Do we need a new evangelical manifesto?

(Photo: Unsplash/Aaron Burden)

Evangelicals, as we know, tend to get pretty short shrift in much of the media these days.

An editorial in the London-based Guardian newspaper this week, for example, grudgingly accepts that "even" a "fundamentalist Christian" – by which they mean someone taking the traditional majority view on sexuality – should be seen "as human" and be allowed "the freedom to be wrong". Er, thanks folks! Well, at least that is something, I suppose.

Part of this view of evangelicals is, of course, an integral element of the spiritual battle. We know from Scripture that those who want to reject the rule of Christ will reject and revile his representatives.

But part of it, let's be honest, is our fault as well. Sometimes we do focus too much on sex to the exclusion of other vital contemporary issues. Sometimes we are too negative. Sometimes we instinctively rush to reject the new and novel rather than engaging thoughtfully. And, in the US, of course, there is the additional problem of the association of the word 'evangelical' in many people's minds with the infantile and embarrassing Trump presidency.

So for a while I have mused about whether we need something fresh, positive and bold in terms of a new evangelical manifesto. A manifesto is a public declaration of policy and aims. Hence political parties issue them in election campaigns. And Jesus' use of Isaiah early in his ministry (Luke 4v16-20) is sometimes called the 'Nazareth Manifesto'.

I've wondered whether there is any scope for a New Evangelical Manifesto. Something that seeks, clearly and simply, to articulate some key things we want to say into today's culture. I'll be frank: the idea might be a non-starter. It may be rubbish for all sorts of reasons that haven't occurred to my little mind. I'm not claiming to have particular wisdom on this or a direct Word from the Lord that this would be a great thing to do. But I do wonder.

And as I muse, I ask myself, what might it look like? Well, here at least is one form it could I guess take:

A new evangelical manifesto –

1. With confidence and clarity we assert that Jesus Christ, who lived and died in 1st century Palestine, is raised from the dead.

2. With warmth and sincerity we invite all people everywhere to investigate these claims.

3. With urgency and heart-felt intensity we ask all people everywhere to wake up, turn around, and embrace the change of heart, mind and life that these truths bring.

4. Kindness: we believe that the God who shows himself in Jesus is immensely kind. We call on all people everywhere to conduct themselves with kindness in all relationships with others, especially those with whom they strongly disagree.

5. Dignity: we believe that each human being is more than simply a complex animal and has priceless and unique value and worth. Because of that, we support the right of each individual to live from conception to death without coercion, violence or threat.

6. Environment: we believe that we are called to be active good stewards of our beautiful planet, especially (but not only) when climate change especially threatens the poorest people in the world.

7. Community: we believe the individualism and self-autonomy that characterises much of the contemporary world can be hugely damaging, because how one person behaves inevitably affects others. We believe traditional Christian beliefs on honesty, truth, love, morality and sex bring a better story and greater flourishing than has often been perceived.

8. Fulfilment: we believe that the way to fulfilment is not through self-gratification and self-fulfilment, but through self-denial as Jesus teaches, and we invite people to discover the paradox that it is through dying to self that we find life in all its fulness.

9. Invitation: we invite you to consider these things, beginning with the life, death and resurrection of Christ, without whom the rest is meaningless. We invite you not as perfect people, but as those who are as complex and imperfect as anyone else. We invite you not to Christianity, but to Christ.

I have no idea, reader, what you will think of this. Perhaps I am just speaking into the wind.

But I wonder. I wonder.

And I wonder what you think, too.

David Baker is a former daily newspaper journalist now working as an Anglican minister in Sussex, England. Find him on Twitter @Baker_David_A