Friday, March 03, 2006

The Good Side of Evangelicals

Recently, American evangelicals have been increasing the pressure on the United States to do more to help the Darfur region of Sudan. This increased pressure has been cited as the main reason why Bush recently called for stepped-up action to stop the ongoing genocide in Darfur.

This is hardly the first time that evangelicals have embraced decidedly liberal international causes. Evangelicals have been instrumental in increasing awareness and providing assistance to African AIDS victims. They have fought against Chinese religious oppression. And they have worked toward improving human rights in North Korea.

For anyone who uses “evangelical” as a pejorative and reflexively thinks of this diverse group as gay-hating, abortion-clinic protesting, Creationism-pushing wanna-be theocrats, it is important to remember that people are never so black-and-white. At the heart of Christianity rests a great and noble compassion. And while many of the so called Christian Right are wrongly focused on attacking homosexuality and breaking the barriers of Church and State, many, many Christians still hold in their hearts a desire to bring grace and mercy to the world's least fortunate.

That is why it is no surprise that Christians have been at the heart of many great causes, including the abolitionist movement, women’s suffrage and the civil rights movement.

All this is not to say Christians have a monopoly on compassion. Nor do I seek to minimize the many wrongs that have been committed in the name of Christianity. My point is simply this: Christians can be powerful allies in the promotion of social justice. And anyone interested in issues like stopping the genocide in Darfur or ending the AIDS epidemic in Africa would be wise to make common cause with evangelicals and other Christians.

Too often in my dealings with those on the secular left, I find great contempt for Christianity and religion in general. As a church-going Christian who is very far from being part of the Christian Right, I am saddened to see so many on the left losing touch with religion. I hope this is just temporary, an understandable reaction to the rise of religious zealotry; because the Christian call to help the sick and poor can be a powerful motivating force in bettering the world.

Christianity and traditional liberal values have a lot in common. Just something to think on.

3 Comments:

Blogger Rob Jackson said...

Alan,

I find it interesting that you begin this post talking about Evangelicals and end the post talking about Christians and why you never mention the word "fundamentalist". I know you know that the terms aren't interchangeable but it's interesting that you stream of thought lead you that way.

Anyway, I'm less concerned with the liberal secular world (I assume you mean Las Vegas) than I am with liberal Christians having more of a voice. In general, LC's don't want to hurt anyone's feelings and we certianly don't want to step on anyone's toes (it's okay to believe what you want to believe) and so we generally keep quiet when we don't agree with someone's beliefs even when we feel those beliefs to be hurtful and antithetical to Christian teachings.

Instead of whining about how fundies have hijacked our podium time, we need to wrestle the microphone back or at least get another one.

3:56 PM  
Anonymous Thomas Roland said...

Crappola. Look at each and every example you give of Xian charity. AIDS victims--sure, help them while insuring dramatic increases in their numbers by fighting against condoms; Darfur--saving Xians from Islamists; China--saving Xians from commies; North Korea--same. Add South Korea and you get Xians PERSECUTING Buddhists!

As to civil rights: Xians were ALSO at the "heart" of SLAVERY, SUBORDINATION OF WOMEN, and JIM CROW LAWS. In other words, Xians were on BOTH SIDES of those issues. Too bad you keep your blinders on.

8:50 PM  
Blogger Alan Stewart Carl said...

Thomas: First you make the rather harsh assumption that it doesn't count if Christians are just helping Christians (would it be better to help no one or are Christians not deserving of help?).

Second, you're mistaken in your examples. In Darfur, the violence began as Islamists against Christians but is now mainly Arab Muslims against black Muslims. In China, the Christians have been helping in Tibet and working with the Dhali Lama. In Africa, while I would prefer if they were pushing safe sex more, they ARE there and helping. Do you condemn them for trying to get the money and aid necessary to provide AIDS drugs, to free women from the sex trade and to help AIDS orphans?

And while you're right that Christians are on the side of all those historic issues, the point is that the Christians on the side of expanding rights were the ones that WON. Their rhetoric was key to changing minds.

Robert: I intentionally broadened it to include all Christians at the end because, I as I am sure you've experienced, sometimes even liberal Christians get discounted because Christians in general have a bad name. The point is: if Evangelicals are doing good works, imagine what less conservative Christians are doing. I think Christianity and liberalism are a natual fit and shouldn't be at odds with one another.

8:32 AM  

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