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Yes, 'evangelical' is a religious term (#REALLY). You can look that up in history books

Yes, 'evangelical' is a religious term (#REALLY). You can look that up in history books

Over the years, your GetReligionistas have asked variations on the following question many times: What does the word "evangelical" mean?

Faithful readers will recall that, in 1987, I had a chance to ask the Rev. Billy Graham that question and, basically, he said that he no longer felt confident that he knew the answer. He then proceeded to frame "evangelical" in terms of ancient Christian doctrines, saying that he defined an "evangelical" as someone who believes all the doctrines in the ancient Nicene or the Apostles creeds. Graham stressed the centrality of belief in the resurrection and that salvation is through Jesus, alone.

However, if you follow the news, you know that most pollsters, politicos and journalists no longer believe that "evangelical" is primarily a religious word. During this week's "Crossroads" podcast (click here to tune that in), host Todd Wilken and I discussed this puzzle as we tried to make sense out of a recent "Newsmax's 100 Most Influential Evangelicals in America" list.

Take a second and scan that list, if you will. Note that, after the predictable Billy Graham nod at No. 1, the next nine are Graham’s son Franklin, Joel Osteen, Mike Huckabee, Pat Robertson, Rick Warren, Jerry Falwell Jr., Joyce Meyer, Vice President Mike Pence and the married Hollywood duo of Mark Burnett and Roma Downey.

In my new "On Religion" column on this topic, historian Thomas Kidd made the following observation about the Newsmax list:

Disputes about the meaning of “evangelical” are so sharp that “several people on this list would not even agree that some other people on the list are ‘Christians,’ let alone ‘evangelicals’ as defined by any set of core doctrines,” said historian Thomas Kidd of Baylor University, whose research includes work on American religious movements, including the roots of evangelicalism.
Making this Top 100 list, he added, seems to be linked to “some kind of prominent position in media or politics or both,” as opposed to “leading successful churches or Christian organizations. ... I would imagine all these people believe that Jesus is the Son of God and they may even share some ideas about the authority of scripture -- but that’s about it.”

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Catholics are a crucial voice in world population debate, but do journalists know it?

Catholics are a crucial voice in world population debate, but do journalists know it?

Ever since President Donald Trump took office nearly three months ago, certain publications have made it nearly their full-time job to criticize every step his administration takes.

This is not to say they’re wrong, because the man is rather easy to attack. However, these newsrooms have stepped away from their original purpose and have evolved into something totally other than what I was seeking when I took out a subscription.

Take, for example, Foreign Policy Review, which used to provide me with wonderful dollops of the kind of foreign news I can’t find in any local newspaper.

Things have changed and today’s “voices” column is typical. “Can Trump Learn?” asks one columnist. “Donald Trump’s Presidency is an Assault on Women,” reads another. And then there’s “Is Trump Russia’s Useful Idiot or Has He Been Irreparably Compromised?”

On some of its foreign news dispatches, its coverage has shown the same singular focus. On April 3, it posted the following about a controversial UN fund that, among other things, funds abortions. Although that’s not quite how Foreign Policy Review words it:

The State Department announced Monday that it would cut funding for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), a policy shift that could directly impact the lives of girls and women around the world.
Foggy Bottom claims that the UNFPA, which funds reproductive health and family planning in 150 countries around the world, “supports or participates in” the Chinese government’s policies of coercive abortion and involuntary sterilization.

Now, the State Department is not the only entity that opposes the UNFPA. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has a position paper placing the agency right in the center of China’s murderous “one child” policy. Continuing on:

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Obama's new Bible bobble gets media notice -- and a few defenders

Obama's new Bible bobble gets media notice -- and a few defenders

Remember the mashup by the Biblicist-in-Chief to support his new immigration policy? On Nov. 20, President Obama said the Bible tells us that "we shall not oppress a stranger, for we know the heart of a stranger –- we were strangers once, too."

Well, he's at it again -- while arguing immigration reform again -- and the varying reactions of news outlets are instructive.

"I think the Good Book says, you know, don't throw stones in glass houses, or make sure we're looking at the log in our eye before we're pointing out the mote in other folks' eyes," Obama said Tuesday at an "Immigration Town Hall" in Nashville. "And I think that's as true in politics as it is in life."

He was partly right. Jesus did say something like it in Matthew 7:3-4, although Obama apparently mixed translations. Here it is in the commonly quoted King James Version:

And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?  Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?

The New Revised Standard Version, used by mainline Protestants, substitutes "speck" for "mote" and "log" for "beam." So Obama wasn't wrong, just patching together different versions.

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