Nicholas Kristoff just gave Deborah Fikes—until recently a prominent spokesperson for the World Evangelical Alliance and a board member at the National Association of Evangelicals—some space at his New York Times blog to offer “A Challenge to My Fellow Evangelicals.” The challenge for evangelicals, apparently, is to get with the global program and embrace “Sister Hillary.”
First, Fikes wants folks to know that evangelicals around the world aren’t like the evangelicals here at home. According to her, those climate-change-aware, refugee-loving, torture-and-poverty-fighting internationals “live out a more holistic gospel faith in the political sphere” than do the “American ideo-evangelicals.” The latter are “voting more for their political ideology than for their faith values.” No one denies that Christians should resist the temptation to see their religion through the tinted lenses of their politics. Unfortunately, Fikes just seems to have switched red glasses for blue.
Fikes’s list of the concerns of the international faithful is a decidedly selective one. As she describes them, global evangelicals care about national health care, gun control, and public education, and don’t believe anything that would make a Democrat squirm. But, of course, they do. Take the new liberal shibboleth of same-sex marriage. The Anglican Communion and the United Methodist Church, worldwide denominations with divisive LGBTQ issues fueled by American leftists, are being pulled back to orthodoxy and traditional sexual ethics by the significant numbers of international evangelicals in their midst (much to the dismay of their cosmopolitan members, like Hillary Rodham Clinton).
On the Democrats’ most sacrosanct issue, abortion, Fikes may well be correct that “a majority of evangelicals in other countries have not prioritized this in their politics.” But is that really something to celebrate? Worldwide, Catholics rather than evangelicals generally lead a pro-life cause rooted in the idea that the image of God is always of sacred worth. Might global evangelicals have something to learn from the American likes of Jerry Falwell Sr. and Chuck Colson, who, inspired by the internationally formed Francis Schaeffer, eventually came to see Catholics not as adversaries but as pioneering brothers-in-arms on this question? Might Fikes, whose concerns elsewhere often seem to mesh well with the social teachings of Rome, have something to learn too?
The truth is, I like Deb Fikes. She’s a fun and fiery fellow Texan who has done much to make the world a better place. Our paths sometimes crossed during my D.C. days, and she once even offered to set me up with the young ladies in her orbit (some of whom she may now hope to take with her into a coming Clinton administration). Fikes is correct that too many American believers are confused about just what drives their political actions and that they would be wise to seek counsel from abroad. So would she.
Twenty years ago, John Stott, the longtime rector of All Souls Church in London and one of the “founding fathers” of the World Evangelical Alliance, was asked in The Living Church magazine about modern blind spots. He first noted evangelicals’ “slowness … to condemn weapons of indiscriminate destruction.” “Next,” said Stott, “we evangelicals have also been dilatory in expressing concern for the protection of the environment, whereas we should have been the first in the field. Thirdly, world poverty has not yet sufficiently burdened our conscience or affected our economic lifestyle.”
To all of that Sikes would likely shout, “Amen!” Nevertheless, Stott also clearly saw the “shedding of innocent blood” inherent in abortion. “Any society that can tolerate this, let alone legislate for it,” lamented Stott, “has ceased to be civilized.” Nor did he waver from the biblical view of sexuality. He declared, “Heterosexual, monogamous marriage is the only God-given context for sexual intercourse.” Fikes would do well to listen to Stott, who was present in 1951 at the formation of the organization whose name she still touts when independently endorsing Clinton.
What troubled Stott most about the modern church was its “feeble-minded capitulation to what is fashionable or politically correct.” For this godfather of global evangelicalism, the greatest threat to authentic Christianity was “worldliness” or the “tendency to surrender to the beliefs, values and standards of non-Christian society.” Instead, said Stott, “we are called to radical non-conformity to the prevailing culture.” Fikes may rightly be repulsed by the stench coming from Donald Trump’s moribund GOP, but the proper response is not to whitewash the tombs on the other side.
John Murdock teaches at the Handong International Law School in South Korea and previously worked for over a decade as an environmental attorney in Washington, D.C.