Here’s an excerpt:
I recently went to a U2 concert in Philadelphia with a group of evangelicals who have been working with Bono to fight AIDS and poverty in Africa. A few years ago, U2 took a tour of the heartland, stopping off at places like Wheaton College and the megachurch at Willow Creek to urge evangelicals to get involved in Africa. They’ve responded with alacrity, and now Bono, who is a serious if nonsectarian Christian, is at the nexus of a vast alliance between socially conservative evangelicals and socially liberal N.G.O.’s.
Today I’ll be at a panel discussion on a proposed antipoverty bill called the Aspire Act, which is co-sponsored in the Senate by social conservatives like Rick Santorum and social liberals like Jon Corzine.
And 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 Rick Warren, who through his new Peace initiative is sending thousands of people to Rwanda and other African nations to fight poverty and disease. 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.
I see evangelicals who are more and more influenced by Catholic social teaching, with its emphasis on good works. I see the historical rift healing between those who emphasized personal and social morality. Most of all, I see a new sort of evangelical leader emerging.
Millions of evangelicals are embarrassed by the people held up by the news media as their spokesmen. Millions of evangelicals feel less represented by the culture war-centered parachurch organizations, and better represented by congregational pastors, who have a broader range of interests and more passion for mobilizing volunteers to perform service. Millions of evangelicals want leaders who live the faith by serving the poor.
Serious differences over life issues are not going to go away. But more liberals and evangelicals are realizing that you don’t have to convert people; sometimes you can just work with them. The world is suddenly crowded with people like Rick Warren and Bono who are trying to step out of the logic of the culture war so they can accomplish more in the poverty war.