Paul L. Caron

Sunday, August 14, 2022

NY Times Op-Ed: A Model For An Evangelical Christianity Committed To Justice

New York Times Op-Ed:  A Model for an Evangelical Christianity Committed to Justice, by Tish Harrison Warren (Priest, Anglican Church; Author, Prayer in the Night: For Those Who Work or Watch or Weep (2021) (Christianity Today's 2022 Book of the Year)):

Warren 3HIn my first couple years of college I had a minor crisis of faith. I had grown up going to a large Southern church that prided itself on preaching the Gospel, but leaders there did not talk much about systemic injustice or economic disparity. I was taking a class on poverty in the United States and another course taught by an avowed socialist passionately committed to radical politics. I was volunteering with a ministry that worked with undocumented immigrants and among the economically disadvantaged. I felt increasingly disconnected from my evangelical community on issues of nonviolence and social and economic justice.

One night, feeling frustrated and cynical, I walked into a bookstore and stumbled on a book titled Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger: Moving from Affluence to Generosity by Ronald J. Sider, which argues that vast global wealth inequality is a moral failure resulting from systems of oppression and sin. I didn’t know it at the time, but this book, which was first published in 1978, is considered a classic. In 2006, it was listed at No. 7 in The Top 50 Books that Have Shaped Evangelicals by the flagship evangelical magazine Christianity Today and has sold 400,000 copies in nine languages.

The book changed my life — probably not as much as it should have. Its call to generosity is something I still wrestle with and need to grow toward, even now. But more than the particular contents of the book, what discovering Sider offered me was hope that there was a movement of Christians who cared deeply about the Bible and also about the Bible’s call to seek justice here on Earth. Sider introduced me to an entire world of Christians whose passion for God defies political and cultural categories.

Sider died last month at 82 and as I’ve read tributes to his work, I find myself grateful for his legacy and struck by how his countercultural voice remains vital and important even now. Christianity Today described Sider as the burr in “‘the ethical saddle’ of the white evangelical horse.” ...

[H]e simply doesn’t fit neatly into any fixed political category. Like much of the evangelical left in the ’70s and ’80s, Sider was radically progressive on many social and economic issues, while remaining committed to traditional Christian doctrine and sexual ethics in ways that set him apart from both parties. He believed the church needed to be more holistically pro-life, publishing a book in 1987 called Completely Pro-life: Building a Consistent Stance on Abortion, the Family, Nuclear Weapons, the Poor. He affirmed a traditional ethic of marriage and did not see gay sexual relationships as biblically permitted. Sojourners magazine stated that while some of his contemporaries “embraced progressive theologies, Sider remained committed to conservative sexual ethics.” ...

His life was an encouragement to those who seek to follow Jesus in a complex and confounding American political landscape. Sider helped birth a movement and blaze a trail. And though at times it seems that trail has been hidden under Christian political partisanship, lust for power, cowardice and unfaithfulness, many Christians are still trying to walk the narrow path he left behind him.

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Other New York Times op-eds by Tish Harrison Warren:

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