Thursday, February 28, 2008

Are You a Red Letter or a Black Letter Christian?

Here’s proof that our nation is going off the deep end:

We kill unborn babies for being the "wrong color" and suspend students for taking vitamins.

Read about it here:

and here:

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Defining Evangelicalism Down

By Paul Edwards

The Religious Left is successfully redefining what it means to be a conservative evangelical by misrepresenting what it means to be a conservative evangelical. In a recent conference call hosted by Faith in Public Life, one of the emerging voices of the Religious Left, Dr. Joel Hunter, said:

There’s also a change in the voices that are defining what is conservative now, and what is evangelical. In the past couple of decades you’ve had some very loud voices on both sides – hard right, hard left – and when those were the only choices, then of course many evangelicals are going to go with the hard right because, well, that’s kind of where we mostly are. Now there are many more voices that are expanding the agenda, and so those people that have always had kind of a holistic approach, rather than just a one or two issue approach, are now feeling permission and given permission to be more nuanced and more sophisticated in their approach, rather than just going in a very bifurcated system. And so, what you’re hearing now is that the old voices that appointed themselves as the definers of what was evangelical or what was conservative are not holding sway with the majority of evangelicals anymore.

By convincing America that conservative evangelicals are concerned only with two issues, stopping abortion and preserving traditional marriage, these new voices of evangelicalism are effectively making the case that conservative evangelicals ignore poverty, HIV/AIDS, and the environment. The history of evangelicalism tells a different story.

Evangelicals have set the standard throughout history for social action which continues into the present through numerous humanitarian relief organizations. The Association of Evangelical Relief and Development Organizations claim 64 such organizations as members, including World Vision, Compassion International, Samaritan’s Purse, and Mercy Ships.

One of the largest humanitarian relief organizations in the world is the Salvation Army. It defines its commitment to social services as “…an outward visible expression of the Army's strong religious principles.” Those social services include disaster relief, services for the aging, AIDS education, medical facilities, and shelters for battered women. The Salvation Army impacts 30 million people a year in the United States alone. The founder of the Salvation Army, William Booth, was a Methodist minister. On its website the Salvation Army defines itself as an “evangelical group.”

To these readily recognizable evangelical organizations add the innumerable evangelical churches across America that in very quiet and unrecognized ways minister to the needs of the poor and suffering every day. In my own community a local evangelical church runs the oldest and largest homeless shelter in our county. Grace Gospel Fellowship in Pontiac, Michigan serves 127,000 meals a year, provides rehabilitation services and housing for drug addicts and single mothers, and creates jobs. It accomplishes its mission without one dime of government funding, and is “dedicated to recovery through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

The Religious Left’s appeal for the Religious Right to “broaden its agenda” to include poverty, HIV/AIDS, and the environment ignores the fact that conservative evangelicals have always had a strong commitment to these issues. So if conservative evangelicals are already leading the efforts to relieve poverty and disease, what’s behind the call to “broaden the agenda”? Another agenda altogether.

What’s really happening here is an attempt by the Left to define evangelicalism down by moving it away from its emphasis on the power of the gospel to change lives. The church’s ability to affect social and cultural change, bringing relief to the poor and suffering, is rooted first and foremost in its commitment to the gospel of Jesus Christ, and what the gospel says about the condition of man in sin which results in the symptoms of poverty and disease.

The Religious Left invalidates the conservative evangelical commitment to humanitarian relief because we are achieving our ends in the name of Jesus Christ through the gospel, without the assistance of government funding. The fundamental tenant of modern liberalism is that a government program funded by redistributed wealth is the preferred method of humanitarian relief rather than what the church is accomplishing by faith through compassionate hearts.

The new voices of the Religious Left – Rick Warren, Joel Hunter, Tony Campolo, Jim Wallis, et al – are defining down what it means to be an evangelical by making the symptoms of man’s sin (poverty, disease, etc.) a priority rather than addressing the cause of those symptoms (sin) and the cure found in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The argument for this reprioritizing is a convincing one, suggesting the new priorities for evangelicals ought to be determined by asking, “How would Jesus respond to (fill in your favorite social cause here)?” The implied answer is that Jesus would be more concerned about the treatment of the poor (especially illegal immigrants) and, at best, neutral on the questions of abortion and homosexual marriage because Jesus never spoke against abortion or homosexual marriage.

