But now that you have been freed from sin and enslaved to God, the advantage you get is sanctification. The end is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. — Christian scripture, Romans 6:22-23
You were made by God and for God and until you understand that, life will never make sense. — Rick Warren, founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, an Evangelical Christian congregation averaging 22,000 weekly attendees with a 120-acre campus and more than 300 community ministries to groups such as prisoners, CEOs, addicts, single parents, and those with HIV/AIDS. Recently, the church fed 42,000 homeless people—three meals a day—for 40 days.
IN TODAY'S WORKSHOP...we discussed the contemporary Evangelical Christianity movement. We explored the concept of being born again, considered the popularity of fundamentalist beliefs and Evangelical worship in the U.S. today, and grounded ourselves in UU faith-based responses to Evangelical expressions we might encounter in politics, culture, and our own lives.
What is the "good news" of Unitarian Universalism? Should you share this good news with people who might need to know of our affirming faith? How do you do that?
Has someone ever attempted to "bring you to Jesus?" How did you respond? Were you offended? Why? Now that you know more about Evangelical beliefs, and understand that sharing their beliefs with you is part of an Evangelical's faith, might you respond differently?
EXPLORE THE TOPICS WITH FAMILY AND FRIENDS
- Evangelical music in the U.S. comes in many flavors, including contemporary Christian rock music and black gospel. The website Christian Music 4 Praise and Worship has links to a variety of genres of Christian music. Explore and listen.
- Do a keyword search on YouTube to hear and see diverse gospel artists. Rejoice and Shout is a 2011 documentary, with singing by Mavis Staples, Smokey Robinson, Mahalia Jackson and others, that demonstrates the place of Christian gospel music in the African American experience and its impact on American music and culture.
- TobyMac is a Christian recording artist whose genres include rap and rock.
- Evangelical preachers are a popular subject for feature films as well as documentaries. Common themes are the charismatic minister with a strong personality who fails to "walk the talk" in their personal life, and gets caught, or begins to question their beliefs. A good, older movie is Elmer Gantry (directed by Richard Brooks, 1960). In Leap of Faith (directed by Richard Pearce, 1992), Steve Martin plays a fake faith healer who confronts his own faith. In The Apostle (directed by and starring Robert Duvall, 1997, PG-13), a minister leaves his Texas town when his life is in crisis and becomes an evangelical radio preacher in Louisiana. The Eyes of Tammy Faye (directed by Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato, 2000) is a tongue-in-cheek documentary of television evangelist Tammy Faye Baker.
- Teenagers in the Evangelical movement are another popular movie topic. Watch the documentary Jesus Camp (2006). The CBS program, 48 Hours, showed a documentary about young people training to become Christian missionaries, The Lord's Boot Camp; watch a short trailer on YouTube. The movie Saved (directed by Brian Dannelly, 2004, PG-13), with Mandy Moore and Macaulay Culkin, is a satire about a student at a Christian high school who gets pregnant.
- T.D. Jakes is a well known African American evangelist. He is the pastor of Potter's House in Dallas, Texas, which has more than 30,000 members, and a bestselling author of spiritual support books. His ministry is broadcast on television and online, and he has written, produced, or endorsed several feature films with faith messages that feature African American artists. Two that are rated PG-13 are Not Easily Broken (directed by Bill Dukes, 2009) and Jumping the Broom (directed by Salim Akil, 2011).
- Tim Lahaye and Jerry B. Jenkins are co-authors of the bestselling fiction series Left Behind. The books chronicle the Rapture—the end of the world, according to some Christians, when the holy will ascend to Heaven and others will be left behind on a damaged, post-apocalyptic earth. Left Behind: The Kids is about a group of youth left on earth after the Apocalypse. The authors' website tells more about their beliefs and describes their evangelical purpose in writing and promoting the book series.
- Well known contemporary evangelicals include Billy Graham, Oral Roberts, Jerry Falwell, Rick Warren, Benny Hinn, and Joel Osteen. Osteen is the pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas. His services are available online. Weekly attendance at this church reaches 47,000. Watch a television evangelist with family of friends. Discuss their message—the ideas they offer and the feelings they seem to want to raise. Do parts of their presentation speak to you? Watch more than one and compare. What do you notice about different ministers' styles? Do African American ministers differ from European American ministers? How?