For years, I’ve had discussions about the term “Evangelical” with other Christians who see peace and justice as a core part of the gospel. I always argue that the term is too far gone and they argue that we should reclaim it. That it is theologically accurate and the best word to describe who we are.
At the same time, I’ve never been very comfortable with the label “Liberal” either. Coming of age with Clinton bombing countries right and left (7 or 8 depending on how you count) in the name of liberalism probably had something to do with it.
This week over on Revolution in Jesusland, Zack Exley used the term Covenantal Christians to describe a category that I instinctively identify with.
Essentially, covenantal Christians are those who are motivated by a sense that God calls us to make sacrifices based on the principles and traditions. Those of us who see our covenant with God above all else. Of course, we rarely succeed in this endeavor, but we at least give it a try.
He sums it up this way:
…they believe that a God who is actively engaged in humanity is inviting us into a new covenant with him–one aiming at peace and justice–and they are desperately trying to live up to this new covenant.
Its a big tent, but I think a useful one. He includes under this label: Emergent, Red-Letter, Evangelical, Born Again and even maybe Fundamentalist. I would add some other labels such as Anabaptist and New Monastic to this list.
I think one of the particularly useful parts of this description is that it crosses the battle lines of the Culture Wars in some way. There’s a comment in respond to Zack’s post that links to this video on the New Yorker site:
If you have 15 minutes sometime, I highly recommend this video of a presentation by Jonathan Haidt. He lays out a compelling explanation for the reasons that issues like gay marriage have come to define politics so much. He also challenges those in the audience who identify as left of center (nearly all of them based on a show of hands) consider a broader view of morality in order to better understand wear conservatives are coming from.
The concept of “Covenantal Christians” forces (or allows) those of us who are left of the center to reclaim what we have in common with conservative Christians, while at the same time offering a common vocabulary for discussing our widely divergent theological and political belief systems.
But before I go much farther, I’d like to test this label with all you YARers out there. Does Zack’s definition resonate with you?