Tag Archives: culture

Stop Baggin’ on Well-Meaning Christians!

That was the retort that one of my friends received over Facebook recently.  I couldn’t help but be amused.

This friend pretty boldly stands against a trend in the Church.  Over the last 10-15 years there has been a de-emphasis on proclaiming the gospel and an emphasis on things like serving the poor and other “social justice” causes.  The popular thinking, even if it is not stated so directly, is to “live your faith without the use of words.”

The problem isn’t that emphasizing service to the poor and such are bad or unnecessary things.  In fact, Christ and the apostles make clear in the Bible that things like that are non-negotiables for disciples of Christ.  The problem is that “living your faith without using words” is impossible.  The problem is the de-emphasis on proclamation.  This is a trent that others have noticed too.  We talk all day about being missional, but there is a necessary part missing in our definition of missional, namely, the proclamation part.  Leaving that out is easy; after all, that is the part that will draw the ire of the world, and we don’t like being rejected.  We fear man, so we let the tail wag the dog and truncate our “mission.”

So my friend boldly preaches that words and deeds are needed.  The Bible views both as central.  In fact, words are deeds; oftentimes a measure of real faith is a person talking about Jesus and Christianity in public and thus risking rejection from people in power.

Someone, no doubt well-meaning, responded to this message the other day by retorting, “stop baggin’ on well-meaning Christians!”

As I mentioned above, I had to chuckle at this.  If I am to take that retort seriously, seems like Paul, Peter, John, Jesus, and others were being bad examples.  How many times does Paul boldly confront a false gospel?  How many times does Jesus not just denounce the pharisees but correct his disciples erroneous views and actions?  How many times does John, in his letters, forcefully respond to false ideas that corrupt the true message of Christ?

That’s not to mention that I’ve seen the commenter critique and confront ideas that he himself views as false and harmful to the church…what about him?  My friend is well-meaning, and he’s a Christian.  If it is wrong to confront (this is what he was doing), then why is the commenter himself  “baggin” (his words, not mine) on a well-meaning Christian?  Am I to think that whenever my friend confronts, he’s attacking a helpless Christian, but when the commenter does the very same thing, he’s just right?

The difference is lost on me.

Enough of  this.  The tendency is to become offended and circle the wagons when our pet doctrine or pastor is critiqued.  Rather than keeping the idea and the critique as the focus, we instead become incensed that someone is critiquing it at all.  Confrontations can be overly inflammatory and unfair sometimes, and in those cases  icing the haughty attitude of the confronter can be called for, but lets drop the useless claptrap about correction per se.  Suck it up and ask, “does the person offering the correction have a point?  Is it true?”

Too Set in His Ways?

I was visiting the Boundless Line blog the other day, and a post from Tom Jeffries caught my eye:

I remember several years ago having a conversation with a single coworker about the available bachelors we both knew. She was in her mid- to late-20s at the time, and I mentioned a never-married guy who was probably pushing 40. While this young woman was eager to meet that special someone, she still seemed hesitant. Pressed further, she said it wasn’t the age difference that concerned her, it was the fact that this man — nice as he was — had spent more than half his life as a single adult.

“Most men that age,” she said, “are too set in their ways.”

She wasn’t opposed to dating somewhat older men, she said, but experience had taught her that many longtime bachelors have developed habits they are reluctant or even unwilling to alter. Simply put, when you’ve lived on your own for some 20 years, you’re bound to settle into a routine or two or 27.

The story had a happy ending: the man eventually married, so Tom was not out to overly generalize or depress singles in their thirties and forties.  No matter how old you are, it is quite possible to change with the right attitude.  And I assume much the same could be said about the other gender.

The reason it caught my eye, though, is because my experience lines up with the woman’s.  I’ve seen the same thing in many of my friends, and I’ve noticed it to a certain extent in my own young marriage.

So I sauntered over to the comments section.  Boundless Line readers are an eclectic bunch and are not bashful about voiciferously disagreeing with the contributors.  I was simply curious: would the commenters, many of whom would hardly call themselves deep traditional conservatives, say they had the same experience?  While the reaction was far from monolithic, a surprising number did actually notice the trend.  Here are some examples:

from Dannie:

It would depend on the person. I dated a guy pushing forty while I was pushing 30 and yes I did find that this particular man was very set in his ways and it was going to be a ‘his way or the highway’ so we didn’t end up moving further along in the relationship.

