Sep 25 2009

Candler Evangelical Society


Evangelical. What does it mean to be Evangelical? How do Evangelicals view the world, humanity, and salvation through Jesus Christ? Are there “liberal” Evangelicals versus “conservative” Evangelicals? And what’s the difference? So many good questions!

Wrestling with what is means to be Evangelical and how this relates to all one’s relationships and work in the world is a big part of the work of the Candler Evangelical Society (CES). In the United States, there are positive connotations to the “E word,” evangelical.

Ben Gosden is a second-year MDiv Student at Candler and the President of CES. About the CES, Ben writes,

In and through our involvement at Candler we desire to reach out to the community and, hopefully, work to change the skewed view of what being evangelical means. Our view is one of love for ALL people, recognition of all human equality under God, and that salvation through Jesus Christ not only includes us with God in the world to come, but also that we are to work, in and through the Holy Spirit, to establish that world right where we are.

sandwichesThe term “evangelical” is a fairly new invention, considering the 2000 year history of the Christian faith. The term showed up in the middle ages, and only appeared in English in 1531. Given it’s short history, the term has had many definitions and permutations.

Today, Evangelicals are not monolithic, but are multi-faceted. For instance, among other things, the Candler Evangelical Society is committed to challenging the notion that Evangelicals are inactive in the world in terms of works of love and justice. Last week, students from the CES made over 500 sandwiches for the Open Door Community, a Christian ministry to homeless people in Atlanta.

CES has also been active in promoting a panel discussion about people of faith and health care reform that includes professors from Theology, Public Health, and other Emory departments. CES is also set to host Bishop Will Willimon (Candler grad ’73) for a talk in November.

There’s a lot going on at the CES–check out their Facebook Page (search for “Candler Evangelical Society”) and the video below, from their Kickoff Lunch.

So what does “evangelical” mean to you?

Nov 7 2008

What the Torture Debate Reveals about American Christianity

On Wednesday, November 5, 2008, Candler was proud to host a talk and discussion with Dr. David Gushee and Abbas Barzegar (Dr. Gushee left below; Abbas Barzegar right) about torture and American Christianity and how this issue shapes the impression of the United States in the Muslim world. Dr. Gushee is Distinguished University Professor of Christian Ethics at Mercer University in Atlanta, GA. Abbas Barzegar is a PhD candidate in Emory’s Graduate Division of Religion and is teaching Introduction to Islam at Candler this semester. The lunch-time gathering drew about 55 Candler faculty, staff, students and visitors.

Dr. Gushee is an Evangelical Christian, a recognized scholar in the field, a highly visible public figure in the torture debate, as well as President of Evangelicals for Human Rights. Gushee began by stating that the revelation of the mistreatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib was a symbolic, triggering event that brought out Church leaders to speak out against the U.S. government’s use of torture. Gushee went on to say that he, as an Evangelical leader, worked with other Christian leaders on drafting a pan-Christian resolution straightforwardly repudiating the use of torture by the United States. Yet some major Evangelical Christian leaders, such as James Dobson and Charles Colson, refused to join in the call.

Gushee was critical of the moves by the Bush Administration to, among other things, redefine what is and is not torture, to institute “new interrogation protocols” (code for expanding the number of cruel techniques that the U.S. government can use on detainees), and finally to block the release of information regarding the practices that the United States uses to interrogate detainees.

Among Gushee’s recommendations to the leadership of this country regarding torture, I found the two to be most simple and yet most powerful. First, to remind our government that Torture is a Moral Issue. Simple as that. Second, The National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT) suggests that the United States adopt an position called The “Golden Rule” principle, which states simply: “We will not authorize or use any methods of interrogation that we would not find acceptable if used against Americans, be they civilians or soldiers.” As Christians, even in difficult times and in dire straits, we need to stick to our Christian Principles and “do unto others as we would have them do unto us,” (Matthew 7:12 ; Luke 6:31) even regarding interrogation techniques!

Abbas Barzegar gave some wonderful reflections on how the United States’ use of torture has affected the Muslim world and the Middle East. Barzegar stated that the pictures that emerged from Abu Ghraib unfortunately confirmed the fears that many Muslims and Middle Easterners already had about the United States. Namely, that, while speaking about moral leadership in the world and seeming to champion democracy and human rights, the US was acting in deeply and horrifically hypocritical ways. On a hopeful note, though, Barzegar relayed that the Muslim world is willing to believe in the ideals of America and that America can once again be a leader in human rights. The hope is that the torture, deceptions, and cover-ups that have taken place under the Bush Administration will be part of an isolated, though dark, chapter in American history never to be repeated.