of.

In my last post, I questioned poll results based on (some) evidence. Now, I’m going to question those same results without any evidence.

But don’t worry, I have something way better than evidence–a hunch. Here it is:

Picture a spectrum of people. All of these people affirm the same basic “evangelical” beliefs about Christianity, Scripture, and everything else. Now let’s say we line up all those people according to how enthusiastically they embrace the term “evangelical.”

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“Cultural Evangelical” Is Now A Thing. It Shouldn’t Be.

Okay, one more post about evangelical identity. At least until my next post.

Some of us in the evangelical world were masochistic enough to follow the aftermath of the 2016 election. For we unhappy few, one number stands out: 81. That’s the supposed percent of white evangelicals who voted for Trump.

Depressing? Sure. But I’ve already dwelt on that enough. Instead, I want to make a few points about the weirdness of polling “evangelicals.”

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Breaking News: Quiz Confirms that I Am Really Evangelical

Back in December, Mere Orthodoxy created a quiz to determine whether you are really evangelical. I waited until now to write about it because I decided it vindicates a point I made in my blog last week.

In addition to proving me right, the quiz is both well-done and hilarious. Don’t take my word for it. Go ahead and take it yourself. I’ll wait.

Okay, now that we’re on the same page, let me commend the opening section of the quiz:

“In the Trump era there is no lack of uncertainty about the true definition of an evangelical Christian. 81% of evangelical Christians supported Trump last fall and… one of Trump’s most prominent conservative critics is evangelical leader Russell Moore. It’s no surprise that a) no one knows what an evangelical is, and b) everyone wants to define it.”

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Evangelical: Good Adjective, Bad Noun

Like many of you, I bounce back and forth about my feelings toward the term “evangelical.” When someone asks if I’m an evangelical, I usually panic before pretending to get a text.

But some less-panicked thought has landed me at a solution. To make things even better, it’s grammar-based. Here it is:

I’m an Evangelical Anglican.1 But I’m not an Anglican Evangelical.

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