- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 16, 2005

HAMILTON, Mass. — Evangelicals, recognizing that many Americans worry about their influence after President Bush’s re-election, are saying they have been misunderstood and in some ways remain underdogs in a nation they consider hostile to public talk about faith.

The image of evangelicals is a key element in an ongoing series of conferences in Washington and other cities explaining the movement. The first meeting was held last week at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary outside Boston.

Speakers at the gathering, organized by the seminary, listed what they consider among the biggest myths about evangelicals: that they are anti-intellectual, that they seek to create a Christian government in the United States, and that their belief that salvation comes only through Christ is intolerant and aims to silence other religious expression.

Timothy Tennent, professor of world missions at Gordon-Conwell, said evangelicals have no desire to impose Christianity on unwilling Americans. He insisted that conservative Christians can be respectful of other religions without abandoning their own core teaching that all faiths are not equal.

“We want an open discourse where we have the right and freedom to share our faith,” Mr. Tennent said. “I want to protect the right for a Buddhist to be a Buddhist in America. I want to protect the right for a Muslim to be a Muslim in America. … But I still want them to know Christ.”

Although people outside the evangelical movement often view it as monolithic, major divisions exist, including disagreement over which moral and public-policy issues should be paramount. Some speakers said evangelicals too closely align themselves with Republicans and focus too much on abortion and same-sex “marriage,” instead of broad social concerns.

Estimates of the number of evangelicals in the United States vary dramatically ” from 44 million to 126 million ” depending on how broad a definition is used, said Todd Johnson, director of the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell.

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