Guest Blogger

When Does Good News Become Bad News?

Filed By Guest Blogger | August 08, 2010 5:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Politics
Tags: anti-gay Christians, bad news, evangelical Christian, retaking a word

Editors' Note: Guest blogger Rev. Rick Elliott has been a minister since June 1973 and has frequently handled the overflow of weddings from a university chapel. He has received an M/Div from Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, and did five-sixths of a D.Min at Perkins School of Divinity (SMU).

t3.jpgA rich word has been misappropriated and nobody seems to care, much less challenge the wrong usage. Evangelical is a beautiful word, full of meaning: it refers to good news, spreaders of good news. It comes from the Greek word Euangelion--good news. In Old English it's Godspell--or gospel.

Some may wonder if I'm playing semantic games: getting worked up about the misuse of some Greek word that most folks wouldn't have any notion where the word came from, much less see that a good word is being manipulated by folks to put a nice face on their activities and make them feel all pious about themselves.

You got me pegged! To me it's personal.

Look at the group who has glommed onto the word to identify themselves. Are the following behaviors examples of good news:

  • A group sponsoring Ugandan legislation that would make homosexuality a crime with a death sentence attached?
  • Promoters of a theological stance that claims if you don't believe in their particular dogmas you're going to hell?
  • Advocates of guilt and shame to whip folks into line with their views?
  • People who would more widely administer the death penalty, but claim the pregnant girl who was raped must carry to term the spawn of her molester?
  • People who deny children the possibility of parents--either adoptive of foster parents--just because they don't like homosexuals?
  • Folks who can freely pick and choose biblical texts to take literally, based on their own agenda without benefit of a thought-out theological rationale?
  • A group who claim to take all of Scripture literally, yet cannot stand to have the biblical criterion of love one another applied to them?

I've given my life to the church and now I'm an embarrassment. They get all bible-sounding when they quote obscure verses from a book in the Bible most Christians haven't even read. The closest most came to studying this book is when they did a word search to find quotes to back up their bigotry and stumbled on these verses, feeling they'd hit the jackpot. However, this same book devotes chapter after chapter to what foods are clean and unclean. Maybe that's how we can give them a dose of their own medicine--be equally judgmental about so-called evangelicals who continue to eat shrimp and bacon or orate against folks who don't pony up a full 10% (a tithe) of their real income to their church.

I'm sometimes speechless when gay friends look at me, shaking their heads with a look that voices their bewilderment, "How can you really be a part of the church?!" One guy snickered as he said, "I gave up the Church for Lent!" (Followed by knee-slapping raucous laughter). It's personal because they won't give me time to explain. Yes, many GLBT folks have moved on, particularly because of the way many of them were treated by churches they went to every Sunday until they came out.

It's personal when for a decade I can't go back to visit a congregation I gave my life to because my presence would upset folks.

But the bottom line reason it's personal is because their behavior doesn't bear any resemblance to the teacher from Nazareth named Jesus.

It's time we mount an effort to restore evangelical to designate a more applicable gathering of folks. Let them call themselves revivalists or religious right. These folks don't have any reason to call themselves good news. They have no right to the rich word evangelical, they are bad news not good news.


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Thanks for the perspective Rick. In my daily walk I meet a lot of Christvestites. They dress the part and try to convince people they follow Jesus of Nazareth. It kinda goes like this....oh look, I have a Bible, it is the word of God. Let me tell you how to interpret it.

In addition to the other good points you raise, Rev. Rick, it would be a major improvement if such people would just start taking seriously the one commandment, "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor." So many of their attacks against LGBT people are based on intentionally fabricated lies.

Rev. Rick Elliott
Thank You! Too bad most of the People that use the Bible to deny the rights of anyone, have no idea about the book! I am ashamed to have to do a "Civil Union" in New Jersey for same sex couples that have been togeather for years or any "Civil Union" The paper work is the same, Marriage or Civil Union, just different boxes checked. The rights are totally not the same! I do not think that GOD would make that choice! I see love and understanding. Not for us to Judge anyone! That is written! Please forgive the fundies for they do not know what they are doing! Keep reaching out Rev. Rick Eillott!

These people have long ago hijacked God to suit their own purpose. They were a problem in the Catholic church (and still are), the Lutherans and other denominations that followed had their share too, and now these "evangelical" and Baptist-branch sects are infected with them.

One of the harshest facts about religion is that it's a mirror. It really reflects what's inside of a person and it always has two sides. One reflects light and the other sucks it in. They can't exist without the other and religion can't exist without corruption.

Dan Massey | August 9, 2010 1:27 AM

These false religionists, these bigoted hypocrites, these sons of apes who pretend to speak in the name of God have utterly failed to understand the simplest commandment to "take not the name of the Lord in vain." That does not mean "don't curse." God could care less if you use her name in forceful speech.

What God cares about is those who dare to falsely represent him before their fellow humans. To speak for God one must know the thoughts of God. And only a true lover of truth, not some stupid monkey mouthing platitudes, can ever approach that goal. Better to keep your pie hole shut all the time and never dare to speak of God, assholes. That's surely the only way she'll be able to love you.

Those who refuse to live by the truth shall perish by the truth.

Religion isn't about making sense. It's about us versus them, and the fear of death.

I wish more like-minded individuals with an evangelical calling would start their own churches. There are those of us who certainly would welcome them and can use their guidance.
Trying to change a church from within is a worthy task but one filled with anguish and disappointment and little if any resulting change.

I too hate the way the word evangelism has become freighted with connotations of bigotry, stupidity, hypocrisy, and hate (have I left anything out?). Not because I still have any attachment to the religion I was raised in, but because my darling wife is named Evangline, and she is definitely good news, having stuck with me through more than three decades, even after I came out (as bi) a few years ago. You could say that I am an Evangelist of a different sort entirely!

Chitown Kev | August 9, 2010 8:05 PM

Yeah, I get worked up about the missuse of "heresy" as well.

It's actually a word from the Greek which means "to choose". It was actually applied in pre-Christian times to the simple choice of philosophy that one made from several philosophical schools of thought in ancient Greece.

Now it means an opinion of doctrine at varience with "standard" or "orthodox" beliefs.

Rick Elliott | August 10, 2010 4:19 AM

Thanks for the encouragement, Bil deserves credit for the article. I submitted a much shorter version. He says it was shorter than they usually used--could I beef it up some. I tried to rely on the personal aspect and being blunt about what I think.