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Friday, October 21, 2016

Eleven years ago, Richard Stearns went to Washington.

Stearns — president of World Vision, the billion-dollar Christian relief organization — joined other faith leaders in lobbying Congress to spend $15 billion combating AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean. He acknowledged he and his fellow evangelicals were late to the fight against this pandemic and explained their tardiness with remarkable candor.

At first, he said, Christians perceived AIDS as a disease of gay people and drug users and so, “had less compassion for the victims.” This, from followers of the itinerant, first-century rabbi who said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened …” So Stearns’ words offered stark illustration of one of the more vexing failings of modern Christianity: its inability to get there on time.

“There” meaning any place people are suffering, hungry, exploited or simply denied some essential human right. Yes, there are exceptions; let us not deny the good works of good people of faith.

And yet…

On issues where it should take the lead, where it should make noise and news, challenging the status quo, marching in the streets, actively advocating for human dignity, the great body of Christendom always seems to bring up the rear, arriving decades late to the place the rest of the nation has already reached.

It’s not just that delegation joining the AIDS fight nearly 25 years after it began. It’s also churches apologizing 30 years after the Civil Rights Act for supporting segregation. And Christian tardiness in standing up for the right of women to be freed from kitchens. All of which provides a certain context for a recent controversy.

On March 24, World Vision announced it would no longer bar Christians in same-sex marriages from working there. In an interview with Christianity Today, Stearns took pains to say this was no endorsement of those marriages — only a decision to opt out of the argument. “We have decided we are not going to get into that debate.”

Two days later, almost 5,000 of his sponsors having abandoned him, Stearns was backpedaling like Michael Jackson singing Billie Jean. He reversed the new policy, calling it a “bad decision” made from “the right motivations.”

And you know, don’t you, that 20 years from now, Stearns or whoever has his job by then, will reverse the reversal and struggle to explain — again — why so many people of faith were the last to get there.

  • progressiveandproud

    Mr. Pitts hits the nail on the head again.

  • castael153

    I agree with most of what Mr. Pittman writes, but I think equating Christianity with either the Protestant evangelical movement or the conservative wings of the Roman Catholic or Orthodox churches is probably a media-driven overgeneralization at best. Plenty of more liberally-minded and compassionate Christians are on the front lines in the battles to bring marriage equality and to reach out to the poor. Remember, Martin Luther King Jr. was a Christian, and he was not alone by any means.

    • wjca

      Mr Pitts is correct, as far as he goes. But in reality the problem is not with Christianity. The problem is with the ultra-conservatives/fundamentalists of all religions.

      As you (and, in passing, Mr Pitts) note, there are lots of Christians who got there early — following the words of Jesus in letter and spirit. And there are religious leaders of fundamentalist Christian churches, and of ultra-Orthodox Jewish synagogues, and of Wahabist Muslim mosques who get ther late or never. The problem, in all those cases is not with their religion. It is with the part of those religions which wants things to never change — to return to the non-existant past that they are sure was better.

      • Sand_Cat

        It may be true that the fundamentalists are the worst, but the vast bulk of Christians stood with the segregationists for a long time, and they continue to stand with oppression and established political power, by agreement if not actually directly carrying it out, and their agreement is more than acquiescence.
        Those who committed to the causes mentioned were and are more the exception than the fundamentalists you blame for the oppression.

      • castael153

        I think that calling Protestant evangelical bigotry “Christianity” is like calling the Taliban “Islam.” Both religions have hundreds of millions of adherents with sometimes vastly different beliefs and expressions of faith. Christianity is not a monolithic belief system any more than Islam.

        • wjca

          Which was part of the point I was attempting to make. Albeit not as clearly as I might have hoped.

    • Sand_Cat

      See my answer to wjca.
      No hard feelings intended; I just think your view goes a bit easy on the complacency and support for the existing order, however unjust, that runs through most who identify themselves as Christians.

