Evangelicals: Sentenced to Lower Case
Published on: August 20, 2010
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  • Conrad Hackett

    It is common to read about “mainline Protestants” as well as “evangelical Protestants.” The American Religion Data Archive goes further and writes about “mainline protestant” denominations: http://www.thearda.com/mapsReports/reports/mainline.asp.

  • What about “mainline Protestants?” One could argue that “evangelicals” and “mainliners” are similar abbreviations for particular kinds of Protestants.

    Also, one might point to the recent use of “pentecostal” as a broad term encompassing more than just classical Pentecostals. This is acceptable because it is an umbrella term much like evangelical might be.

  • Adam Garfinkle

    Wonderful post. We here at TAI have talked about upper case and lower case with Evangelicals, and arguments for both can make sense. What I like to do as editor is push the language in the direction of being able to make more, not fewer, distinctions. So it’s upper case when it refers to a discrete example, lower when it’s generic. This, Cold War when one is referring to the specific U.S.-Soviet struggle from around 1947 to 1989, cold war when one is referring to any generic competition short of war. The President when it is clear that a particular one is meant, but the president when one is speaking generally about his constitutional role, say. I think this is an easy and simple distinction; but a lot of people have trouble making it. I do not understand this. In general, I hate the trend, now well over 30 years old, to lower case just about everything. Those jerks in Chicago probably have some reason for having started this, but damned if I know what it is. Peter, I am on your side in this. Let us march to the barricades together, with placards written decidedly upper case.

  • Paul Emmons

    How does your grammatical explanation apply to the case at hand? “Evangelical” is a generic word. Where do those who prefer to describe themselves primarily thus get the authority to appropriate it to themselves alone, with or without the upper case? It’s the same, of course, with Christian, although in this case I would not begrudge the capital letter, since the word comes from a personal name (or more correctly, a personal title).

    Last I heard, Evangelicals were s subset of Protestantd. Are they now that subset of Protestants who have forgotten their roots? A battle cry of Protestantism used to be the right of individuals to make and express their own interpretations free from the constraint of authority figures.

    As an Anglo-Catholic I am aghast at how the word “Christian” is begrudged me by Evangelicals etc. I’m appalled that the behavior of Evangelicals has driven the percentage of still-unconverted American young people receptive to the Christian faith down into the single digits. Therefore, I will gladly continue to bestow the distinctive upper case E that an Evangelical desires, simply to minimize the possibility of confusion with anyone else.

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