Thursday, May 26, 2005
EVANGELICALS, LIBERALS, AND POVERTY
In his column in today's New York Times, conservative pundit David Brooks has some interesting things to say. MOJ readers may be interested. To read the whole piece, click here. An excerpt follows:
A Natural Alliance
[W]e can have a culture war in this country, or we can have a war on poverty, but we can't have both. That is to say, liberals and conservatives can go on bashing each other for being godless hedonists and primitive theocrats, or they can set those differences off to one side and work together to help the needy.
The natural alliance for antipoverty measures at home and abroad is between liberals and evangelical Christians. These are the only two groups that are really hyped up about these problems and willing to devote time and money to ameliorating them. If liberals and evangelicals don't get together on antipoverty measures, then there will be no majority for them and they won't get done.
Now, you might be thinking, fat chance. And I say to you: All around me I see bonds being formed.
I recently went to a U2 concert in Philadelphia with a group of evangelicals who have been working with Bono to fight AIDS and poverty in Africa. A few years ago, U2 took a tour of the heartland, stopping off at places like Wheaton College and the megachurch at Willow Creek to urge evangelicals to get involved in Africa. They've responded with alacrity, and now Bono, who is a serious if nonsectarian Christian, is at the nexus of a vast alliance between socially conservative evangelicals and socially liberal N.G.O.'s.
Today I'll be at a panel discussion on a proposed antipoverty bill called the Aspire Act, which is co-sponsored in the Senate by social conservatives like Rick Santorum and social liberals like Jon Corzine.
And when I look at the evangelical community, I see a community in the midst of a transformation - branching out beyond the traditional issues of abortion and gay marriage, and getting more involved in programs to help the needy. I see Rick Warren, who through his new Peace initiative is sending thousands of people to Rwanda and other African nations to fight poverty and disease. I see Chuck Colson deeply involved in Sudan. I see Richard Cizik of the National Association of Evangelicals drawing up a service agenda that goes way beyond the normal turf of Christian conservatives.
I see evangelicals who are more and more influenced by Catholic social teaching, with its emphasis on good works. I see the historical rift healing between those who emphasized personal and social morality. Most of all, I see a new sort of evangelical leader emerging.
Millions of evangelicals are embarrassed by the people held up by the news media as their spokesmen. Millions of evangelicals feel less represented by the culture war-centered parachurch organizations, and better represented by congregational pastors, who have a broader range of interests and more passion for mobilizing volunteers to perform service. Millions of evangelicals want leaders who live the faith by serving the poor.
Serious differences over life issues are not going to go away. But
more liberals and evangelicals are realizing that you don't have to
convert people; sometimes you can just work with them. The world is
suddenly crowded with people like Rick Warren and Bono who are trying
to step out of the logic of the culture war so they can accomplish more
in the poverty war.