As we race toward the 2004 presidential election, the United States is a deeply divided country. At the very center of this divide is a seriously polarized churchpolarized by politics more than theology. The American church is not only split by contentious issues such as abortion and the sanctioning of gay unions, but also by issues of domestic and foreign policy.
For example, a Feb. 17 to 19, 2003, Gallup poll showed that those who defined themselves as members of the Religious Right were much more likely than the general public or even other active church-goers to support a pre-emptive war on Iraq. Those who called themselves evangelical or "born again" were also more likely to support the war than the general public, although at a more modest rate than the Religious Right.
Few Americans seem to realize that the church in other industrialized countries is not nearly as divided over this issue. In fact, most evangelical leaders in Britain, Australia, and New Zealandin contrast to their American cousinswere opposed to the war. What accounts for this surprising difference between many American evangelical believers and their global siblings?
My wife, Christine, and I took the first United flight to Britain after the horror of Sept. 11 to attend a Micah Conference on integral mission at Oxford, sponsored by the World Evangelical Alliance. As the moderator, David Boul, opened the conference, he explained its purpose: to start a much-needed conversation among evangelicals from all over the world on how to integrate word-and-deed mission in a way that takes seriously the biblical call to justice and mercy.