Earning a Second Look

  Regular readers of the New York Times could be excused for wondering if the wrong paper had been left on their doorstep. Instead of the usual hysteria about Evangelical involvement in American public life, they read praise of that involvement. The involvement being praised was our impact on foreign policy. In his piece "Following God Abroad," columnist Nicholas Kristof called Evangelicals the "newest internationalists." He cited the cover of the latest issue of Campus Crusade for Christ's magazine. Instead of a story about issues normally associated with Evangelicals, the issue looked at rural poverty in Cameroon. Kristof approvingly cited the list of international issues that Christians are involved in with their "growing clout": human rights in China and North Korea, sexual trafficking in Eastern Europe, slavery in Sudan, and the battle against AIDS in Africa. Kristof acknowledges that he disagrees with Evangelicals on many issues. But he hastens to add that the people he calls "snooty, college-educated bicoastal elitists" should "welcome this new constituency for foreign affairs." Kristof's assessment came in the wake of an even bigger shock to the system of many Times readers: an ad sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith featuring a column written by the former head of the Christian Coalition, Ralph Reed. Reed's piece, "We People of Faith Stand Firmly with Israel," described the "powerful and undeniable connection between Israel and the Christian faith." Reed spoke about being inspired by the example of Christians like Corrie ten Boom and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Talk about politics and strange bedfellows. The ADL has opposed Christians like Reed on most of the church-state issues like school prayer. Yet, as ADL national director Abraham Foxman said, "Any voice that stands up clearly, loudly and says, ‘I support you. I am with you,' will get a standing ovation." Christian support for Israel and our involvement in foreign policy is causing some Americans to re-examine their attitudes towards Christians in public life. As Kristof wrote, "I've lost my cynicism about evangelical groups partly because I've seen them at work abroad." There are two important lessons in these stories about newfound respect. The first is that, of all people, Christians are most prepared for the challenges posed by what I call the "scary new world" we live in. We are commanded to treat the obligations imposed by citizenship as an act of service to God. At the same time, since we know that we are members of a church that encompasses people of every tribe, tongue, and nation, we are naturally concerned with what goes on outside the borders of our own country. The more you understand our worldview, the less surprised you should be at the thought of Evangelicals as internationalists. The other lesson is that the best way to get people to listen to our arguments is to show them the impact that Christian faith can have. As Kristof said, when aid groups pull out because of the danger, Christian groups remain. That's the kind of witness that prompts a second look -- and favorable words even from the New York Times. For further reading: Nicholas Kristof, "Following God Abroad,"The New York Times, May 21, 2002. (Registration required.) Erik Segalini, "Cameroon," Worldwide Challenge, January/February 2002. (This is the Campus Crusade magazine article to which Kristof refers.) Ralph Reed, "We People of Faith Stand Firmly with Israel," printed April 21, 2002, by MidEastTruth. Todd Hertz, "Opinion Roundup: Are Evangelicals the ‘New Internationalists'?" Christianity Today, May 27, 2002. Corrie ten Boom, The Hiding Place (Bantam Books, 1982). Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship (Touchstone Books, 1995).


Chuck Colson


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