Essay on Evangelical Christianity in Contemporary America

Essay on Evangelical Christianity in Contemporary America

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The term “evangelical Christian” has become an extremely loaded term in our modern day society. In recent years the number of people who identify themselves as evangelical Christians has increased dramatically, making their presence impossible to ignore (Sweeney, 3). Their strong political and social viewpoints have put them in the middle of a significant amount of controversy in past and present times. This paper will explore the history and meaning behind the evangelical Christian movement, specifically in the United States, and shed light on how it evolved from a religious reformation to a contentious entity.
In order to look at the role evangelical Christianity has played throughout American history into modern day we must define what the term actually means. Etymologically, the word ‘evangelical’ comes from the Greek word ‘euangelion’ literally meaning ‘good news,’ or in a looser sense ‘gospel’ (Sweeney, 17). The term evangelical does not refer to a specific denomination of Christianity, but rather is an umbrella term that encompasses a wide variety of Protestant Christians who adhere to the evangelical beliefs. Because evangelicals are nondenominational, or perhaps more correctly multidenominational, there is no constitution or formal guidelines for faith and practice. This also means there is no set definition for what it means to be evangelical. Although no singular definition exists there are two widely agreed upon definitions that most evangelicals embrace as correct. The first comes from theologian Alister McGrath who asserts that “evangelicalism is grounded on a cluster of six controlling convictions … [which] can be set out as follows:
1. The supreme authority of Scripture as a source of knowledge of God and a gui...

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Jesus Camp. Dir. Rachel Grady and Heidi Ewing. 2006. Magnolia Pictures.
Kincheloe, Joe L. Christotainment. Boulder: Westview Press, 2009. Print.
Luo, Michael. "Evangelicals Debate the Meaning of 'Evangelical.'" The New York Times.
N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Oct. 2009. .
Smidt, Corwin. "Evangelicals within Contemporary American Politics: Differentiating
between Fundamentalist and Non-Fundamentalist Evangelicals." Western Political
Quarterly 41.3 (1988): 601-620. JSTOR. Web. 5 Dec. 2009.
Sweeney, Douglas A. The American Evangelical Story. N.p.: Baker Academic,
2005. Print.
Zoba, Wendy Murray. The Beliefnet Guide to Evangelical Christianity. N.p.: Doubleday,
2005. Print.

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