Rethinking religion: Brantley W. Gasaway speaks on progressive religious movement

Gabriel Miller, Staff Writer

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The Evangelical Left is an often-overlooked segment of American Christian political thought. It views President Donald Trump as a threat to achieving social justice in America via the Gospel of Jesus Christ and seeks to diversify Christian religious and political thought in America. Last Thursday evening, Brantley W. Gasaway presented a lecture on this movement at the Warren Student Services Center.

Evangelicalism largely encompasses many Protestant denominations of Christianity but has extended to Catholicism and Eastern Orthodox by some definitions. Dr. Gasaway’s presentation explained how the Evangelical Left has become more active and vocal after the election of President Trump and the unbridled support from most evangelical Christians.

The Evangelical Left is a minority in Christian evangelicalism who choose to focus more on the issues of racism, immigration, healthcare and economic justice. They contrast with the popular evangelical views on abortion and homosexuality, either largely overlooking it or having a different perspective.
Additionally, the movement calls for repentance and resistance against President Trump and his policies, adamantly supporting Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), government programs for the poor, and condemnation of racism.

Along with that, they condemn what they view as “Biblical misuse” by conservative Christians to support their policies and beliefs. In 2018, many evangelical Christian leaders called for immigration reform, including Max Lucado and Beth Moore, and the Evangelical Left considered it a win.

One of the prominent leaders of the Evangelical Left is Shane Claiborne, who started the “Red Letter Christian” movement, which emphasizes adhering primarily to the words of Jesus. The “Red Letter” is derived from the words of Jesus typically being red in many Bibles (note: typically, in more recent editions and certain translations; a King James Version Bible from 1950 is less likely to have red letters than a New International Version from 2018).

Claiborne recently attempted to hold a Revival of Jesus and Justice in Lynchburg, Virginia on Liberty University’s campus. The president of the university and son of the founder, Jerry Falwell Jr., threatened Claiborne with being escorted off campus by security.

Historically, American Christianity focused on Biblical authority, personal conversion, and embraced the diversity of denominations and expressions of Christian faith.

More recently, the focus has shifted more to social justice and less on personal conversion.

Two of the Evangelical Left’s main proponents today are Jim Wallis and Ron Sider. Wallis founded the magazine Sojourners and Sider founded Evangelicals for Social Action. Both are very vocal in politics and have been arrested for protesting at the White House.