However, I’ve found that some other men aren’t that way and have married when the time came by (unfortunately not with me :P)

from Tami:

I concur with Julie. Many of the longtime bachelors I know are extremely picky and idealistic – there’s always something “wrong” with each woman they know or meet.

Not that we should have to date or marry someone just because we’re both single; we’re not all matches — but the pickiness is a pattern I’ve observed as well. (And of course there’s something “wrong” with every woman! We’re human too… by *definition* there’s something wrong with each one of us!)

from Jeremiah:

This phenomenon certainly holds true for me. I’m 32 and have been living by myself (no roommates) for the last 7 years or so. I have always thought of myself as someone that enjoyed being around people and used to be very adaptable to change. In college, I lived in a fraternity house and had to learn to be very tolerant of other people’s messes, quirky habits, and occasional moodiness. It was the best time of my life!

Several years ago, I got into a relationship with a woman and was shocked at how much of that tolerance I had lost over the many years of singleness. In the back of my mind, I found myself being subtle annoyed when she did things differently – the way she loaded the dishwasher to the stuff she liked on TV. At first, dating was a treat. However, by the end, even carving time out of my schedule to drive to pick her up, or spending money out of my budget to pay for dates, or staying up “past my bedtime” (LOL), became a point of contention. In retrospect, I wish I had recognized how set in my ways I had become and worked to change that. 32 is too young to be prematurely old! :)

Sara:

I think of the two older singles that I know best (one in her early forties, the other in his fifties), and both are very set in their ways. The woman would likely be willing to change a bit, but not completely. The man, on the other hand, has no desire to get married, and his main reason is based on the fact that he isn’t ready to change at this stage in the game. He loves his life, he enjoys the freedom of being single, and he doesn’t think the cons of adjusting to a relationship would outweigh the benefits.

Emily:

I am a single 30-something gal that desires marriage. Great! But I sometimes feel very set in my ways and sometimes think singleness is the easier route. Marriage seems scary to me at times. At least in my singleness, there is some predictability. But the price is loneliness. I’ve heard of people that got married later in life and their response was “Why did I wait so long?”

 

While this wasn’t everyone, the number of voices like this was hard to miss.

 

Now, again, it’s silly to prejudge *simply* because someone’s older.  That is, just because someone is older doesn’t necessarily mean he or she is automatically set in his/her ways.  There just seems to be a trend, that’s all, so I think it’s worthwhile to point out this phenomenon.  As I’ve noted before, this is one of the hidden costs to explicitly delaying marriage.

Can you escape the trend of being “set in your ways” if you are a single in your late 20′s and early 30′s?  Well, of course!  That doesn’t happen by accident, though.   My guess is that if you are one of the folks intentionally putting it off until later (late 20′s/30′s), the adjustment will hit you hard, for that very attitude of intentionally putting off marriage is the culprit for many a hard-to-break single tendencies.  On the other hand, if you haven’t married yet but are explicitly preparing for it and pursuing it, you *might* have a considerably easier time even if you marry late.  These folks could be more aware of the need to adjust and could be more open to embracing the challenge and sacrifice.  That’s just my hunch, though.

Convention today tells us to delay marriage longer and longer (average age of first marriage has hiked up quite a bit in the last 30 years), and most people, including many in the Church, are content in going along with the convention.   Many, for example, harp on the notion that marrying at a young age puts you at a higher risk for divorce (what they often don’t realize, however, is that this applies mainly to those who marry at 19 or lower.  Once you get into the 21/22 and up range, the risk trails off significantly).  Very few have paused to think about the possible long-term ramifications, both for individuals (as this post gets into) and for society as a whole.

Rape and Beating Homosexuals–Just Your Opinion?

Almost every week, I keep having this very troubling conversation with my students.  Note I said troubling, not surprising.  It is definitely the former, but not so much the latter.

 

We were discussing Thoreau’s “Civil Disobedience.”  The piece is interesting, if for no other reason than it brings up several good questions, starting with, “what is a good citizen?”  Does he always obey the law?  What if you’re in Germany in the 1940′s and you have Jews in your basement?  Does a good citizen obey if the law is unjust?  What makes a law unjust, anyway?  What standard do you use to measure what is just/unjust?

 

We were discussing those questions, somewhat awkwardly, and I was making the point that to Thoreau, saying a law is unjust is more than just saying “I don’t like this law” or “it doesn’t fancy my desires and wants.”  It has to do with conviction, not mere whims or desires.  A student suddenly blurted out, “well, that’s just your opinion.”

