How to Be Evangelical After World Vision: The Principle

When several friends had a conference call with World Vision CEO Richard Stearns and found out that 10,000 child sponsorships had been dropped in the course of one week, I wept. 

I know there are all kinds of counter-arguments out there to the effect that the kids will be fine because money is pooled into one budget and besides there are a million other faith-based NGO’s that do the same thing and it’s all just a bunch of progressive political outrage, ad infinitum, etcetera. And I’m quite sure that those are all half-lies because if the kids would be fine World Vision wouldn’t have reversed the policy decision out of desperation to survive. And Rich Stearns wouldn’t have been crying on the phone with my friends, who were crying too. And the progressives are playing politics? Oh, the irony.

But come on, you guys. I don’t care about the counter-arguments. It’s the principle of the thing.

Ten. Thousand. Kids.

Not because there was corruption or abuse, and children were being harmed. No, because the emerging reality in our country that gay people can be legally married is an unacceptable reality that deserves lalalala, fingers-in-the-ears exclusion at all costs because righteousness and cultural uniformity and political power.

Not donors slowly scaling back support and reasonably talking it out with the organization to make sure the kids are taken care of even though moral convictions must be acted on. No, just snatching it away. Like a toddler does at playtime when they don’t get what they want. Like immature, adolescent people do when a relationship doesn’t meet their needs. Just, grab. And bolt.

It’s the principle of the thing.

The literal expression of Christians prizing sacrifice over mercy, and explaining it all away as righteousness.

I wept because if this is what the evangelical church looks like, then there is no doubt in my or lots of other folks’ minds: we don’t want to be a part of the evangelical church.


What if this is not what the evangelical church looks like – not really? What if there’s more than the conservative evangelical majority, ever drawing lines in the sand, perfecting the art of picking up their ball and going home? What if there is more, and what if that more, while still the minority, is actually where the church is really headed as she makes her way through yet another transitional mess in the enduring ecclesial story?

I tweeted the other day that 9/11 was one of the most important moments in the shaping of my faith. On that day, the distant, unfeeling, mass-killing, soul-damning Sovereign died. And this World Vision moment is almost on the same level of importance. Something has died, again.

But that’s the thing about this Jesus life – death always leads to resurrection. [Tweet This]

I’m gonna post over the next few days about how to be evangelical after World Vision.

I hope you’ll join me.

[Image Source]

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Man of No Reputation
About Zach Hoag

Zach J. Hoag is an Author, Preacher, and Content Creator who writes and curates here at The Apocalypse Review. You can also catch him at his author blog,

  • FrontLineXian

    I’ve never considered myself evangelical. I see all these labels and not sure I identify as any of them (though I’ve been called a lot of names); but I’d like to join you because I’m trying to re-find what it means to be a Christian in the original meaning of the word – follower of Christ.

    I travel light :)

  • Juan Carlos Torres

    Just readded your blog to my reader. Forgot to do so when you started blogging with Patheos. I look forward to the series to come. Thanks!

  • zhoag


  • zhoag

    Thanks Juan!

  • Hannah

    I’m learning a lot about resurrection in my life and faith through this World Vision debacle. It’s been encouraging.
    A friend of mine once said to me that sometimes you only know what you don’t want, not what you want. I’m finding as I go, who I don’t want to be as a Christian, who God is not, what faith is not. I don’t know entirely who God is, but I’m discovering what he’s not (he’s not a God who asks us to sacrifice the needy on the altar of our ideology, for example). I don’t know entirely who I am as a Christian or what it means to be a Christian, but I’m learning what kind of Christian I don’t want to be (I don’t want to value sacrifice over mercy, for example). I don’t know entirely what faith is, but I know more each day what faith is not (putting dogma over people, for example).
    And like the pieces of marble encasing the statue, the pieces that shouldn’t be there get chipped away until the beautiful thing underneath is eventually revealed.

  • sharon peters

    The progressive are playing politics? Oh?
    Have they ever played any other game?
    The irony may be this; the pattern of empire going by the name of ‘moral
    conviction’ translates to ‘immoral convieniece’.
    The atrocity of this violence is a sign that progressives
    are willing to exclude, sacrifice, and
    deprive Ten. Thousand. Kids. of a means to exist.
    The empire pattern isn’t hard to recognize;
    Stealing of lands and the means for an existence= decimation of an American indigenous culture, capture and enslavement of African populations= slave labor for the plantation system, treating women and children= property to exploit.
    The concept of the bibles inerrancy is a strategy empire people use for the convenient interpretations of empire’s purpose & justification.
    Should we forget that the lives of 6 million Jews and other millions of gays and gypsies were extinguished at the hand of imperial progressive idealists?
    I learned long ago that if I haven’t allowed the holy spirit
    to connect me to my conscience i can justify anything that claims my heart.
    The overwhelming emerging reality in our country is that self righteousness, cultural uniformity and political power requires an inerrant bible to be interpreted
    in a way that serves empire ideals and practices.
    The claim of “mercy” becomes an obscenity in the mouths of the cruel
    who show no mercy to the marginalized. This is the pattern of the cruel whose tender mercies are cruelties (proverbs 21;10)
    Self limiting behavior like scaling back support and reasonably talking it out with the organization to make sure the kids are taken care of even though moral convictions must be acted on is impossible for a culture of clueless religious addicts whose thinking is only black and white. Prejudice and knee jerk reactions go by the name of ‘moral convictions’ b/c we are immature, adolescent people trying desperately to put together an identity that flatters our inflated egos.
    Empires view the world in terms of supply and demand of scarce resources. Weaker people can be sacrificed as a resource or
    sacrificed b/c keeping them alive takes away empire resources.
    Reputation and perceived righteousness is a resource
    many cannot afford to lose or have damaged.
    To me it looks like the evangelicals, whose main practice involves perfecting the art of ‘looking good’, have become the crony of empire.
    This is not what the church is.
    The weakness of the marginalized person is actually where the strength of church is simply b/c empire strategies don’t work for them and anyway they are excluded. Only a merciful god can help them and the resources he sends by way of faithful witnesses. That is the enduring ecclesiastical story.There is irony for you!
    In my opinion 9/11 was the moments that changed the definition
    and trajectory of empires. My faith was then and is now the reality of a suffering god suffering w/ me.On that day the in your face, unfeeling, mass-killing, soul-murdering Cold blooded reptilian features of humanity were exposed globally. This World Vision moment is part of the pattern of atrocity.
    Something like loyalty to a brand name has died again for the same reasons as last time; abandonment, betrayal and abuse.
    The thing about Jesus is that death to the life of illusion and fantasy always
    leads to the reality of hope in him.

