The term “evangelical” is difficult to define. At its root, it refers to Protestant Christians who emphasize the “good news” of Jesus Christ.

But it continually takes on pejorative meanings (more often associated with fundamentalism) and is often claimed by one particular group of evangelical Christians — such as the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE).

The NAE was in the news last week when longtime (28 years) vice president Richard Cizik (above) was pressured to resign after telling NPR that he was “shifting” in his views on same-sex unions.

Cizik was already in the cross-hairs of many NAE members for pushing conservative Christians on global warming and showing personal support for the candidacy of Barack Obama.

The truth is that Cizik was no longer a good fit for the NAE. Any group deserves a spokesperson who represents the organization most clearly.

His shifting perspectives had put him at odds with some of the more visible “evangelical” leaders. According to Christianity Today, Charles Colson said Cizik “was gradually … separating himself from the mainstream of evangelical belief and conviction.”

Not surprising, Southern Baptist bigwig Richard Land didn’t like Cizik’s comments either — though they achieved the unimaginable goal of causing Land to be “momentarily speechless.”

Of course, evangelicalism is not limited to one group that embraces the name. But the result of this action and others seems to be a narrowing agenda for many evangelicals to opposition to homosexuality and abortion.

If being evangelical is reflected in a commitment to the good news of Jesus, count me in. If it is a narrow ethical/political agenda that makes no room for re-evaluation and shifts in perspectives, I’d rather be known by something else.

Being Baptist (but not fundamentalist) takes about an hour already to explain now. Who wants to deal with another confusing label?

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