 

And the frustrating, recurring conversation commenced.

 

I try not to let comments like that slide by without being challenged in some respect, so I asked her, “what do you mean by that?”  She said, “well, opinions can’t be right or wrong.  You just have them, that’s all.”

 

Like usual, I applied a reductio question: “so what if my opinion is that blacks and Latinos (this was said to a class that was about 1/3 Latino) are inferior to whites?”

 

A decent number of students maintained their relativism: “well, I don’t agree with you, but that’s just your opinion.”
“So it’s not right or wrong?”

 

“No.”

 

Many people just brush it off: “they don’t really believe that.  They are just saying that to save face and admit they are wrong.”

 

Perhaps, but this happens with waaaay to much frequency to think that’s all there is to it.  Plus, they maintain their relativism without a blink, as if I was asking them to question breathing.  Their face doesn’t register any balking whatsoever.

 

At the end of class, I took a bit of a stand.  I usually don’t do this, but I’ve had this conversation too many times: “really think about what you are saying.  What if everyone really believed that opinions can’t be right or wrong, true or false?  What kind of society would we be living in?  It would be quite an anarchic society, and that should give you pause.”

 

I was reflecting afterward on the situation.  People like Brian McClaren say that relativism is pretty much dead, but I beg to differ.  The reason why students spout out this nonsense is because, quite frankly, that’s what they’ve been taught by the adults in their lives and the media.  Sometimes it is unintentional, but there’s no question we give it to em hard.

 

One way in which we do this, perhaps unconsciously, is this funky fact/value distinction we have going.  We teach that facts are facts–they are cold, hard, empirical, and they apply to reality.  They count.  They are true and false.  Everything else, on the other hand, especially opinions, is amorphous and ambiguous.  Two people can have two contradictory opinions about a certain issue–which one is right and which one is false?  Neither.  When it comes to evaluating opinions, we back off and get real queazy real quick.  The prevailing attitude is that as long as the person can live with their opinion, it is not subject to critique in the same way that empirical facts are.

 

Students take that lesson and run with it.  They connect the dots.  They see that the only way that can be true is if opinions are neither true nor false.  Moral beliefs and religious/spiritual beliefs, for instance, are most often not empirical in sense usually defined, so they get put in the realm of  “opinion.”

 

The thing is, these students graduate and become our neighbors and co-workers.  Do we really want neighbors that really hold that there’s nothing really wrong with the  belief  “rape is good” or “all homosexuals deserve a physical beating”?

 

You might not think that relativistic attitude is a big deal…until you are the one getting beat and your neighbor is just standing there doing nothing, because he thinks, “hey, that’s his perogative.  I shouldn’t get involved.”

 

It is time that adults become more aware of what they are advocating and reject the horrible fact/value distinction that’s so popular today.

Tebow and the “Despicable Doctrine”

Tim Tebow is the source of much commentary in the sports world, for a number of reasons.  Most often the commentary is praise and adoration.  But this was not the case in USA Today a few weeks back.

football-prayer-4

courtesy of markdroberts.com

 

Tom Krattenmaker, author of a new book, Onward Christian Athletes: Turning Ballparks into Pulpits and Players into Preachers, leveled some pretty heavy critique at the very evangelical Tebow and others in his theological camp:

 

Anyone who watches pro and college football or follows the drama of the baseball playoffs can’t help but notice something else that often competes for our attention amid the passes, pitches and home runs: religion.

 

Players point skyward to the Almighty after reaching the end zone or home plate, star athletes voice thanks and praise to their savior after a big win, and sports heroes use their media spotlight to promote the Christian message. (See University of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow and his eye-black, touting Scripture.)  These are the outward signs of a faith surge that has made big-time sports one of the most outwardly religious sectors of American culture.

 

So far so good.  If he were merely commenting on the fact that many of these displays are hypocritical (Barry Bonds, anyone?), or superficial, he’d have my sympathy.  I’d agree entirely if his  commentary was focused on how many players, when they pray, merely ask for the win, erroneously citing Phil 4:13 for support.

 

But he focuses on something other than that: the exclusivity of the Gospel message touted by many Christian athletes.  He acknowledges that these athletes have a right to express their faith, but, somewhat paradoxically, thinks it is time we remove the exclusive claims of what he calls a “far right theology”:

But Jesus’ representatives in sports aren’t just practicing faith. They are also leveraging sports’ popularity to promote a message and doctrine that are out of sync with the diverse communities that support franchises, and with the unifying civic role that we expect of our teams. Typifying the exclusive creed taught by many sports-world Christians is the belief statement published by Baseball Chapel, which provides chaplains for all major- and minor-league baseball teams. Non-believers in Jesus, the ministry declares, can look forward to “everlasting punishment separated from God.”

