|Photo by Katie Martinez|
The need for conversation among believers on justice issues just got greater. Social media has been blowing up with the release of the news that World Vision is going to hire gay married couples.
Franklin Graham put out a statement in response. His is shorter but he is no less clear in his view.
Many of the comments I've seen aren't as well thought out. One Facebook discussion took the issue in many different directions, most of which were not biblical.
To be honest Richard Stearns, the president of World Vision, wrote the book I was struggling to read (see "Crossing the Political Bridge to Nowhere, 3/22/14). The Hole in our Gospel focuses on issues related to poverty--one of the primary causes of human trafficking--and one of the challenges being addressed by Transform World. So it seemed good to see what the president of World Vision had to say. Stearns quotes Scripture liberally; in every sense of the word. He even goes so far as to rewrite it to support his agenda. In my opinion he goes too far, and so did his editor. On p. 65 he says: "Jesus' strongest denunciations were directed not at thieves, murderers, and adulterers, but at the faith leaders of the day, the very men who had studied the Scriptures most (in today's terms, the pastors and seminary professors). Yet in just twenty-one verses (Matt. 23:13-33) Jesus called them hypocrites seven times, blind guides twice, blind fools, sons of hell, whitewashed tombs, snakes, and a brood of vipers!"
It's troubling to me that Stearns' book was endorsed by Bill Hybels, Max Lucado, and John Ortberg (along with other notable faith leaders who have spent years studying Scripture) yet Stearns makes a blanket statement condemning them. This may be the editor in me--but he didn't say some, he made a blanket overgeneralization. In other places he makes oversimplifications of very complex issues rather than give a more balanced view. So how did he get such fine endorsements? For those who don't know, I'll tell you an insider secret. Most famous people trust the integrity of the person writing the book and often don't read but a small sample. I can't help but wonder if these and other endorsers would have said the same things had they read the entire book using critical thinking skills.
On p. 223, Stearns revises Scripture to write a letter to the Church in America, in Jesus' name. I find that problematic. Not only does it seem presumptuous, but it's terribly judgmental of all the Christians and churches doing incredible work around the globe. Stearns is certainly not the only one fighting poverty, and he cites fine examples of churches and pastors caring for the poor. Editors typically find and correct such inconsistencies. Yet, as an editor who has worked with notable authors, I'm all too aware of how easily mistakes can be made and how fallible all human beings are--even editors, even those in leadership.
That's one reason I'm finishing the book--because Stearns also makes some very valid points. The Church in America can do much more. On Sunday we took a missions offering at my church and though I sat halfway back, when the offering container came to me, it only had one check in it. That's shameful.
This is why believers need each other. We need to be talking to get the best each individual has to offer. It's a known leadership principle that conflict can lead to a better place. And true leaders bring people together. We don't make progress or reflect the light of Christ through condemning hateful words.
That's why I wrote "Let the Conversation Begin, Parts 1 & 2 (see 2/26 & 3/9). "The Other Part of James 1: World Vision, Gay Marriage and Fighting Christians" also fleshes out this need. Thank you Alison Buzard for pointing us all in the right direction.
I hope the conversation begins soon and welcome your contributions as long as they are respectful. (To leave comments, click on "[#] comments." If anyone knows how to change that feature to be more clear, I'd sure like to know.)