Monday, February 04, 2008

Baptists vs. Structural Evils

Nicholas Kristof, the liberal New York Times columnist, say liberals shouldn't scorn evangelicals because they now do good social action work. Which is true. But even that he says in a scornful "they've come so far" way.

In this column he specifically mentions Rick Warren, pastor of the Saddleback megachurch, which is quietly Southern Baptist. His and his wife's personal experience with poverty and misery in Africa has mobilized the "purpose driven" wing of evangelicalism to do heroic work there. Baptists do fabulous cup-of-cold-war work -- 7,500 Saddlebackers going personally to Africa to fight poverty is truly impressive.

And yet, they still can't see the structural picture. You fight AIDS by changing individual behavior. Score one for the Baptists. But you fight warlords, who sell drugs, rape, and kill, with armies. Baptists don't have an army (nor should they). That is what the government is for. And when low-church evangelicals are in charge of the government, they can't seem to get that.


Anonymous said...

And when low-church evangelicals are in charge of the government, they can't seem to get that

Are you referring to Jimmy Carter. If you are I agree.

Marty said...

Yeah, I wonder who you're talking about here. Carter is an obvious example -- and perhaps the only one, which would make your comment an odd one. Unless you meant to imply Mike Huckabee...

Gruntled said...

I am not just thinking of the presidency, but most of the governors and legislators in the South. When faced with suffering, they are usually personally very responsive; when people suggest that they use their power of government to be equally responsive, they revert to a small government theory.

Moreover, low-church responsiveness is excellent at helping the suffering person, but is often baffled by the idea that there are recurrent structures creating that suffering. Christian Smith's study of evangelicals found that his respondents often couldn't even understand the question when he asked them about changing social structures.

Anonymous said...

This article reminded me of the old Mark Twain quote
"When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years"