I am sure many of you have seen Nicholas D. Kristof’s Op-Ed column for the New York Times titled “Evangelicals Without Blowhards”. If not, I recommend it. Kristof notes correctly that evangelicalism has been defined wrongly by media-attention grabbing personalities like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson over the last couple decades. He points out that this is unfortunate and he appeals to the late John Stott as “ a gentle British scholar who had far more impact on Christianity than media stars like Mr. Robertson or Mr. Falwell.”
Kristof has many positive things to say about Stott and in this he found grounds for reminding his readers that there are many, many evangelicals who are nothing like Falwell, Robertson, et al. He writes the following:
“Evangelicals are disproportionately likely to donate 10 percent of their incomes to charities, mostly church-related. More important, go to the front lines, at home or abroad, in the battles against hunger, malaria, prison rape, obstetric fistula, human trafficking or genocide, and some of the bravest people you meet are evangelical Christians (or conservative Catholics, similar in many ways) who truly live their faith.”
This is important to acknowledge. Yes, evangelicalism has problems. Yes, there are loud voices who grab the headlines with their rants. But there are those like Stott and many, many others who go about their lives living in the love of Christ in order to point people to the Kingdom of God.
Kristof’s most succinct paragraphs were these two:
“Partly because of such self-righteousness, the entire evangelical movement often has been pilloried among progressives as reactionary, myopic, anti-intellectual and, if anything, immoral.
Yet that casual dismissal is profoundly unfair of the movement as a whole. It reflects a kind of reverse intolerance, sometimes a reverse bigotry, directed at tens of millions of people who have actually become increasingly engaged in issues of global poverty and justice.”
Let this be a reminder both to non-evangelicals who fall trap into using the same language and bias as the more annoying in our ranks, and let it serve notice to current evangelicals who are more likely to join the crowds in ranting against evangelicalism than they are to act like the great John Stott in doing something to bring some dignity back to evangelicalism.
That said, at the end of the day I think there was something that made Stott a great evangelical: He sought to be a Christian. If more of us evangelicals would follow that example the face of evangelicalism would change and maybe the label wouldn’t even matter anymore.