Monday, February 1, 2010

Who Cares About the Poor?

I often read and hear that traditional, conservative Evangelicals need to become more concerned about the poor, that our focus is too exclusively on the soul and not the body, that we need to become more concerned about social justice and less about heaven. (See, for example, N. T. Wright, the Emergent Church "conversation," and many of those who spout the "missional" language incessantly.)

On Sunday, we had an offering for Haiti in our church and we took in $17,000 dollars. That is above and beyond our normal offering. We are a conservative, hopelessly traditional, Bible-preaching, sin and salvation centered, heaven focused, suburban congregation of about 450. (And we even risk N. T. Wright's disapproval by singing hymns by Charles Wesley from time to time.) And we are racially mixed with many people from the Caribbean islands as members, as well as folks from all over the world. (Our members have over 40 different mother tongues. Many conservative Evangelical churches are like this in Toronto. Evangelicals and Catholics around here tend to be much more diverse that liberal Protestants, although liberal Protestants talk more about diversity, just as they talk more about "the poor.")

We will get more next week for Haiti and will probably go over $20,000. Of course, this special project is in addition to the support of numerous children through World Vision and much other wholistic mission work that we have in our ongoing budget.

Before I am subjected to any more lecturing about how we conservative Evangelicals don't care about the poor, all I ask is that the lecturer be attending a church that gave more for Haiti. Is that too much to ask?


David Peterson said...

Well said.

jonathanturtle said...

Fair enough. But, erm, whatever happened to that thing about ones left and right hands?

At any rate, as good a feat as raising money for Haiti is that doesn't mean one cares for the poor. Something tells me that if we're to be obedient to the call to die and live in Christ then caring for the poor is more than writing a cheque.

Perhaps a good place to start is not broadcasting what/how we give, because then it's not really giving is it?

Also, the US (among other countries) has given more than your church to has to Haiti. Does the US care about the poor? Are there other agendas at work? Methinks there's usually more than meets the eye.

Craig Carter said...

I'm am just responding to the accusations of the Jim Walliss and Tony Campolos and Brian McLarens of the world who accuse Evangelicals of not being good Christians and of not interpreting the Bible correctly. Too many sincere and naive people are swallowing the line that socialism = Christianity, which is the upshot of their argument even if they never frame it that way in so many words.

The point is that a false impression of what Evangelicals believe and do is being created that makes Evangelicals look bad and convinces impressionable people to turn away from biblical orthodoxy step by step in order to embrace a social justice agenda that is rooted in the Enlightenment and contrary to biblical theology.

When they quit criticizing conservative Christians for not voting for abortion-enabling and homosexuality-promoting politicians like Barack Obama on the basis of their "social justice" agenda, then I'll stop pointing out the truth. I'm not concerned to justify myself; I only concerned about people being misled by the Evangelical Left into a new liberal, Social Gospel that is no real Gospel at all.

jonathanturtle said...

"a social justice agenda that is rooted in the Enlightenment and contrary to biblical theology."

Can you elaborate on this a bit? I mean I'll admit that 'social justice' has certainly been hijacked at times but to say that it is "contrary to biblical theology" just doesn't seem to ring true.

It's hard for me to imagine a Gospel that doesn't have things to say to the very reality of the world we live in. If it's true that the Word of God speaks then surely he speaks to injustice.

I think the scriptures take seriously the goodness of physical creation. This being said I'm not sure social justice can be divorced from the scriptures or that the scriptures can be divorced from social justice.

What's your beef with social justice?

On a somewhat related note, have you ever read and writings by Bob Goudzwaard?

Craig Carter said...

Your question required more space that I have here so I've written two posts in reply to your question. Feel free to respond in the comments section there.

Peter Dunn said...

I made this comment at City of God because Jonathan is not the only one using Matt 6.1-4 against announcing publically a church's offering for Haiti:

It is fairly pharisaical to interpret Jesus words as intended to be literal instead of hyperbolic. I used to think as 15-year-old new Christian that it was not proper to pray with other Christians, but we were only supposed to pray in a closet privately too (Matt 6.6). I am pretty sure that it is individual self-aggrandizement which Jesus condemns in Matt 6, and not the announcement of community’s generosity–in many cases in churches such large donations are thanks to a few large donors and many small ones. Yet the large donors may hide behind the community as a whole and they remain within the spirit of Jesus’ exhortation.

Dr. Craig Carter blogged about the large take at his church in order to rebuff the claim that conservative Christians don’t care about the poor. In that case, then, the announcement had a didactic function. It is a way of encouraging positive behavior. So also Acts 4.37.