Jesus, the Poor, and Commandments or, How Conservative Evangelicals Jumped the Shark

IMG_0260For 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.

8 thoughts on “Jesus, the Poor, and Commandments or, How Conservative Evangelicals Jumped the Shark

  1. A mixture of truth a false perceptions of why most Evangelicals are politically active. You are correct on a lot of points but being a Christian does not mean being in some passive state in regards to politics. If you read the bible or study history a lot of the freedoms we have now were due to people taking a political stand as influenced by their faith. Not all conservative Christians hate homosexuals and marginalize that sin trend like it out does our lying or arrogance, or a whole range of other infractions of God’s standards. But from what I see the fight is no longer for tolerance, it is for us to approve of behavior that is sinful. The fight isn’t what you think, it is is homosexuality a sin. I know I sin, I fall short, we all do, but it would be arrogant for me to promote my shortcomings as good. Ultimately a gay person can be as much a Christian as can a liar but I will never condone lying. another note, there are still young folks like myself who hold to a biblical standard, a lot of us are attacked in the class rooms that try to indoctrinate us into whatever liberal ideology, whether it be humanism, idealism, existentialism, the ism’s go on and on. But there are regardless some who still stand. I do not feel some entitled arrogance because I am a believer, I understand God’s grace and the need for us to share that quality to all men regardless of anything they do.

    1. So are you saying it’s okay to starve children in order to prove a point on sin? Because that was the point – regardless of where you stand on the issue of homosexuality, it’s wrong to hold children hostage in order to score political points.

  2. What is forgotten is that Christ gave two commandments, Love your God with all heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind, the second commandment is like the first, Love your neighbor as yourself. Who is your neighbor? Everybody that shares this journey with you. I am watching as those who feel that they need to fight social issues are siding with those that are creating the social issues. Only the devil encourages hatred and division. Judgement is just as much a sin as homosexuality, greed, adultery, gluttony and idolatry, if you are guilty of the least you are guilty of all. So instead of judging a person for his sin, pray to be reminded of your own sin so that you do not think ill of your neighbor. Pray, feed the hungry, comfort the widow and orphan, visit the prisoner, quit worrying about how your neighbor is sinning, and do not deny Jesus before man by denying His love to sinners.

    1. The commandment for Christians in the church age to give is one of an inner motivation from the soul of the individual giving. The scripture tells us to give as we purpose in our hearts, If I am not purposing to give to a foundation for whatever the cause is, I have the liberty as a Christian to do that. There are starving children everywhere, there are problems everywhere, but it is not mandatory for a Christian to by some form of self imposed guilt fork over money to a foundation they feel doesn’t represent what they want. I would not have personally did what those WV people did, but they have the right to do that, we are not under a law to feed all the needy people, because I’m sure there are hungry bums you pass up everyday and do nothing about. So lets be clear, and objective, the kids are important, but ultimately it is by grace and free will those people give, and they have the same free will to not give. My issue is don’t impose some pseudo form of Christian virtue on a situation that is an ethical decision between the participants of the charity. Their inner convictions are theirs alone, between them and God, and you put yourself as a judge when you tirade about how wrong they are because you are just above their thinking, a bit hypocritical if you ask me. You might be stronger than them in your faith, so what, pray for them, don’t belittle their convictions because of your self righteousness.

  3. Never said that you should give to any specific charitable organization, said it was wrong to judge. I don’t judge you, yet I can discern that you are feeling guilty and wish to rationalize your beliefs that you have doubts about.

  4. One example of a New Testament boycott: do not eat meat offered to idols.

    Oops, I am just showing off.

    I agree. Evangelicals might be able to persuade themselves that boycotting WV was Biblical and right, but they will be unable to persuade anyone else.

  5. ftank58, I’m a little confused about your comment–do you mean that we aren’t under any LEGAL obligation to “feed all the needy people,” or that we don’t have any obligation to do that, period, under God’s law? Because I’d take exception to the second one. It’s impossible for one person or one group of people to help everybody in the world who needs helping, but we’re darned well supposed to do our best. I have a lot of failings in that area, but I’m not proud of them.

    Joel, your post made me think of this sort of issue in a way I haven’t before, and I’ll have to do some more research into this World Vision issue. I’m perplexed as to what message people thought they’d be sending with the threatened boycott–that gays aren’t supposed to give food to hungry children? That Christians shouldn’t have anything to do with gays who want to give food to hungry children?

    I’m trying to think of how I’d feel about the situation if it involved, say, polyamory instead of gay marriage–if World Vision had said that groups of three or more people in a sexual relationship could be employed by their organization so long as they’d been married by their local church–and all I can come back to is that Christians shouldn’t try to exclude non-Christians (or Christians who believe things we don’t believe) from doing good things. If we start an organization meant to help starving people, shouldn’t we welcome anybody with open arms who wants to help with that effort, regardless of how much of a sinner they are?

  6. Simple issue here. This is a Christian organization. For them to openly endorse something which is clearly contrary to the Bible is wrong, even though they otherwise do good works. Context: Romans 1:26-32. It’s wrong by itself, but it’s made worse by the fact that it now has peer approval.

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