I worry when political labels are used simultaneously in the religious realm. Take "conservative evangelical," for example. I think it describes someone striving to preserve what is right and good and defending biblical truth, but why, then, does the juxtaposition of those two words sound so ... odd? Maybe it's because of our King's call to serve as light-shedding transformer as well as salty conserver. No matter where we are politically, when it comes to our faith, true followers of Jesus must be radical and conservative at the same time.
In a recent presentation about evangelism at a Vision New England conference, James Emery White demonstrated how attitudes about the church and Christianity took a dramatic turn for the worse in North America during and after the sixties. I believe this exodus from the pews, especially by young people, may have taken place because the evangelical church was perceived as trying to conserve rather than change the injustice of segregation. Those who valued truth were not demonstrating love to a generation on the hunt for both.
We have a window of opportunity again to be salt and light for a new cohort of young people eager to make a difference. This time around, we can't afford to undermine our message by not leading the way. Will the arm of the church known for talking about a "personal relationship with Jesus" rise to the challenge? Evangelicals are already battling horrors like world hunger, human trafficking, infanticide, child pornography, homelessness, and genocide, but there are other issues to champion and room to help shoulder these burdens. Even a conservative Republican can -- and must -- be a radical follower of Jesus when it comes to fighting injustice. Especially if we hope to see young people come into our sanctuaries, eagerly seeking Truth.