 

Urban Meyer, Tebow’s coach at Florida, has praised his quarterback’s faith-promoting ways as “good for college football … good for young people … good for everything.” Such is the rhetoric usually heard from those who defend sports-world Christianity as wholesome and harmless.

 

But should we be pleased that the civic resource known as “our team” — a resource supported by the diverse whole through our ticket-buying, game-watching and tax-paying — is being leveraged by a one-truth evangelical campaign that has little appreciation for the beliefs of the rest of us?

 

…If their take on God and truth and life is the only right one — which their creed boldly states — everyone else is wrong.

…It’s not just non-Christians who might have a thing or two to say about this exclusive theology. According to a December 2008 survey by the Pew Forum on Religion in Public Life, 65% of American Christians believe that many religions can lead to eternal life. Our pluralism is a defining and positive reality of American life — but not one that is much valued by those who define the faith coursing through the veins of sports culture.

 

After noting that Tim Tebow does missionary work for his father’s ministry, which adheres to a “far right theology” (Should I point out that such beliefs are hardly far right?  For the whole  of Christian history, they have been smack dab in the center, hardly considered controversial in the Church.  Perhaps Krattenmaker’s loaded language is misplaced, then?)  that Christ is the only doorway to salvation, Krattenmaker concludes:

 

Certainly, Tim Tebow must be applauded for the good he does working on his father’s missions, but he should be seen, too, as one who promotes a form of belief that makes unwelcome judgments about everyone else’s religion. Let’s not forget the twinge that is felt by sports-loving Jewish kids and parents, for example, or by champions for interfaith cooperation, when adored sports figures like Tebow use their fame to push a Jesus-or-else message.

 

The irony is lost on Krattenmaker.  In taking Tebow and his fellow evangelical believers to task about saying “everyone else is wrong,” Krattenmaker foists himself on the same petard.  That is, he’s a pluralist–all roads lead to God, and every (or most) religion(s) is (are) right for each individual.  The Jew’s path is right for him.  The Muslim’s path is right for him, and so on.
Sounds nice, but what him and many others don’t realize is that by taking exception with conservative evangelicals, he is saying that “if someone disagrees with my belief (in pluralism), they are wrong.”  While Moral Therapeutic Deists (more on Moral Therapeutic Deism in youth) in America might hold to pluralism in like manner, he unwittingly pits himself against the majority of  the world.   According to  Islam, there is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet.  Jesus is not the King.  Jews are in error, etc, etc.  According to Judaism, Jesus is not the Messiah.  They think Christians are wrong.  Same for much of the Hindu and Buddhist world–they’ll balk big time at many of Jesus’ statements.  Even if you listen to a follower of B’hai, you’ll hear exclusivistic statements left and right–they think they’ve got it right (that all the leaders of the big religions are prophets) and evangelical Christians/Muslims/orthodox Jews are wrong!  That’s a big chunk of the world right there.

 

Krattenmaker thinks he’s right–otherwise, why would he be writing the column chastising the likes of Tebow–and evangelical Christians are wrong.  Period.  Why is it that when he takes that stance, he’s just right, but when Tebow et al take the very same stance in regard to their beliefs, they are suddenly intolerant?

 

As one commenter noted:

 

Ah! So it’s just the conservative brand of Christianity that needs to receive condemnation for being divisive. Why? You don’t think that liberal Christian theologians think that they have a more accurate summation of Christianity? Islam? Hinduism?

 

Face it: truth by nature is exclusive.  When you say something is right or true, that means its opposite is false…can’t get around that.  Why is Krattenmaker so sensitive to that when those he disagrees with point that out, but he’s ok with his theologically like-minded friends standing upon that principle?  His sensitivity to the nature of truth is popular, but odd.  Imagine if I said, a la Krattenmaker above, “Let’s not forget the twinge that is felt by sports-loving evangelical kids and parents, for example, or by champions for Chuck Colson’s prison ministries, when adored sports writers like Krattenmaker use their fame to push a pluralism-or-else message.”

 

My message to Tom K: what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

 

What’s more, I don’t know why he thinks its important that a majority of what he calls “Christian” Americans agree with him.  Since when have numbers mattered in determining what is true?