      • castael153

        I think that rather than generalizing about Christians, it might be more helpful for skeptics and atheists who are progressive to make common cause with people of faith — regardless of their religion — who share their humanistic goals, rather than belittling all believers as superstitious idiots. A general comment, not necessarily directed at you, Sand_Cat, because I have found you to be more irenic than most nonbelievers. My 2 pence.

        • Sand_Cat

          Well thank you, but you haven’t seen my comments when the GOP “Christians” get me riled up.
          I’m willing to work with anybody who doesn’t use religion as an excuse for hate. I believe there are some excellent bumper stickers on the topic, if you enjoy that, the one that comes to mind saying “I believe in the separation of church and hate.”

          • Allan Richardson

            Another good one: Jesus took away your sins, not your mind. Aimed at the anti-science crowd.

          • Sand_Cat

            When the Rapture comes, can I have your car?
            What day did god make all the fossils?
            When the rapture comes, we’ll finally get our country back.
            The best cure for Christianity is reading the Bible (from Mark Twain).
            I can’t begin to think of all of them. The Cafe Press has fewer than they used to, but they still have some great ones after you get past the right-wing lunacy that comes up first when you click on “stickers.”

          • castael153

            I don’t care one bit for the GOP “Christians” either. So there you are: people of different belief systems can agree and work together. G’day.

    • 4sanity4all

      I think the liberal minded compassionate Christians are often acting from their conscience, and not following the direction of their leaders. The media portray the leaders of my church accurately, and I am ashamed that most of my church’s leaders are close minded bigots.

  • MBDElf

    So Stearns bows to the internal pressure from the intolerant. This so-called ‘christianity’ is a blatant sham, a warped sectarian hate group who consciously chooses to revert their intelligence to a backward time in order to revere a man whose teachings they give bare lip service to.

    Is it any wonder atheism and deism look so much better to so many?

    • ps0rjl

      I have to agree with you. Our Founding Fathers were mostly Deists as they also believed in God, just not organized religion. Most religions can only exist if their followers have a close mind to anything outside of what their leaders tell them.

    • mikem42

      They lost 5,000 “sponsors” and so had to reverse the decision to treat people equally. Sounds like Rush, who lost over 3,000 sponsors, but with a difference. One is a Christian charitable organization while the other is a right wing for profit radio show. So, Jesus would have what, changed his sermon on the Mount if the people got up and left before He was finished? His message will outlast all the Crystal Cathedrals.

  • Ford Truck

    1 Corinthians 13:13 (King James version of the Bible) “And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.”

    1 Corinthians 13:13 (2013 World Vision version) “And now abideth fame, popularity, and profit, these three but the greatest of these is profit.”

  • Bryan Blake

    So many gods and so many religions. Which is the true god and religion? Their houses of worship are merely arcade claw games with their adherents trying to grab a soul and in the end they discover the prize was a cheap toy.

    It is much more comfortable to hate and destroy when it is their divine mission. Religion has always been used to hold onto power. Today is no different.

    • Lovefacts

      I’ve often believed there were so many religions because they were needed for the varied people of Earth. The commonalities are great: belief in the “Creator;” rules laid out for ethical behavior; and the golden rule. (However, most rabbis will tell you that belief in the Creator isn’t critical, following the laws/guidelines of life and treatment and care of Earth, animals, and our fellow humans.) Sadly, most people don’t follow the second two and use the first one to bludgeon those who don’t worship the way they do, or gasp, don’t believe period.

      • Allan Richardson

        A song sung by a metaphysical group at more liberal churches had a phrase in it, quoting the intolerant of every religious tradition:

        We’ve prophesied the way true peace will come at last,
        When OUR loving God beats YOUR loving God’s *

    • Annemb

      There is one God / Spirit with many names specific to the particular faith. Sadly, it’s the “so-called ‘Christians’ ” who are guilty of the damage that is being perpetrated today. I sometimes fear that this will lead to another Inquisition / Crusade — history repeating itself. To me, being a Christian means to love, do good to everyone – regardless of who the person is. It does not mean slavery or condemnation of anyone or taking away their rights.

