Tuesday, October 2, 2007

The Myth of Uncaring Evangelicals

I've written elsewhere on the stereotyping of evangelical Christians as stingy bigots. I cited philanthropic research that shows the stereotype is a lie.

But facts have not stopped even Christians from perpetuating the lie, especially if it helps them sell books and set their own movement up as the Christianity that really cares.

Today, Bill highlights a great comment by Robin Rhea in a post at Scot McKnight's Jesus Creed blog:
I grew up Catholic, came to love Christ when I was 20, and have been in evangelical circles for the past 8 years, completely “conservative” and almost entirely Southern Baptist and Calvinist. The churches that I have been a part of have been heavily involved in medical, educational, and gospel outreaches to Uganda, Columbia, Cuba, The Dominican Republic, and Sudan, have operated numerous ministries to the homeless, medically needy, hungry, have cried with women considering abortion and offered them services regardless of the outcome of their choice, ministered to the hispanic community in a part of the country where they are not very popular, have numerous outreaches alternative lifestyle groups, I think so far I have covered about half of it. I submit that by far the most “popular” speaker in evangelical circles is probably John Piper who has made social justice a continued theme of his ministry for the past 20 years, especially racial justice and racial reconciliation. Others, who are theologically ultra-conservative include Tim Keller in Ney York, Mark Driscoll in Seattle, and Scotty Smith in Nashville, all of whom have tremendous “social justice” concerns …with all of that said, I get the feeling that MacLaren’s accusations that those of us that care deeply about theology and doctrine somehow have a flat theology that does not lead to social justice issues is false. Maybe it is true in the circles he encounters, but even a cursory look at church histroy would show that those that care about theology and doctrine the most tend to do a great deal to alleviate the sufferings of their fellow human beings. You could check out Jonathan Edwards, David Brainerd, Adoniram Judson, William Carey, Jim Elliot, etc. for confirmation. It could be that the “progressive” wing of Christianity is much more compassionate, but I have a hard time believing it.

As I said in my earlier post, There are millions of Christians today giving their money, their time, and their lives to help the poor and the sick in this country and abroad. They just don't call press conferences or take along camera crews when they do it.


Mark Heath said...

I have been pondering this too recently. One of the main "emerging" criticisms of evangelicalism seems to be that we only care that people go to heaven rather than hell after they die, and have no care for them in this life. I am sure there is much room for improvement, but I struggle to think of any evangelical church I have ever been part of (whether traditional, charismatic, etc) that has not started up numerous projects to help the needy, as well as countless examples of individuals sacrificially serving others.

There are I think 3 emerging churches in my city, all of whom feel they have "moved on" from their "immature" days as raving charismatic evangelicals. Fair enough. All 3 churches are very actively involved in social action in the city - projects which, ironically, were started in the days before they joined up to the emerging bandwagon. And yet they now seem convinced that conservative evangelicals simply don't care about human needs and are only concerned with eternity.

BTW, great blog - I have really enjoyed reading it over recent months. It's definitely a keeper in my RSS reader

Jared said...

Mark, I agree. I really think the difference is that the many "modernist" Christians who have been sacrificing their money and time and lives for caring for "widows and orphans" don't make it a point to politicize their efforts. They aren't publicly setting themselves up as "more Christian" than others.

I think it would shock many even inside the Church to know that the most work done for the betterment of the third world in the last 50 years has not been by entertainers or national relief agencies, but the Church itself.

And thanks for the great compliment, man. Really apprecaite it. :-)