Pastor Tullian Tchividjian, senior pastor at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, believes that evangelical Christianity has been tarnished by its association with the religious right.
Tchividjian told TheBlaze that the relationship between Christianity and certain political movements and leaders has led to false impressions among nonbelievers surrounding what the faith truly represents.
“I think the impression that most non-evangelicals have is that [evangelicalism is] a political movement — it’s a culturally warring movement,” he said. “Closely associating the core message of the Christian faith with a political ideology has always been a huge mistake.”
As the grandson of famed evangelical leader Billy Graham, Tchividjian has had a firsthand look at the movement.
“My take on it having grown up in the evangelical world … the sort of rise of the religious right and its close association between the church and politics has done big-time damage to the brand of Christianity in the public sphere,” he said.
Tchividjian said that if he were to strike up a conversation with a non-believing stranger about the word “evangelical,” he believes the person would likely associate the term with social and political stances, based on overall public perception.
“As important as those things might be to discuss, that’s not the central message of what it means to be an evangelical,” he said. “Historically speaking, evangelicals were good news specialists and because we’ve become so closely aligned with political ideologies and culture warring issues, what’s been lost is the core good news message of the Christian faith.”
While Tchividjian, who also noted that the word “evangel” means “good news,” said he’s not sure what can be done to fix the perception problem, he believes pastors need to stick to their calling if they want to undo “the damage that has been done to the brand of evangelicalism” — that is, preaching the Christian gospel.
He has recommended in the past that pastors consider spending the next five years refusing to talk from the pulpit about anything other than the Bible. He said it’s not that pastors can’t have opinions, but he highlighted the importance of compartmentalizing and being careful how ideas are shared.
“I have lots of opinions … on just about anything. I basically almost refuse to make any kind of public commentary on anything other than the gospel [from the pulpit],” Tchividjian said, adding that it is a pastor’s job to “diagnose and deliver sinners, not champion a political or social agenda.”
He continued: “For the last 40 years we’ve talked more about what’s going on in our culture … than we have preaching Christ and him crucified.”
Tchividjian’s comments follow recent survey results showing that evangelical Christians are viewed positively by the majority of Americans.
But while evangelicals received an average of 61 on the Pew Research Center’s ”feeling thermometer,” reflecting a fairly positive overall view, the average number dropped to 52 when measuring how non-evangelicals view the Christian cohort.
Considering that only 30 percent of respondents had a highly favorable view of evangelicals, with 27 percent falling in the lowest range, Tchividjian expressed his concerns.
Read TheBlaze’s previous interview last year with Tchividjian in which he discussed additional problems in the faith and outlined how Christians can get their personal faith back on track.