 

You might think I’m making the same error when I talk about the majority of the world disagreeing with Krattenmaker, but my point is different: it is ironic that he takes to task those who are narrow in their theology when his own theology is narrow by his own definition.

 

Perhaps I’m not being wholly charitable to him.  Maybe his problem isn’t with the exclusivity of evangelical claims (though much of his column does suggest that), but with the preaching on hell: those who don’t believe in Jesus go to hell.

 

I can see how this doesn’t make sense to a pluralist.  Many well-meaning Christians, in an attempt to stand for their beliefs, awkwardly defend and explain this part of Christianity.  Put the way it is–if you don’t believe in Jesus, you go to hell–doesn’t make much sense to the typical non-believer.  It sounds as if a few sincere errors on a theology quiz can condemn a person to hell, regardless of behavior or the state of his heart.

 

But when one considers our natural state as rebels against God, and when one considers the depth of our rejection of God and the serious nature of our rebellion, the belief makes more sense.  We aren’t good (you’ll need the following to view the link: ID–pugnacious  PW–irishman): our problem isn’t a few errors on a quiz.  Rather, we don’t bring a clean resume before God–we bring a lengthy rap sheet.  Our moral crimes have earned us not God’s gifts, but His judgement.  This goes for those in the West and the East.  But God, in His love for us, graciously provided us amnesty.  The thing is, since we’ve offended God, forgiveness is on His terms, not ours, and His terms are through Jesus.  We should be grateful that He provides a pardon at all, not offended that He provides an infinite number of possible pardons that suit our tastes.  It is us in the dock, not Him.

 

If Krattenmaker still has a problem with this, then I suggest he take it up with Jesus, not Tebow.  It is Jesus who spoke of hell and God’s judgment more than anyone in the Bible, and Tebow is merely faithfully communicating the message of his Sovereign.

 

Lastly, I suggest conservative Christians take note.  We have been accused of being intolerant for our beliefs for some time now.  Actually, Jesus and His disciples got the same treatment.  As Albert Mohler points out, things will only continue to go in this direction:

 

You can count on seeing these same arguments appear anywhere evangelical Christians express their faith in public or within ear-shot of those who may be offended. The belief that faith in Jesus Christ is necessary for salvation is now at the very center of secular outrage.

 

Consider this: Tom Krattenmaker ransacked the website of the Bob Tebow Evangelistic Association in order to find the statement that caused him to criticize Tim Tebow as espousing “a far-right theology.” The outrage directed at Tim Tebow is not just about a Bible reference written in eye-black. The outrage is directed at the sincerely-held beliefs of a young man and an evangelistic association.

 

Tom Krattenmaker suggests that Tim Tebow should adopt a “more generous conception of salvation.” And now we all know the price of being seen as “more generous.” Just abandon the Gospel.

 

I am confident that Tim Tebow will withstand this pressure. He has shown enough theological maturity and strength of conviction to earn that confidence. But, we have to wonder, how many others will fold under the intimidation?

I echo Mohler’s encouragement: it is my hope that conservative Christians buck up and refuse to be intimidated by the passive-aggressive “secular outrage.”

Halloween Shmalloween

So Halloween has come and gone.  Thank goodness.  I used to love going to Halloween parties, but no more.  I saw one too many scantily-clad ladies at Halloween parties put on by Christian friends.  I might go to a “fall  festival”  or something (my church used to put on one of these for the kids…a delightful time with all the yuck taken out of the holiday), but my past experience has soured my outlook considerably.  Too much drama.  So I abstain.

Facebook and the blogosphere has been ablaze with Christians discussing the question of whether or not believers should be participating in Halloween, and if yes, to what extent.

So: what say you?

PS–let’s get one thing out of the way right now: references to Halloween’s origins are irrelevant when discussing our involvement with how it is celebrated *today* (ghouls, witches, axe-murderers, nurses with a few clothing items missing, Little Red Riding Hood with her hood–and a few other clothing items–missing, etc).  Also: I’m talking about Halloween, not Reformation Day!

Ok, go to.

An Incredible Opportunity

Yesterday I had the pleasure of talking with a kid who is thinking about quitting his sport.

 

This young man is a devout Christian; he goes to and/or leads several church and youth functions.

