Flavors of Christianity?

What is meant by the various designations for the types of Christian denominations - “Fundamentalist”, “Evangelical”, “Liberal”, “Pentacostal”, etc.?

I’m not interested in a debate over who is “more right”, but I’d like to hear from folks who self-identify in one of these groupings - what “makes” you what you are? What are the differences in belief or practice that distinguish a Fundamentalist from an Evangelical, an Evangelical from a Liberal?

I realize many of these labels are applied on groups from outside the group, but to the extent anyone can identify with a label and explain its genesis to me, I’d be very grateful.

Quick overview:

Fundamentalist - tends to interpret the Bible literally. Generally has a very conservative viewpoint. Not all fundamentalist groups practice the following, but the following would be considered fundamentalist: snake handling, drinking poisons, no make up or jewelery, females must wear dresses as opposed to pants, creation science, etc.

Evangelical - believe that it is their mission to spread the word. Examples include: street preaching, door to door visits, passing out pamphlets at public events, etc. Most Christian religions would consider themselves evangelical. Judaism is not evangelical.

Liberal - favors a more open interpretation of the Bible. Where fundamentalist see historically accurate, factual Bible stories a liberal is more likely to see symbolism or parable. Most Christian denominations have conservative and liberal “factions” within their group.

Pentacostal - Prefer a more “wide open” worship style. Could include: Loud, upbeat music; standing and clapping while singing, high energy preaching with many “Amens” from the congregation, speaking in tongues, “falling out” in the spirit, faith healing, etc.

You should understand that the terms you listed are not all mutually exclusive. while you won’t likely find a “liberal fundamentalist”, you may well see “evangelical pentacostals”, “liberal evangelicals”, or “liberal pentacostals”.

Trying to answer this question isn’t a paragraph or two, it’s a career. You might look for a book on comparative religion to get you started. The “what makes you what you are” may shift it into IMHO territory… IMHO. :smiley:

As for specifics some of the labels such as evangelical, liberal, fundamentalist, are merely adjectives while only one labels a denomination, Pentecostal.

My own church is a good example of several overlapping definitions, the ELCA or Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. We consider ourselves part of the greater Lutheran church that traces back to the reformation in the 16th century but have many differences. We are far more liberal than fundamental branches such as the Wisconsin or Missouri synod Lutheran churches as for example we don’t require a strict literal interpretation of the entire bible. My congregation is in the forefront of full gay and lesbian inclusion in every aspect of church life including ministry and marriage so it would be fair to say we’re extremely liberal compared to most other Lutherans.