An inside look at the young, diverse, progressive Christians who are transforming the evangelical movement
Deborah Jian Lee left the evangelical world because she was frustrated by its conservative politics. But over the years she stayed close to those in the movement, and she has come to realize that evangelical culture and politics are changing, and changing fast. Friends had stopped voting based on wedge issues. Believers of color were changing church demographics and political interests. Women were rising in the ranks despite familiar sermons about female submission. LGBTQ Christians were coming out, staying in the church, and leading ministries.
What Lee came to find is that most of what we think we know about evangelicals is wrong, or is well on its way to becoming dated. In Rescuing Jesus, she ventures into the world of progressive evangelicalism and tells the stories of the young women and men at the forefront of a movement that could change both the face and the substance of religion in the United States.
Generational changes and the shifting racial make-up of evangelicals are transforming the movement and pushing it in a more progressive direction. A young and diverse array of people on this leading edge of progressive evangelicalism—LGBTQ and straight; white, black, Asian, Hispanic, and indigenous—are working to wrest political power away from conservatives. Today’s young evangelicals are more likely than their elders to accept same-sex marriage, more inclined to think of “pro-life” issues as being about supporting society’s disenfranchised, and more accepting of equality between men and women.
With empathy, journalistic rigor, and powerful storytelling, Lee unpacks the diverse and complex strands of this movement—and what it means for the rest of us. Given the clout that evangelicals still hold in national politics, Lee argues, this movement is important not only for the future of evangelicalism but also for the future of our country.
In this braided work of reporting, storytelling, and personal reflection, journalist Lee, herself a former evangelical, explores progressive movements for racial reconciliation, women's rights, and LGBTQ equality within American evangelicalism. Unlike mainline Protestants, whose social engagement is integrated into denominational structures, evangelicals' efforts for justice seem to come in response to pressure from within, as leaders such as Lisa Sharon Harper, Soong Chan-Rah, Jennifer Crumpton, and Matthew Vines are emerging from conservative grassroots movements, working to connect their faith with their minority identities, and moving toward a more expansive understanding of evangelical faith. The road is not always easy for these self-declared "prophetic Christians"; for example, in order to earn and retain influence within evangelicalism, they tend to shy away from questions surrounding reproductive rights, despite promoting equality for women in the church. Additionally, in spite of larger church organizations' professed support for women in leadership, female leadership in evangelical nonprofits continues to lag well behind their male counterparts. The book's structure feels meandering at times, perhaps because it's tricky to define evangelicalism and to trace its progressive strains. This makes it difficult to accept the author's assertion that there are signs of a broadly accommodating evangelical future.