Evangelical? Progressive? Both!

Revolution in Jesusland is a plea for secular and mainline progressives to understand a growing evangelical movement. The author, Zack, writes in his blog profile:

… (and we know how difficult this is to believe) there is an incredibly large and beautiful social movement exploding among evangelicals right now that stands for nearly all of the same causes and goals that secular progressives do. Those goals include: eliminating poverty, saving the environment, promoting justice and equality along racial, gender and class lines and for immigrants—and even separation of church and state.

Zack is currently attending the Christian Community Development Association Conference in Missouri. His coverage is worth a look:

From “Prayer, Service, Development“:

Right now I’m at one of the first CCDA classes. This one is on “Empowerment,” led by Bob Lupton, who’s done incredible neighborhood economic development work over decades in his city of Atlanta—and has taught others all over the country. (Thanks to UrbanMinistry.org, you can listen to many different classes and lectures by Bob here. I highly recommend listening to one of those talks. He’s a great speaker and he’s speaking from decades of humble and brilliant trial and error.)

He just told a story about a talk he was invited to give recently at a “very, very biblical” college.

He asked the students, “What is the number one mandate in the Bible?”

One student answered, “Evangelize!”

He pressed them, and finally another answered, “You mean ‘love God and Love your neighbor’?”

Bob answered, “Yes. And so, who teaches the courses on neighbor loving here?”

Blank stares.

“You have a whole department here on evangelism,” Bob said to them, “But you’re telling me that you don’t have a single course on neighbor loving? No ‘Love Your Neighbor 101′ here?” And then he joked with them: “You know the problem with this place? You’re not biblical enough.”

He told us (I’m paraphrasing): “You get what they were doing? They were skipping over the great command on their way to the great commission. You can’t do that. The commission flows through the command—it’s a by product of the great command.”

And from “I’m doing this for God, not for you,” notes on how to help the poor without becoming paternalistic:

I haven’t seen any counterproductive white guilt here yet. I think there is something about these folks’ spirituality that cancels it out. It’s already part of their theology to accept and confess that they are utterly flawed sinners—broken people living in a broken world. That’s a pretty humble platform from which the Haves can go make relationships with the Have Nots. It seems to work pretty well for them (despite the mishaps they’re confessing, there’s a foundation of unmistakable, astounding success at helping huge numbers of people and developing communities).

The leadership of the Christian Community Development Association is multi-racial. The founder is black. The new executive director is Latino. At least a few of the top leaders in the movement are white. They all live in poor urban communities.

I’ve had friends who were the children of the Catholic Worker movement—whose parents moved into poor urban areas in the 60’s. I remember thinking that must have been some dying gasp of the Christian progressive (then, socialist) movement.

But, as it turns out, (conservative!) evangelical Christians picked up where that movement left off. A lot of these leaders moved in to their neighborhoods starting in the 80’s and 90’s. And now the movement to move into “broken” neighborhoods seems to be reaching a fever pitch. I don’t have any stats to back that up, and I doubt anyone does. But it’s the new must-do thing for Christians who are “on fire for Jesus.”

A year ago, I would have thought that sounded crazy. But I’ve seen that having God as the primary intellectual motivating factor in service has advantages. For example, it solves the biggest problem with The Haves trying to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem—it can help overcome the paternalism problem.

Hear me out. When that kid moves into some poor neighborhood, he’ll have a better defense against paternalism than most, because—as he helps set up after school tutoring programs, job training programs, etc…—his stance will NOT be, “I’m the great white hope come to save you,” (normally, the default) but instead: “I’m not here to help you. I’m here to serve God. My God wants to alleviate poverty, and I’m doing his will.”

Lots more here.

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