The Common Good

Jim Wallis: The Ever-Widening Evangelical Agenda

This article in Sunday's LA Times caught my attention:

Evangelical leader Rick Warren came to the heart of the religious right movement last week to criticize a narrow focus on abortion, homosexuality and pornography as un-Christian.

Strikingly, top Christian conservatives agreed.

During a three-day summit here, members of Focus on the Family and Campus Crusade for Christ joined Warren and dozens of other pastors from across the nation in a pledge to devote more of their resources and clout to helping children in need.

"We've got some people who only focus on moral purity and couldn't care less about the poor, the sick, the uneducated. And they haven't done zip for those people," said Warren, a mega-church pastor in California and author of the best-selling "The Purpose-Driven Life."

Warren hastened to say that he also opposed abortion and gay marriage. But too often, he said, Christians these days are defined by their "big mouth" - what they argue against, not what they embrace. He pointed to a verse from the Book of James that calls caring for orphans an essential element of a "pure and undefiled" faith.

"It's time for the church to stop debating the Bible and start doing it," Warren said.

I've had some good conversations with Rick Warren about his deep passion to serve the poor. He's helping to guide a shift among religious conservatives that should not go without notice or welcome. I pray that this movement keeps moving - beyond personal changes that produce acts of charity (where it always begins) to structural changes that bring about social justice. The criticism Warren alludes to - that conservative activists seem to care more about unborn children than about those living and suffering in poverty - has often been accurate. So when they begin to talk about moving from a narrow focus to a broader agenda that includes loving and sacrificial action for the poor, it feels like a movement of the spirit; one that shows there's hope for the church, and hope for the poor.

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