The Evangelical Prophets of Advent: Preparing the Way
We often think of prophets as people in robes holding a staff rebuking a king or trying to point out the error of our ways. In this season of Advent, the prophets are taking a different tack.
Pastor Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life, comments in his interview with Krista Tippett, that Evangelicals are returning to an emphasis on personal AND social morality. He recounted how the Catholic Church had continued to emphasize both at a time in the mid-20th century when Evangelicals focused on personal salvation and morality, while Protestants focused on social morality issues such as racism, poverty, and human rights.
Kay Warren responded to a series of questions about their Saddleback, CA church’s mission to combat HIV / AIDS in Africa. Krista Tippett asked her how she could reconcile issues of sexual promiscuity and the use of condoms. Her answer was telling. Kay Warren made an important distinction between ideal positions on morality and their pastoral application. She said that in an ideal world, abstinence before marriage and fidelity in marriage were ideal solutions to the prevention of HIV /AIDS. However, condoms can’t be disregarded because they save lives in many situations in which women and men have no real control over the behavior of their spouses.
The Warren’s HIV / AIDS initiative has enlisted the help of prominent people on both sides of the political spectrum. People from the left and the right have groused about the other side being included. However, the Warrens, insist that their mission is not about politics, but faith and compassion for all people.
In a previous interview with Jim Wallis, the author of God’s Politics: How the Right Gets it Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It, and founder of “Covenant for a New America,” Krista Tippett focused on Wallace’s campaign to combat poverty and the dehumanization it brings.
Previous Evangelical leaders, such as Billy Graham, Pat Robertson, and James Dobson, have had the ear of the rich and powerful, in addition to the ear of millions of people. Their influence on key political figures from Richard Nixon to the current President Bush has been noted.
According to Krista Tippett, new leaders like Jim Wallace and Rick and Kay Warren now have this same influence, but with a broader message. Wallis not only has the ear of Presidential candidates, but he is close to the new Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Gordon Brown, and the newly elected Prime Minister of Australia, Kevin Rudd. Rick and Kay Warren are also sought out by the powerful. The difference between this new group of Evangelical leaders and the older group is an emphasis on salvation – personal, economic, and spiritual – as brought about by the activity of God in the assembly – the church. Salvation in Christ comes through the community that is church.
These leaders reflect a broader movement among younger Evangelicals, who are emphasizing the transcendent and the immediate dimensions of faith in ministering to people in need as ministering to Christ. According to Krista Tippett, these young Evangelicals are called the “New Monastics” and live in communities emphasizing simplicity and service to the disenfranchised.
People familiar with the history of Evangelicals and other branches of Christianity will realize that there is nothing “new” in these developments. Yet they are wonderful to behold.