Recently on the campus of an Ivy League university, I asked some students what they thought Evangelicals believed. None of them gave and indication that they defined evangelicals by their theological convictions. Instead, the general consensus among these students was that Evangelicals are those Christians who are anti-gay, anti-feminist, anti-environmentalists, anti-immigration, anti-gun-control, pro-war, right-wing ideologues. There is little doubt that the secular media is largely responsible for this view of Evangelicals, in that it has chosen those who espouse such convictions to be the Evangelical spokespersons. The press seldom turns to political moderates when they want comments on religiously charged social issues.
Challenging the popular image of Evangelicals is one of the purposes of this movement. I want it to be known that there are millions of us who espouse an evangelical theology, but who reject being classified as part of the Religious Right. We don’t want to make Jesus into a Republican.
On the other hand, we want to say loud and clear that we don’t want to make Jesus into a Democrat, either.
Early twentieth-century playwright and social critic George Bernard Shaw once said that God created us in His image-and we decided to return the favor! Clearly there are some on the Religious Right who would make Jesus into a Republican and an incarnation of their political values. And on the other side of the aisle, there are those that would make Jesus into a Democrat who espouses their particular liberal agenda. But Jesus refuses to fit into any of our political ideologies. Transcending partisan politics, Jesus calls us to make judgments about social issues as best we can when we vote, and to do so in accord with our best understanding of God’s will. In doing so, we are to avoid partisan politics that lead to unnecessary, unproductive and even dangerous divisions.
At election time when you are asked, “Are you a Democrat or a Republican?” your answer should be, “Name the issue!” On any specific social or political issue, you must be ready and willing to work out which party and/or candidate best represents your convictions.
We begin by declaring loud and clear that we embrace the essentials that define Christianity.
First, Red Letter Christians hold to the same theological convictions that define Evangelicals. We believe in the doctrines set down in the Apostles’ Creed, which states the central beliefs the church has held over centuries:
I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.
And in Jesus Christ His only Son our Lord;
who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried;
He descended into hell; the third day He rose again from the dead;
He ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand
of God the Father Almighty; from thence He shall come
to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Ghost; the holy catholic Church;
the communion of the saints; the forgiveness of sins;
the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting.
Second, we are Christians with a very high view of Scripture. The writers of Scripture, we believe, were invaded by the Holy Spirit and were uniquely guided by God as they wrote, providing us with an infallible guide for faith and practice. We emphasize the “red letters’ because we believe that you can only understand the rest of the Bible when you read it from the perspective provided by Christ.
Third-and this is most important-we claim that the historical Jesus can be alive and present to each and every person, and that salvation depends on yielding to Him and inviting Him to be a vital, transforming presence in our lives. The same Son of God described in the Apostles’ Creed will spiritually invade any of us who will receive Him (see John1:12) to initiate in us an ongoing process whereby we are transformed into persons who are increasingly like Him (see 1 John 3:2).
The goal of Red Letter Christians is simple: To take Jesus seriously by endeavoring to live out His radical, counter-cultural teachings as set forth in Scripture, and especially embracing the lifestyle prescribed in the Sermon on the Mount.
The message of those red-lettered Bible verses is radical, to say the least. If you don’t believe me, just take a few minutes to read Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). In it, Jesus calls us away from the consumerist values that dominate contemporary America. Instead, he calls us to meet the needs of the poor. He also calls us to be merciful, which has strong implications in terms of war and capital punishment. After all, when Jesus tells us to love our enemies, he probably means we shouldn’t kill them.
On this blog, I am going to do my best to introduce you to people and ideas that will inspire, encourage, and equip you to better follow Jesus as a Red Letter Christian. Please, let me know if it helps. And above all…keep the faith!