Here’s another column by Kristof that is worth the read. He highlights the turning tide of what Evangelicals are focusing on these days. Here’s a tidbit:
Look, I don’t agree with evangelicals on theology or on their typically conservative views on taxes, health care or Iraq. Self-righteous zealots like Pat Robertson have been a plague upon our country, and their initial smugness about AIDS (which Jerry Falwell described as “God’s judgment against promiscuity”) constituted far grosser immorality than anything that ever happened in a bathhouse. Moralizing blowhards showed more compassion for embryonic stem cells than for the poor or the sick, and as recently as the 1990s, evangelicals were mostly a constituency against foreign aid.
Yet that has turned almost 180 degrees. Today, many evangelicals are powerful internationalists and humanitarians — and liberals haven’t awakened to the transformation. The new face of evangelicals is somebody like the Rev. Rick Warren, the California pastor who wrote “The Purpose Driven Life.”
Mr. Warren acknowledges that for most of his life he wasn’t much concerned with issues of poverty or disease. But on a visit to South Africa in 2003, he came across a tiny church operating from a dilapidated tent — yet sheltering 25 children orphaned by AIDS.
“I realized they were doing more for the poor than my entire megachurch,” Mr. Warren said, with cheerful exaggeration. “It was like a knife in the heart.” So Mr. Warren mobilized his vast Saddleback Church to fight AIDS, malaria and poverty in 68 countries. Since then, more than 7,500 members of his church have paid their own way to volunteer in poor countries — and once they see the poverty, they immediately want to do more.
“Almost all of my work is in the third world,” Mr. Warren said. “I couldn’t care less about politics, the culture wars. My only interest is to get people to care about Darfurs and Rwandas.”
It’s nice to see Warren use his evangelical jujitsu on the blind critics (maybe me included) of Mega-Churches. On one hand, I question the first sentence in Warren’s book, a Purpose Driven Life, which claims “It’s not about you.”. I find that an interesting way to begin his book seeing that his mega-church model of stadium seating, pristine facilities, and customized worship services sends the opposite message to his churchgoers. In that context, everything around you would suggest that it is indeed ALL about you.
But on the other hand, it’s evident that Warren’s experience with the developing world has truly shuffled his priorities and it’s great to see him inspire so many to open their eyes to what’s going on in the third world. Getting 7,500 folks from his church to pay their way to serve in Africa is an amazing accomplishment and it should not be overlooked. As Ali G would say, “Respect!”