By Ashleigh Bailey

Baptist author Ashleigh Bailey

Around election season, the media features numerous reminders of what others expect of an “evangelical”: a Republican who prioritizes “moral” issues such as abortion and gay marriage.  Although some people get bent out of shape about this exclusionary stereotype, I typically just roll my eyes at it.  I know that a large minority of evangelicals are politically moderate or even liberal like myself, and I don’t really expect journalists in politics—or even religion—to properly use the evangelical label anyway.

That doesn’t mean I haven’t struggled with the label myself.  While my becoming a feminist in high school and my developing a passion for social justice in college both surprised some of my evangelical peers, it has more often been cultural differences that have caused me to wonder if I still belong:  I hate kitschy bookstores, 90s praise music, and megachurches.  A high school boyfriend claimed he was dumping me because I didn’t raise my hands enough in worship, and in college well-meaning mentors wished I would read more “me and Jesus books,” i.e. devotional literature.  As I grew in my appreciation for multi-ethnicity, American evangelicalism began to feel awfully racially divided and overwhelmingly white.  As I learned about world religions and diverse Christian theologies, evangelicalism began to feel sheltered and belligerent.  As I studied in seminary, evangelicalism began to feel naively disengaged from mainstream biblical scholarship and arrogantly dismissive towards church history and tradition. Read More…