By Charles Redfern
Run – do not walk, but run with blistering, heart-attack speed – to the mall’s Shake-the-Earth Religious Magazine Store and pick up the latest copy of Christianity Today. There’s hope. Gobs of it. Sanity is making a come-back even amid the shrill cry of the shrinking religious right (“I’m melting!”).
First is the cover story profiling the new Focus on the Family boss. Read the tag line: “Why Jim Daly doesn’t care whether you know who he is or whom he supports for president.” James Dobson’s heir says … whuh? The organization is returning to its original purpose and calling: Nurturing godly families and helping children. No one says Focus employees will be wearing Che Guevara T-shirts (although the old formal dress code has dropped to “business casual”), but at least they won’t implicitly christen the GOP as “God’s Own Party.” Daly’s own compelling personal saga of alcoholic parents and foster-care abuse gives him empathy for the downtrodden.
Second is Tony Carnes’ article entitled, “Back to the Garden,” in which urban Christians team up with the homeless to form gardening networks. Conservation and community-formation blend with evangelism. Voila, holistic Christianity sprouts. See pages 56-58 for the thrilling details and the thickening plot.
Third is Elaine Storkey’s “A Liberating Woman,” which describes the recently-late Catherine Clark Kroeger, who lectured at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and headed up Christians for Biblical Equality. Kroeger never wavered from her insistence on remaining biblical while persisting on what some would deem a “progressive” stance on women’s issues. Indeed, she demonstrated how the Bible itself supported male-female equality. That’s vital for us so-called “progressive evangelicals.” Let’s remember the “evangelical” half of our label and its consequent call for Scriptural integrity. Otherwise, we’re just one more annoying pressure group.
Fourth is Timothy Gombis’s, “The Paul We Think We Know.” While the Grand Rapids Theological Seminary professor does not allude to the controversy between the Neo-Reformers and the “New Perspective” school on Paul, he seems to sympathize with the latter. That’s refreshing – if only to serve notice that NT Wright, EP Sanders, James Dunn, and others are legitimate scholars packed with insight.
Maybe that smothering, hermetic seal is finally lifting from evangelical Christianity. Maybe we can suck in the fresh breeze. There’s hope for Kurt Willems, who recently wrote how he felt like an evangelical reject because he does not fit the mold though he affirms what has always been recognized as orthodox doctrine. My word to him and others: I’m with you, brother. I’ve felt that way since the 1970’s. So take it from me: Change is in the wind. We can dream again. Keep the faith and walk the narrow path and fight the good fight, young man. God ain’t finished with us yet.