These new voices of evangelicalism wear the label “red letter Christians,” but they are in reality “white space Christians,” determining Jesus’ view of abortion and homosexual marriage by focusing on what he didn’t say rather than on what he did say. In Matthew 5 Jesus upholds the standard of the Mosaic Law, which is clear in its call for punishing anyone responsible for killing a child in the womb (Exodus 21:22-25). When Jesus wanted to illustrate true greatness, he set a child in the midst of the disciples and said, “Of such is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:14). In Matthew 19 Jesus clearly affirmed that marriage is between one man and one woman by validating the story of Adam and Eve, holding it up as the standard for marriage. As for the question of how Jesus would respond to illegal immigrants, I’m pretty sure he would tell them to obey the law (cf. Matthew 22:21).

The new voices of evangelicalism sound eerily similar to the old voices of the social gospel movement who moved their churches away from the priority of the gospel in the early 20th Century, focusing instead on positive thinking and welfare as a solution to social ills. The result was empty pews and even emptier hearts. I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution, take a bow for the new revolution, then I’ll get down on my knees and pray we don’t get fooled again (with apologies to Pete Townshend).

Paul Edwards is the host of The Paul Edward Program and a pastor. His program is heard daily on WLQV in Detroit and on


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Since when does being a Christian mean giving “unmitigated support” to the military?

Last week, I received two frenzied e-mail alerts from Jay Sekulow, chief counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), an organization ostensibly devoted to defending our First Amendment liberties, particularly the free exercise of religion. The ACLJ identifies itself as “Christian Advocates Serving Evangelism, Inc.,” a “tax-exempt, not-for-profit, religious corporation.” The e-mail I received demanded that I “give generously” in order to punish the city of Berkeley, California, for “insulting” the U.S. Marines. Apparently, the City Council had decided that the Marines’ recruiting office was no longer welcome there. The e-mail also chided the Mayor of Toledo, Ohio, for canceling a military training exercise scheduled in Toledo because the Marines “frighten people.”

As the wife of an Air Force veteran, I care deeply about the men and women in our armed forces. I admire the sacrifices they make to protect our country, and I ache for those who are separated from their families while serving overseas. However, I fail to see how a city’s refusal to allow military recruiting and/or training exercises in its communities warrants the intervention of evangelical Christians.

Here are some quotes from Jay Sekulow’s e-mails:

“Do not allow this anti-military, anti-America sentiment to pervade!”

“At best, this kind of action is nothing more than hostile liberal activism.”

“With your help, we will ... take radical, anti-military rhetoric to task. We will hold liberal politicians accountable for their outrageous behavior.”

“[U.S. military personnel] deserve our unmitigated support.”

Here are my problems with Jay’s tirade:

1. Refusing to allow the military to conduct training exercises in one’s city is not necessarily “anti-American.” As someone who is extremely wary of the dangers of big government (my father grew up in Nazi Germany), I sympathize with those who would be fearful upon seeing an overt military presence in their communities. After hearing about numerous innocent Americans who were killed in no-knock paramilitary-style raids on their homes (at least one instance was a case of mistaken identity), I would be quite uneasy if I observed uniformed military personnel conducting training exercises in my neighborhood.

2. It is wrong to assume that only “liberal activists” would object to military recruiting offices/training exercises in their cities and communities. Libertarians and Christian pacifists may also have qualms about allowing recruiting offices or military training to take place in their cities.

3. As evangelical Christians, I’m not sure we should be devoting our time and energies to taking “anti-military rhetoric to task.” When Jesus spoke about our being salt and light, somehow I don’t think this is what He had in mind.

4. There are a host of abuses that politicians—liberal and otherwise—have committed in recent times for which they should be held accountable. I’m sure Jay could have found even more “outrageous behavior” to castigate had he looked far enough, including SWAT-type raids on home schooling families, government control and manipulation of juries, and unreasonable searches and seizures against innocent people. With so many serious problems in our government, I question the wisdom of focusing his organization’s resources on punishing a couple of cities for insulting the Marines.

5. Many patriotic Americans, including my husband who served in the military, have legitimate gripes with the armed services and therefore may not support their recruiting efforts. My husband has often said he would never recommend military service to anyone because of the experimental vaccines that new recruits are forced to undergo (he suspects that the autoimmune disease he has stems from an experimental Swine flu vaccine he was given in the Air Force). In addition, some conservatives and constitutionalists object to the way the U.S. military is being used as a global policeman. One such “police action” was the invasion of Congo’s Katanga province in the 1960s, which broke away from the pro-communist Congolese regime of Patrice Lumumba. As part of a UN “peacekeeping” operation, U.S. planes bombed hospitals, churches, and schools in order to force the Christian-led government of Katanga to submit to communist rule.

6. The Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal in Iraq, while hardly typical of the U.S. military as a whole, should make Christians wary of giving any branch of the armed forces “unmitigated support.”

If anyone else wants to weigh in on this issue, I’d be interested in your comments.