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Evangelicals, Social Justice, and Reclaiming the Faith


Deborah Jian Lee left the evangelical world in her mid-twenties after growing weary of the culture wars. While she remained committed to her faith, she struggled to reconcile the message of the religious right with the gospels, so her faith became a wandering, nameless thing. After returning to the evangelical world as a journalist, she sought out believers who were living out the teachings of Jesus and found a radical tribe of evangelicals thriving at the margins. Racial minorities, women, and queer Christians were carving a new path for evangelicalism—one rooted in social justice. Deborah decided to write a book for the younger version of herself—the one who mistakenly thought that being evangelical and embracing social gospel values were mutually exclusive. She realized that if she had met these devout believers back then, if she had known their stories intimately and understood evangelical history more robustly, she likely would not have left the community. This book is for the generation of faithful evangelicals, post-evangelicals, ex-evangelicals, questioning evangelicals and weary evangelicals looking for a family with whom to live out their faith, with all the mess and beauty that comes with community. It’s also a book for the rest of the world—secular liberals, the media, religious progressives, etc—who have often misunderstood and stereotyped the evangelical community. With love, passion and rigorous reporting, Deborah tells the story of the evangelicals the world needs to meet in Rescuing Jesus: How People of Color, Women, and Queer Christians are Reclaiming Evangelicalism (on sale November 10).

An Invitation to Our Readers: We want you to add your voice to the conversation by sharing stories about ways evangelicals are reclaiming the faith and rescuing it from partisan politics. Use the hashtag #RescuingJesus across social media and help us shine a light on the individuals and organizations who are propelling this shift.

Read on to learn about some of the individuals who are part of the new face of the Evangelical movement.

  • Lisa Sharon Harper, a Washington D.C.-based black evangelical leader, is advancing gender equality and bringing conservative white evangelicals into the Black Lives Matter movement. Her life story involves a stunning departure from the white fundamentalist faith she once embraced toward a prophetic faith that emphasizes inclusion and radical activism; her leadership has galvanized the rising generation.
  • Jennifer Crumpton, a former Alabama pageant queen, rejected the homemaker aspirations of her Southern Baptist roots to become a reverend, a protégée of feminist icon Robin Morgan, and a leading evangelical working with powerful conservative leaders to make women’s health, equality, and agency central to faith communities.
  • Troy Jackson, a white Evangelical pastor from Cincinnati, OH, leads the AMOS Project, a coalition of congregations actively addressing local racial injustices. Troy often hears white evangelicals lament about how their community was complicit during Jim Crow and absent during the civil rights movement. Today, Troy sees an opportunity for the evangelical church to act on its regret. “We have to begin to move, whether it’s on the gun issue, whether it’s on policing and criminal justice, whether it’s on law enforcement, immigration, the environment,” he said. “Are we going to actually build a base of people committed to this and do that hard work?”
  • Will Haggerty and Tasha Magness, gay student leaders at Biola University, in 2012 formed a secret support group of LGBTQ students where everyone was loved and wholly included in the faith. Together they forged a community that helped heal young believers of unloving messages they had learned from Christian leaders and families that rejected them. Many members of the group came out of hiding in 2013, making national headlines and sparking a campus-wide dialogue on equality that is still continuing.
  • Soong-Chan Rah, a race and church-growth history scholar, is educating evangelicals about how the church must embrace diversity in order to survive, thrive, and live out kingdom inclusivity. By urging his community to honestly grapple with its troubled racial history, Soong-Chan is helping evangelicals in their attempts to make amends for the past and paving the way for deeper racial unity in the church.

There are many more stories like these that need to be heard. We invite you to add your voice to the conversation. Tell the world how exactly evangelicals are reclaiming the faith—and let’s get this conversation trending with the hashtag #RescuingJesus! You can also retweet #RescuingJesus content from @BeaconPressBks and @deborahjianlee.

How else can you get involved?

Deborah recommends some ways that you can take action like organizing discussion groups to discuss the issues raised in Rescuing Jesus, engaging your larger faith community in efforts to support minority groups highlighted in the group, and plugging in to local grassroots organizations that already exist.