The world was a simpler place in the 1970s. It was certainly easier to identify evangelicals. One fellow undergraduate had his own method – “They all buy their clothes at Marks and Spencers, they play the guitar badly and every second one you meet is called Colin.”

There are probably 500 million evangelical Christians in the world, and outside the west their number is growing fast. Although they hold core convictions about Jesus, the Bible and faith as transformed life, they hold a variety of self-understandings in a variety of denominations and non-denominational organisations, with no centralised authority structure, Vatican or press office. Their leadership waxes and wanes in an emergent, not institutional, way.

If evangelicals did not exist, they would have to be invented. They appear to believe in exactly the kind of God new model atheists don’t, and in a similar way, and are willing to say so. If you want a quote that is either zany, or easy to zany up, about gay people, gender, evolution, or Islam, an evangelical somewhere will provide. However, most evangelicals are less defined by these hot button issues than media stereotypes suggest.

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