 

One of the points I made to him was that his sport is a ministry; it is an incredible sphere of influence.  “Look at your teammates,” I said.  “They are in need of Christ.  Share the gospel with them and talk to them about Jesus!  If you quit, you won’t have that opportunity.  Sport is an incredible platform for the gospel because there’s something about bleeding and sweating with your teammates that bonds you and brings you close.  You can, of course, still share with them if you quit, but you won’t have the same respect and authority.”

 

His eyes kind of lit up when I said that.  I wonder how many times he’s heard that before.  Probably not many.  I haven’t yet heard it in any of the messages that have been given at the one student Christian group I attend.  I’ve heard about “hurting God’s feelings,” but not about talking about Jesus.

 

This reminds me of what commenter Tim said the other day in reaction to one of my posts:

 

I agree that talking to people about salvation through Jesus Christ is important, but do you think you might be working with a narrow definition of evangelism. By calling it ‘evangelism proper’ and referring to this as the act of talking to people about your religious convictions I think you miss the wider meaning of what evangelism is. I think we could agree that the word evangelism comes for the Greek word euangelion or good news. The good news Jesus says he came to proclaim in Luke 4 says nothing about belief or faith or doctrinal convictions. Instead he speaks of release of captives, blind people seeing and the downtrodden freed (sounds a lot like social justice to me).

 

All I’m saying is I think it’s a both/and kind of situation. Unfortunately the majority of traditions have chosen to major in either one or the other and not both.

 

I can certainly agree with Tim in the last paragraph.  It’s a both/and.  That’s what I’ve been arguing a lot lately.  In a certain sense, I can also agree with the first paragraph.  The problem is that in the church’s effort to embrace a wider definition of “missional,” it is very, very easy to leave the “talking about Jesus” part out.  It’s unpopular.  It’s just not sexy.  People will speak ill of you and regard you as slightly annoying.  Many in church leadership, who are trying to bring the Church a little positive PR, might subconsciously drop that and still think, “hey, we are sharing the gospel.”

 

Speaking and proclaiming and dialoguing about our sin problem and *the* solution Jesus offers (the only adequate solution!) is not sufficient…but it is necessary.

 

Yes, in Luke 4 Jesus might focus on the “social gospel” and might speak little or nothing of doctrinal convictions and such and salvation by faith, but both Him and His apostles do elsewhere all over the place.  That needs to be emphasized.

 

My point is not that we should dump the “freeing the downtrodden” part.  My point is that we need to correct the imbalance and emphasize sharing our Savior via proclamation more.  If we don’t, we’ll be missing an incredible opportunity, just like the young man above.

A Hole in Our Holism

In an article by that title, Stan Guthrie has some good food for thought for the contemporary American Church:

Right now our passion for social issues of all kinds is ascendant. And indeed, our old, narrow, world-rejecting fundamentalism needed a decent burial.

 

Today, it’s great to see how much easier it is to draw crowds by organizing a conference dealing with race, anti-Semitism, abortion, Darfur, homosexual marriage, sex trafficking, AIDS, or environmental stewardship. Loving our neighbor via these issues is right and good. And our newfound activism also can help make the gospel we preach attractive to outsiders. As Jesus said, “[L]et your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”

 

But it seems harder for us to get excited about evangelism. Our holistic mission has a hole in it—not enough evangelism. For instance, while the American population continues growing, our own evangelical numbers barely tread water.

 

Is there a connection between our rediscovered social passion and our growing evangelistic indifference? History certainly provides ample warning, if the Student Volunteer Movement is any guide. Organized in 1888, the SVM boasted a great motto: “The evangelization of the world in this generation.” But according to scholar Paul Pierson, the SVM began stumbling under “a desire to tackle the problems of Western society coupled with doubts about the validity of world evangelization.” By 1940, “It had ceased to be a factor in students’ religious life and in the promotion of mission in the churches.” A greatly diminished SVM was finally disbanded in 1969.

 

…Does our heightened social consciousness—from the Left and the Right—actually drain our evangelistic zeal? It shouldn’t, because we are called to do both.

 

But maybe our preference for social activism reveals a more basic problem: that we don’t really believe our neighbor’s deepest need is to be forgiven by and reconciled to God. We seem to think that if only he or she is fed, or lives in a society brimming with Christian principles, or sees our battles against the world’s many injustices, then we will have discharged our responsibility to Christ.

 

I’m not sure Jesus would agree. “For what does it profit a man,” the Lord asks, “if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?” May our concern to make a difference in this world not blind us to our neighbors’ eternal destiny in the next.

 

Read the whole thing