On May 7, evangelical leaders from several organizations signed what has been called An Evangelical Manifesto. This document was written by the Evangelical Manifesto Steering Committee and seeks to delineate evangelical identity and public commitment. What I like is that it moves evangelicals away from the fanaticism of both the far right and the far left and puts us on middle ground.
The word evangelical means good news, yet today, many do not see evangelicals as bearers of good news. They see us as people who stand against this and that. They see us as picky; they plainly see that we don't deal with real issues. For example, I read a news story today that was about Christians calling for the boycott of Starbucks because of a mermaid logo on its cups. Mark Dice, leader of a group called The Resistance, said that the logo "has a naked woman on it with her legs spread like a prostitute." Hmmm...the woman is a mermaid and has no legs. The modern version of the logo has the mermaid's breasts covered by her hair. The 1971 version showed her nipples. Which one is more decent?
As a side note, I'd say we church people had better start taking care of our own problems first before picking on Starbucks--a company that has not declared itself to be Christian.
The statement I really like in the Manifesto states that "Just as Jesus did, Evangelicals sometimes have to make strong judgments about what is false, unjust and evil. But first and foremost we Evangelicals are for Someone and for something rather than against anyone or anything. The Gospel of Jesus is the Good News of welcome, forgiveness, grace and liberation from law and legalism. It is a colossal Yes to life and human aspirations and an emphatic No only to what contradicts our true destiny as human beings made in the image of God." Like I said above evangelicals are seen as negative and condemning. This statement from the Manifesto tells me what I am all about. Life! Abundant life and freedom from sin. Now that is something I want to share with others.
Another thing I like is the call to a "civil public square." This is a "vision of public life in which citizens of all faiths are free to enter and engage the public square on the basis of their faith, but within a framework of what is agreed to be just and free for other faiths too." At this point, some may accuse me (and the writers of the Manifesto) as believing that pluralism is utopia. That is not so. Pluralism is reality in our culture. It is not a utopian condition but it is the condition. Who am I to rant and rave about it? I want to be able to engage people in intelligent conversation about faith and hope and life while at the same time respecting their right to disagree with me. Isn't this what God did in the Garden of Eden? He put the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in the middle of the garden and gave humans a choice to worship or to go their own way. That must be our way too if we expect to win the world through love.
Some Christians see the Manifesto as exclusive and fear that the timing of the document will cost millions of evangelical votes in the upcoming election. These people say that those who are pro-life are excluded especially. From reading the Manifesto I cannot see why they think this way. On page 18 it says: "we repudiate all who believe that different values are simply relative to different cultures, and who therefore refuse to allow anyone to judge anyone else or any other culture. More tolerant sounding at first, this position leads directly to evils of complacency; for in a world of such evils as genocide, slavery, female oppression and assaults on the unborn, there are rights that require defending, evils that must be resisted, and interventions into the affairs of others that are morally justifiable."
"We do not claim that the Evangelical principle--to define our faith and our life by the Good News of Jesus--is unique to us," the Manifesto says. "Our purpose is not to attack or to exclude but to remind and reaffirm and so to rally and to reform. For us it is the defining imperative and supreme goal of all who would follow the way of Jesus." This is not a statement of "in your face" Christianity; it suggests a lifestyle, one in which my life, through the power of Christ, makes a difference in the world around me. Now that is something I can live by.