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Mark Daniels Christian Blog and Commentary

The Name Game

I’m at my wits’ end with “buzzwords.” Take the term, “evangelical.” The night of the Iowa caucuses, the TV news media stressed--every single time they mentioned Mike Huckabee’s victory in Iowa—that his win could be ascribed to the big “evangelical” voter turnout. In conceding his own second-place finish, Mitt Romney pejoratively spit the word “preacher” at Huckabee, almost the same way Rush Limbaugh derisively tosses out the word “liberal.” Fortunately, the former Arkansas governor has yet to throw the words “Mormon bishop” back at Romney, who’d love the “religion problem” to be Huckabee’s, and not his own. 


It’s not unusual for the media to use labels like “evangelical” and “religious right;” it provides convenient cover for our talking heads, and their general ignorance of who believers are, and how they think.

So Christians in the voting booth are now to be known as “evangelicals.” But what exactly does that word mean? Well, the “Wiktionary” online defines an “evangelical” as one who’s “part of a
Protestant movement basing its theology almost entirely on Scripture, which is held to be ‘inerrant.” Well, that’s vague, but it’s a pretty good start. The “Free Dictionary” says that “evangelical” is “of, relating to, or being a Christian church believing in the sole authority and inerrancy of the Bible, in salvation only through regeneration (or re-birth), and in a spiritually transformed personal life.” Even better…but one has to wonder how many of the reported 60% of Iowa voters attending the caucuses actually fit that description. And—according to some exit polling—the majority of those portrayed as “evangelicals” didn’t vote for Huckabee anyway.


But perhaps the strictest definition of “evangelical” is cast by pollster George Barna. His 7-point description claims that “evangelicals:”


1. Say their faith is very important in their life today;

2. Believe they have a personal responsibility to share their religious beliefs about Christ with non-Christians;

3. Believe that Satan exists;

4. Believe that eternal salvation is possible only through grace, not works;

5. Believe that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth;

6. Assert that the Bible is accurate in all that it teaches; and

7. Describe God as the all-knowing, all-powerful, perfect deity who created the universe and still rules it today.

By these criteria, Barna estimates that only 8% of the population is truly evangelical—far fewer than the 60% the media was estimating in Iowa. Perhaps a more interesting test for the next caucus might be how many of those participating would wander into Barna’s corner of the room and raise their hands, representing as an “evangelical” for all the world to see. Maybe then our friends in the media could choose another collective term by which they might stereotype and marginalize Christians.