Spare Some Social Change? Part 1

Note: Drawn out political diatribe ahead. This is your last chance to turn away. Last night I, and about five hundred others, attended a speech at Xavier University given by Jim Wallis founder of Soujourners and author of God's Politics. Wallis is from the same mold as Tony Campolo, known as a left-leaning evangelical Christian. His topic was Christian Leadership, Political Engagement and Social Change.

I went rather reluctantly because the first time I heard him speak it was rough; I think his assigned topic was too narrow that evening and he struggled. Still I decided to go because Xavier is just two minutes up the road and Kelly encouraged me to get out. And, to be fair, Wallis was actually rather good last night; he was humorous and engaging, so it was by no means a waste of my time.

Still, I felt like a stranger in a strange land, surrounded by hundreds of aging Catholic hippies, in addition to college students forced to attend as credit for a class. I did see three staff members from CCU there, which is surprising as our Christian Churches/Churches of Christ rarely acknowledge social issues. Yes, I asked them if they had any marijuana. Hesitant laughter followed. I thought it was funny.

As for the speech, Wallis asserted that evangelical Christians, when it comes to American political issues, usually boil it down to two issues: abortion and gay marriage. This, he said, does not promote a consistent life ethic because four times as many Africans die of HIV every year than are aborted. And I can actually agree with that; Evangelical Christians [or more specifically Republican voting, evangelical Christians] use those two issues as a metaphorical line in the sand to show whose side you're on. I agreed with Wallis on this. While I believe those two issues are important, way too much emphasis is given to them by Christians.

That being said, I find it difficult to buy into Wallis's plea for, what is basically, social liberalism. I'm all for helping the impoverished and fighting AIDS in Africa, but lumped in there is always the obligatory environmental mandate: that protecting planet earth needs to be a Christian priority. Honestly, that's crap. I'm not suggesting that we intentionally burn forests, get automobiles with bad emissions and use aerosol until we destroy the earth. But these Christians that argue that protecting the environment is akin to caring for the poor are full of it. They use a poor hermeneutic, taking verses out of context and slapping them into a brochure. It's irresponsible and, perhaps, even heretical. So, as you can tell, that put me off. But something else bothered me even more.

I'll talk about that in my next post.