Sunday Times: Evangelicals Without Blowhards

Don’t look at me for that title–it came from Nicolas Kristof’s op-ed a few weeks ago.  I enjoy Kristof’s pieces, particularly because he is attuned to issues of injustice.  For instance, he recently traveled with International Justice Mission to India and observed their work with girls who are victims of sex slavery.

So when I saw the title, I was willing to read, but wary of what I’d find.  Personally, I don’t often read a lot of news commentary on religion, because I think it is usually done poorly, without nuance or sometimes even accuracy (from any side.)  And on the whole, the word ‘evangelical’ has been hijacked by the media and its meaning completely turned on its head.  At its core, the word is meant to encapsulate some basic beliefs that mark a sector of Christianity.  But I would suggest that it is nearly impossible to say ‘evangelical’ now and not follow it up with what exactly you mean by that.

What I found in the piece was this type of commentary, for all the New York Times readership to see:

The entire evangelical movement often has been pilloried among progressives as reactionary, myopic, anti-intellectual and, if anything, immoral.

Yet that casual dismissal is profoundly unfair of the movement as a whole. It reflects a kind of reverse intolerance, sometimes a reverse bigotry, directed at tens of millions of people who have actually become increasingly engaged in issues of global poverty and justice.


Too much?  Sorry to be a little carried away…


I appreciate your insight, Mr. Kristof.

When my resume first crossed the desks of my future coworkers, the person running the search said, “She looks churchy, but she’s not.”  This was intended as a compliment.  Apparently ‘churchy’ was their way of describing a Christian who did not really focus on the work, because they had somehow decided that Jesus and heaven and the Bible fit best between four walls once a week.

Last week our student leadership team spent some time discussing the role of faith in the work we do in our community.  There was a vein of responses with this commonality:  hopefully people will notice something different about our service and ask us about it.  Then we get a shot to say ‘Jesus.’  I think it’s a reflection of what we are often taught about service, and it’s certainly not all bad.

But I would suggest that that only happens when there really is something different to notice.  What’s more, if we aren’t careful, social justice becomes a means to an end, and that is not really in alignment with Jesus’ central message of the kingdom of God.  The righting of wrongs in Jesus’ name is an end in itself.  When focus on the best practices of the work, we honor him, because it is the work, the risky, front lines (and of course the front lines are not exclusively in far away places; they are in our own backyards as well) kind of work, that is nearest to God’s heart.

And apparently, insofar as we succeed, the Times gives a nod that we’re not all uptight jerks.

Evangelicals are disproportionately likely to donate 10 percent of their incomes to charities, mostly church-related. More important, go to the front lines, at home or abroad, in the battles against hunger, malaria, prison rape, obstetric fistula, human trafficking or genocide, and some of the bravest people you meet are evangelical Christians (or conservative Catholics, similar in many ways) who truly live their faith.

I’m not particularly religious myself, but I stand in awe of those I’ve seen risking their lives in this way — and it sickens me to see that faith mocked at New York cocktail parties.

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