  • Arnold

    Did anybody else notice this part in the CT article? Stearns has pinpointed the weakness of sola scriptura.

    If a doctrine can change (from settled to disputed status) that has been
    universally set for the first 2,000 years of church history, what
    cannot change?


    The reason the prohibition existed in the first place? “It’s kind of a
    historical issue,” said Stearns. “Same-sex marriage has only been a
    huge issue in the church in the last decade or so. There used to be much
    more unity among churches on this issue, and that’s changed.”

    “This is also not about compromising the authority of Scripture,”
    said Stearns. “People can say, ‘Scripture is very clear on this issue,’
    and my answer is, ‘Well ask all the theologians and denominations that
    disagree with that statement.’ The church is divided on this issue.”

    Mr. Stearns has pinpointed the fundamental weakness of Sola Scriptura as
    an authority model: it depends on interpretation of Scripture and when
    that is done by thousands of denominations, it leads to disunity.

  • Curt Day

    The response of many of my fellow Conservative Christians to the whole gay rights issue is that of feeling compelled to maintain control of society. And if they fail, society will slide down the slippery slope to perdition. Unfortunately, we fail to notice the price that must be paid for us to maintain control. Part of that price is that we lay stumbling blocks, as a minelayer would lay mines, to people who would listen to the Gospel.

  • zhoag

    I think you have to deconstruct before you can rebuild. Peace to you on the journey :).

  • zhoag

    sharon, I think we might mean different things when we each use the word “progressive.”

  • zhoag

    curt, I appreciate that perspective from you as a more conservative commenter. would that others would follow your lead :).

  • Tanya Fenwick

    I really appreciate that you shared this. I am at this point on my journey too. Blessings to you :)

  • Curt Day

    You can thank fear and a sense of entitlement for the current conservative response.

  • jesuswithoutbaggage

    Thank you Zack. After the disappointment surrounding recent developments surrounding World Vision and evangelicals, many progressives responded in horror and stated that they wore done with evangelicals. It is good to see more recent voices, including even some who made those earlier drastic statements, demonstrating the need to continue working with evangelicals.

    Those vocal evangelicals that threatened World Vision do not represent all evangelicals, and there are many progressive evangelicals who risk great pain and rebuff to help change evangelicalism for the better. They need our support.

    Evangelicals are not our enemies; they are our brothers and sisters. How can we be ‘done with them’?

  • Al Cruise

    Maybe it’s time we give up worrying about a name. Just go out and live the good news[Gospel].

  • sharon peters

    what do you mean
    when you use the word “progressive?”

  • Map Forward

    For all of us who work with the poor and rely on the generosity of others to make our ministry possible, this is a travesty. World Vision: Does it matter if the 10,000 children lost “sponsorships” = funding, or not? World Vision supporters: Why in the world would a Christian withdraw funding of a poor child without ensuring that that they are safe and provided for? World Vision: If your supporters are that fickle, why go on? Pathetic. I’m so glad I left the Evangelical church.

  • leastyebejudged

    I can not help but observe that the harming of 10,000 of the neediest of the needy children in the world by Evangelicals, in order to continue to support the continued intentional harming of same-sex families, is not at all inconsistent with the predominant attitude and public face of the Evangelical movement.

    In all honesty, and with great concern, I have to ask : how much more of a sign does one need ?

  • Ford1968

    I’m a 9/11 survivor. I lived 100 yards away from the south tower of the World Trade Center, I helped evacuate 8,000 people on that day, and I spent 6 weeks at the WTC site feeding rescue and recovery workers.

    I commented to a friend the other day – I lived through terrorist attacks and I could affirm the goodness of humanity; I look at the Church feeding the poor and my faith was shaken.

    Thanks for writing this Zach.

  • zhoag

    And thank you for sharing that perspective. Glad you are here :).

  • zhoag

    That’s a valid point Al. I hope to make a case for holding onto this identity in the next post, though it’s by no means a must.

  • zhoag

    I’m talking specifically about Christians who take a less conservative stance on certain theological and social issues.

  • jesuswithoutbaggage

    Sharon, let me add that some Christians are aggressive political progressives (FAR left) and they use the term ‘progressive’. However, they might not be theologically progressive.

    In the same way, many theologically conservative Christians are also aggressive political conservatives, but not necessarily.

    It is sometimes confusing that both progressive orientations use the term ‘progressive Christian’.

    However, I don’t understand your use of ‘progressive’. You seem to use ‘progressive’ to refer to those who abandoned World Vision; but those who abandoned World Vision are considered extremely conservative.

    Perhaps I missed something.