The Least, First

Monte Asbury's blog

White evangelical voters: poverty no. 1 moral issue

with 2 comments

The Great AwakeningI had always been a skeptic of the church of personal peace and prosperity … of righteous people standing in a holy huddle while the world rages outside the stained glass. But I’ve learned that there are many people of the cloth who are also in the world, and from debt cancellation to the fight against AIDS and for human rights, they are on the march. – Bono

Change is indeed in the air. As voters head to the polls (I write this on Super Tuesday, 2-5-08, in the USA), the main moral issue on the minds of white evangelicals is now poverty! That homecoming is nothing short of astonishing.

clipped from
[New York Times] columnist Nicholas Kristof quotes The Great Awakening, where Jim Wallis says, “Evangelicals are going to vote this year in part on climate change, on Darfur, on poverty.” Kristof then adds that, according to a CBS News poll, this year white evangelicals consider the fight against poverty to be the top moral issue, displacing abortion to a distant second.
Kristoff quotes CARE’s Helene Gayle about evangelicals’ work against global poverty: they “have made some incredible contributions … We don’t give them credit for the changes they’ve made.” Similarly, Environmental Defense president Fred Krupp said, “Many evangelical leaders have been key to taking the climate issue across the cultural divide.”
Kristof concludes, “In parts of Africa where bandits and warlords shoot or rape anything that moves, you often find that the only groups still operating are Doctors Without Borders and religious aid workers: crazy doctors and crazy Christians.”
  blog it
More of Rick Warren’s story:

I could see this shift in action a few weeks ago in Davos at the World Economic Forum. I got to see Rick Warren in action, motivating business and political leaders to put poverty, disease, and peace-making higher on their agenda. Kristof tells a story about Warren, who for many years didn’t pay much attention to these issues of social justice and compassion. Then, during a 2003 visit to Africa, Rick came into a ramshackle tent where a little church was caring for 25 AIDS orphans.

Rick said, “I realized they were doing more for the poor than my entire megachurch. … It was like a knife in the heart.” Kristof recounts how Rick turned this heartbreak into action: mobilizing his church to constructive action in 68 countries, recruiting 7,500 members to pay their own way to serve poor people around the world – experiencing a transformation in their own values and priorities in the process.

Mm-mm. That’s renewal: hearts moved toward the priorities of Jesus.

OK, God:  Show me my place in it!

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Written by Monte

February 5, 2008 at 2:19 pm

2 Responses

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  1. I should add that my use of the word “fringe” does not minimize these long standing voices of justice and active peace-making – by “fringe” I mean only that they have been less considered by mainstream evangelicalism – not that their ideas/theology are not central to the faith. In fact, I find they represent the gospel more adequately and accurately than the personal salvation/Bible believing conservative evangelicalism of Billy Graham, et al.


    February 5, 2008 at 6:21 pm

  2. Good stuff Monte. I was explaining my support for Barack Obama to a Clinton loving friend of mine. After some discussion, she noted that she agrees with what I’m saying but wonders what happened to me – “you used to be a Conservative”.

    True enough. I do see things differently now. I explained to her that the shift is in part due to disenfranchisement that has mounted over the past eight years. But more than that, I said was the shift in my spiritual life.

    I’m grateful for the voices from the “fringe” – Sojourners, the Mennonite Church, to name a few – who have had a redeeming influence on the Evangelical Church through persons like Brian McLaren, et al. Thank God we are finally starting to understand our mission in the world more clearly.

    I am hopeful.

    Yes we can.
    (by the way, have you seen the Black Eyed Peas mash-up of Obama’s “Yes We Can” speech? Phenomenal!)


    February 5, 2008 at 6:18 pm

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