Last evening I attended a reception and dinner in Washington for evangelical Christian leaders, which is not an unusual event here. But the topic and, especially, the main speaker would seem highly unusual to many. The event, called "A Global Leaders Forum," was hosted by the National Association of Evangelicals and the Micah Challenge, a global advocacy campaign focused on achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which are aimed at cutting extreme global poverty in half by 2015. The topics that brought 250 evangelical leaders together from around the U.S. and world were indeed global poverty and the urgent issue of climate change. Both issues are now firmly on the agenda of the evangelical mainstream, as last night's impressive list of leaders demonstrated.
The speaker for the evening was none other than Ban-Ki Moon, the new secretary general of the United Nations, which is driving the MDG initiative. Growing up in the evangelical world, I remember the great debate about who was the real "Antichrist" as described in biblical prophecy--it was either the pope or the United Nations. As Washington Post writer Dana Milbanks noted this morning
In the wildly popular Left Behind series of evangelical Christian novels, the Antichrist takes the form of the secretary general of the United Nations, sets up an abortion-promoting world government and becomes the Global Community Supreme Potentate. Last night, the National Association of Evangelicals met for dinner at the Sheraton in Crystal City. The keynote speaker? Why, the Antichrist himself.
Last night, the supposed Antichrist was listening to gospel music, speaking of his own faith, quoting scripture, celebrating a new alliance with "the evangelical church" on the critical issues of poverty and global warming, and bringing the conservative Christian crowd to its feet in smiling agreement with the secretary's agenda.
Indeed, leader after leader insisted this was a biblical agenda. A prominent leader from the Religious Right came up to sit right next to me, and then engaged me in an amazing conversation about finding common ground. This dramatic shift in the public agenda of the evangelical community is affecting American politics in very significant ways and promises to change them, especially if the political labels of left and right slowly slip away and are replaced by a common commitment to focus on the key moral issues of our time. Those issues are now defined more broadly and deeply than before and include the plight of God's poorest children and the fragile state of God's creation.