Thursday, June 02, 2005

And Bono Shall Lead Them

From Christianity Today:

The world's poorest peopled continent, Africa, is the thread tying U2's front man to Orange County pastor ... Rick Warren, who recently hosted Rwanda's president for Saddleback Church's 25th anniversary, will soon launch his PEACE plan connecting U.S. churches to churches in Africa and around the world.

Bono, who some complain has turned U2 concerts into "a televangelist's miracle-working dog-and-pony show" by urging concertgoers to donate to the band's hunger-relief charity, has been preaching debt-relief and AIDS programs for African nations for years now.

Oddly, it's Bono, Warren, and their fans on Capitol Hill who can get politicians to work past culture war name-calling, says David Brooks, in The New York Times.

Issues like poverty, hunger, and AIDS can bring together liberals and evangelicals—the only two groups in the country with the passion to work for social justice.

"We can have a culture war in this country, or we can have a war on poverty, but we can't have both," Brooks says.

"That is to say, liberals and conservatives can go on bashing each other for being godless hedonists and primitive theocrats, or they can set those differences off to one side and work together to help the needy."

Brooks says, "When I look at the evangelical community, I see a community in the midst of a transformation—branching out beyond the traditional issues of abortion and gay marriage, and getting more involved in programs to help the needy. … I see Chuck Colson deeply involved in Sudan. I see Richard Cizik of the National Association of Evangelicals drawing up a service agenda that goes way beyond the normal turf of Christian conservatives."

For example, check out what Samaritan's Purse is doing among disabled, former enemy veterans in Cambodia.

Unfortunately, says David Gergen, nobody knows who Rick Warren is—well, except for the more than 22 million who have read his books or participated in a purpose-driven something or other. The U.S. News & World Report editor at large says he's been asking audiences if they've heard of Warren, and, invariably, only a few have. And the gulf separating those who've read Warren and those who haven't is growing, Gergen says. "As the gulf grows, it is distressing some while frightening others and starting to tear us apart politically."

It's perfectly legitimate for these conservative Christians to participate politically, Gergen says. "Just because many of today's most ardent churchgoers come from the Right is no excuse for people on the Left to now say that religion must be kept out of politics. A people's values are inevitably rooted in its spiritual beliefs."

Though Christians can abuse the legitimate infusion of religion and politics (such as when Christians say political opponents are "against people of faith"), and though "people of faith have legitimate grievances against secularists," Gergen says, "we must also recognize that there are multitudes of people on both sides of the divide who share many of the same beliefs and aspirations." Alleviating poverty and taking care of creation are some of those shared beliefs and aspirations.