Struggling with Evangelicalism
When evangelicals make a mess, who cleans it up?
Many today are discarding the evangelical label, even if they still hold to the historic tenets of evangelicalism. But evangelicalism is a space, not just a brand, and living in that space is complicated.
As a lifelong evangelical who happens to be a biracial Asian/White millennial, Dan Stringer has felt both included and alienated by the evangelical community and has wrestled with whether to stay or go. He sits as an uneasy evangelical insider with ties to many of evangelicalism's historic organizations and institutions. Neither "everything's fine" nor "burn it all down," Stringer offers a thoughtful appreciation of evangelicalism's history, identity, and strengths, but also lament for its blind spots, toxic brokenness, and complicity with injustice. From this complicated space, we can move forward with informed vision rather than resignation and with hope for our future together.
"Dan Stringer was once my student, but now he has become my teacher. I learned a lot from this book, about both the brokenness and beauty of the movement that I love. He also offers many wise, practical lessons about how to go about the necessary repair work. May it happen!"
"I'm not sure I'd call myself an evangelical anymore; God knows many have already labeled me as an outsider. But because of the way labels are adopted or assigned, it was good for my soul to read Struggling with Evangelicalism and be able to give thanks for a tradition while also critiquing it as a former insider. Stringer invites readers to separate the brand from the space, and while I don't know if that can actually be done, it's an invitation worth examining for any faith tradition."
"Stringer disentangles evangelicalism's current politically tainted brand in the United States from its historical roots and diverse global embodiment. His nuanced discussion offers something to think about for those on both sides of the debate."
"Part memoir, part sociological study, and part theological reflection, this honest and winsome book is for any Christian who uneasily identifies with historical evangelicalism. Reframing it beyond the brand that has become increasingly problematic, Dan Stringer uses his own life experience, which has stretched beyond North American contexts and assumptions, to both call and equip those of us who inhabit evangelicalism to the shared task of attending to—and renewing—our own space. As one who has been uneasy with the evangelical moniker, even while being firmly part of its institutions and community, I am grateful for perspective he brings in this timely book. I believe many others will be too."
"Dan Stringer offers us a helpful guide to navigating the frustrations with the evangelical movement. He understands some may be 'done' with it, but for others he invites them to join a renewal project characterized by both clear-eyed honesty and hope. Indeed, Christians of any tradition can find a helping hand offered by Stringer."
"It's time for us to have an honest, challenging yet loving conversation about the state of evangelicalism and how to address some of the harm and heartbreak caused by the evangelical movement of the '80s and '90s. It's time for us to acknowledge that we were formed to love Jesus and follow his way in relevant and meaningful ways, not just praying together at a flagpole or self-identifying as 'Jesus freaks' because of three cool rapping Christian guys. It's time for us to address the nuances of evangelicalism and appreciate how we were formed by evangelical spaces but repent for the ways the evangelical brand has burned so many vulnerable people on the margins. Dan Stringer, in Struggling with Evangelicalism, leads us well in these important conversations on formation, appreciation, and yes, even repentance for the cultural effect of evangelicalism. With thoughtful analysis, engaging storytelling, and tender pastoral care, he offers a hopeful way forward for all who wonder, 'Am I? Could I still be? What does it even mean to be . . . evangelical?'"
"Sometimes it seems evangelicalism has been battered and sullied beyond repair. Dan Stringer shows us why we shouldn't give up on it. A wise and humble guide, he takes us on a compelling tour of the evangelical landscape and models the values of awareness, appreciation, repentance, and renewal that he prescribes as antidotes to our present myopia, dissension, toxicity, and despair. The goal, Pastor Stringer argues, is not to salvage evangelicalism as a brand but to be faithful disciples of Jesus in this particular space where he has called us. The struggle to stay focused on that goal is real, but this excellent book offers hope for the journey."
"The ambivalence of what it means to be evangelical is addressed honestly and courageously through Dan Stringer's prescient reflections on the present and future of evangelicalism in the world today. Through the background of his own cultural hybridity, Dan weaves his struggle with evangelicalism by reformulating traditional theological approaches with a refreshing model of awareness, appreciation, repentance, and renewal. In this process he offers us his greatest gift—his authenticity. With remarkable and compelling words, this book captured my imagination and inspired within me generative ideas that challenged my own thinking with gutsy realism. It is not just a narrative of his own journey. It is about ours as well. With a firm and gentle invitation, Dan craftily ushers us into the struggles and hopes we all face. In doing so, we will discover who we are and by doing so, begin to embrace the space in which we belong."
Foreword by Richard Mouw
Introduction: When Evangelicalism Is Your Mother
1 Struggling with Evangelicalism
Part I: Awareness
2 Defining Evangelicalism: Understanding Our History
3 Faith Stream Awareness: Knowing Your Location
Part II: Appreciation
4 Why Appreciation Matters
5 Strengthening Our Strengths
Part III: Repentance
6 Evil Cloaked in Spiritual Language
7 Learning to Repent Communally
Part IV: Renewal
8 Is Evangelicalism Worth Renewing?
9 Better Than We Found It
Epilogue: Hope for Your Struggle