For those who haven’t paid attention, World Vision – a Christian organization that allows people to sponsor a child, giving money to ensure the child receives proper aid – recently stated they would allow homosexuals to find employment with their organization. The parameters applied to homosexuals were the same ones applied to heterosexuals, namely that anyone involved in a sexual relationship had to also be married. Their justification for this change is that their employees come from over 50 denominations, some of which allow same-sex marriage. In an effort to broaden who they can hire (as it is hard work), they decided to allow for alternative definitions of homosexual marriage.
Such as expected, the change caused an uproar in evangelical circles. Al Mohler was quick to condemn the action, even though – ironically enough – World Vision’s justification is based on a belief in local church autonomy, a cornerstone in Mohler’s Southern Baptist beliefs. The American Family Association went even further calling for a boycott of World Vision. In other words, the American Family Association would rather starve children in need before capitulating on the issue of homosexual marriage. Such a reaction from conservative evangelicals caused World Vision to reverse its decision within two days. In a way, conservative evangelicals just won a major battle in the cultural war, but in so doing they lost the war. This is the equivalent to the Tet Offensive; it was a surprise attack, taking place behind our own lines, one that was easily thwarted, but will forever change public opinion on an already unpopular war.
Christ made multiple commandments to help the poor, but never once did he make a command to boycott morally suspect businesses. While sometimes a boycott is called for (especially when a company engages in practices that openly oppresses people), it’s hardly called for in this case where a company changed hiring policies in the name of hoping denominations would get along. Whether or not what World Vision did is sinful is irrelevant – ultimately, that’s up for God to enact – what matters is that evangelicals opted to drop sponsorships to children in the name of a cultural war. How sickening is that? Or, as one of my friends put it: “Someday I hope the church will be as incredulous about the treatment of the poor, oppressed, and hungry as they are about organizations who hire gay people who care about and serve the poor, oppressed and hungry.”
At the point Christians have to commit a sin (neglecting the poor is a sin, no ifs, ands, or buts about it, it’s quite clear in Scripture) in order to protest a sin, they’ve jumped the shark. Are we saying that God is so anti-homosexual that he’s willing to starve children before letting homosexuals help these starving children? How much sense does that even make?
Conservative evangelicals would do well to take a step back and realize that they’ve gone too far this time. By doing what they did, they essentially lost any and all public support they might have still held. At the point they were willing to withhold aid and food from children in order to score points in the culture war, they gave up the true Gospel of Christ. There is one overarching common theme in Scripture that evangelicals tend to forget, that with the exception Jesus Christ, every single Biblical hero is a horrendous sinner. David, a man after God’s own heart, has an affair and then makes a series of decisions that collapses his kingdom. Abraham, a friend of God, decides to have sex his wife’s handmaiden in lieu of God’s promise of a child. Noah survives God’s judgement and immediately gets black-out drunk. Judah chooses to have sex with his widowed daughter-in-law, only he thinks she’s a prostitute at the time. What’s interesting about all of these perpetual sinners is God used them for His purposes and for his ultimate purpose (all of them were involved in bringing Christ into the world). God apparently doesn’t object to using sinners to accomplish his goals, so why do evangelicals think they can have a standard higher than God?
One of the biggest concerns among evangelicals today is how to address their plummeting numbers, especially among young people. Many want to turn to apologetics, thinking that kids don’t have enough answers to questions (and they don’t). Others think they need to make the church more “relevant,” an attempt that began in the 1980s and has yet to be realized. Each generation has collapsed further and further away from the church, walking away and evangelicals left wondering why, realizing that these students are in search of a real faith, not an embattled faith. While Christians must stand up for social issues, when such stands become the centerpiece of the faith, Christianity becomes nothing more than a political party. People are leaving the church because they fail to see the Church, they fail to see the Gospel properly lived and enacted and instead see a list of “dos” and “do nots.” In short, people leave the church not because they lack answers or because of some moral failure, but because they’ve yet to find Christ within the walls of the church.
If evangelicals want to win back society, then they’ll have to serve society, not wage war against it. The early Christians existed in a time where orgies were a part of pagan worship, men had regular sex with their male slaves, Christian morals were not only despised, but persecuted. Yet, not once do we see them call for a boycott, we don’t see them withholding aid from those who need it, and we don’t see them ceasing to preach the true Gospel, not some moralistic Gospel. After all, the gospel of the modern conservative evangelical isn’t the true Gospel, but a false one, one that is a type of social gospel, believing that if we can eradicate homosexual behavior, elect good Christian republicans, and get our way on every political matter the world will be saved.
The true Gospel calls for support of the poor no matter what and, more importantly, calls for Christians to love sinners and serve them, not condemn them and segregate against them.