  • suddencall

    Religion is republican crowd control through superstition, lies and myth. It is a teaching that should be discouraged by all free right thinking peoples of the world . The republican policy is so far evil that it should be rejected by the people of world
    The world needs to quit supporting this BS .

  • jakenhyde

    They were too busy panhandling for millions in tax free money to worry about anything the bible says about love and charity toward others.

  • Budjob

    As long as you treat individuals with love,respect,and DIGNITY you do not have to follow any organized religious chapter.These three things I have mentioned is the only rule that I live by.

    • FredAppell

      Ironically, those are the tenets that Jesus Christ preached. I’ve often observed people without any organized religious affiliation make an honest effort to live by those words. They don’t have all the dogmatic clutter in their heads telling them wrong from right.

  • sallysue

    My charitable $$$$ for overseas relief goes to Doctors without Borders. Keep god and religion out of it.

    • Sand_Cat

      Good for you!!!

  • Gary Graves

    This showes what false religion is, and they would kill Jesus again;

    • Annemb

      Yes, Jesus certainly be executed again.

  • jointerjohn

    My Christian friends sometimes tell me that Jesus is coming back. I tell them they better hope not, because when he sees how they have perverted his message he is going to be really pissed.

    • Annemb

      Not to worry, the rapture is NOT a given. In fact, Jesus is already here in a person’s heart.

  • neenta

    Right on target, Mr. Pitts!

  • stcroixcarp

    Losing 5000 contributors is a big deal, but what if you lose the best fundraiser on the planet because you won’t hire married gay people? They don’t hire atheists, Muslims or Jews either. Why is World Vision in the business of defining and enforcing marriage in their employment practices anyway?

    • johninPCFL

      Why is such a narrow-minded group of bigots named “world vision”? Shouldn’t they be named “weird vision”, or maybe “whirled vision”?

  • 4sanity4all

    Too bad Stearns didn’t ride it out. Maybe some followers who actually believe in what Christ taught would have joined his church and replaced the narrow minded bigots who left. Too bad he didn’t follow his convictions all the way, you know, like Christ did.


    Interesting and revealing that they were willing to write off gays and drug abusers. Why would that ever be okay? It smacks of smug, self satisfied, ‘I told you so’ bigotry.

  • Part of it is an equation of Christianity with conservatism, but it would be more accurate to say that evangelicals are lobbying the equation to be accepted as fact.

    People like Pat Robertson, Tony Perkins, Ray Comfort and Bill Donohue don’t have any actual interest in acting Christian (that would require actual work). What they want to do instead is slap a cross onto Ayn Rand’s selfishness and use that as their Bible; to replace the Ten Commandments with just two: #1: Thou shalt label yourself a Christian, and #2: Thou shalt make a crap-ton of money any way you can and share none of it.

    What we have, therefore, are legions of “Christians” who think salvation is a birthright and that they can keep it just as long as they name-drop Jesus from time to time.

    As such, the only things they ever remember the Bible ever telling them not to do are things that they never really had any interest in doing to begin with.

    “Christianity” will only recognize that it was wrong on gay marriage, not due to any moral conviction, but when it starts affecting their ability to make money. To this day, “Christianity” continues to drag its feet on AIDS — still continues to insist on occasion that it is God’s wrath on the gay community — when they think nobody but their own can see them doing it. And they will continue to fight marriage equality too. All that will change is how often they do it openly.

  • dpaano

    This is one reason, IMO, that our Founding Fathers decided to keep church and state separate! Somehow that got lost in the translation.

    • Annemb

      Our Founder were smart … they learned from their ancestral history.

      Here’s a great read:
      “A New Religious America: How a ‘Christian Country’ Has
      Become the World’s Most Religiously Diverse Nation.” (by Diana
      Eck, 1997)

  • howa4x

    In America a new Christianity was invented to go along with unrestricted capitalism. Compassion for human suffering was replaced by the rewarding of greed. Getting to the top by murder or child labor was looked up as the right thing to do since the new Christianity was based on what you made, rather than what you did. Poor people were that way because god wanted it so and if it was god’s will why help them. This ethos is alive and well in today’s evangelical republican party