As a Mormon kid growing up in the area of Southern California largely settled by Dust Bowl migrants from Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Missouri, evangelicals (we called them born-agains) were the enemy. They were the ones circulating anti-Mormon movies like the Godmakers, they were the ones telling me and my friends of the “swing-set set” that we weren’t saved, that we weren’t even Christian.
When I evolved into a liberal Mormon, theologically and politically, my opinion of evangelicals was one of the few constants in my worldview. I still had an instinctive dislike for them, their tactics, and theology.
Now that I am more comfortable in my own skin, though, I have discovered that I actually like some evangelicals. In fact, there is an entire subsection of evangelicals from whom I have learned a great deal theologically and spiritually.
My favorite Evangelical is Brian McLaren, former pastor of Cedar Ridge Church in Maryland. Author of many books like A New Kind of Christian, The Story We Find Ourselves In, Finding Our Way: The Return of the Ancient Practices, and A Generous Orthodoxy, Brian represents the emerging church, or emergent Christianity, which some polemically have called a return to the old social gospel, but which its advocates have pointed out is much more open to spiritual practices from Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism. You are as likely to find Brian and those of his kind fasting, practicing fixed-hour prayer, and campaigning for Obama as you are to find them doing the traditional Sunday morning mega-church thing.
McLaren and others like Doug Pagitt are reinvigorating evangelicalism. What was once a monochromatic phemenon is now vibrant and varied. I love the way they talk about what the message of Jesus was and is.These are the kind of evangelicals I wish I had known as a conservative Mormon kid, or as a newly-liberal Mormon young adult. They are also evangelicals who don’t seek to exclude, but rather to include, even to accept that Mormons can be followers of the way of Jesus.
These emergent Christians help me see Christ in a new way and to be excited about His message and what it means for our world right now in a way I’m not getting from other sources. Why is that?