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J Walking

Day after tomorrow Rick Warren will be holding a massive two-day conference on the global AIDS crisis at Saddleback Church in Orange County, California. It is an extraordinary event that will include addresses by Bono and Bill and Melinda Gates, Sen. Sam Brownback and Se. Barack Obama. The goal of the event as I pointed out in a previous blog is to “serve the hurting like Jesus did.”

Sounds good, right? After all, the HIV/AIDS statistics are staggering:

  • 39.5 million people living with HIV/AIDS including more than 2 million children.

  • 4 million new cases a year

  • Nearly 3 million deaths per year.

Rick Warren and his wife Kay are leading like Jesus did.

Why? As Rick told me one day and as he has said elsewhere it began with Kay’s suffering. She was diagnosed with breast cancer a few years ago and as she was lying on the couch one day struggling with the effects of chemo, she saw an article on the epidemic and began crying. We have to do something she told her husband, we have to do something. Her suffering lead her to identify with the suffering of others and so this effort began.

But some are now attacking Warren. Who? Religious right, “pro-life” leaders. Here are excepts from an article on the attack:

Warren cannot hope to fight the “evil” of AIDS while “justifying another” evil — abortion. In a Nov. 28 letter, representatives from 18 pro-life groups condemned Warren for inviting Obama, who supports abortion rights.

“In the strongest possible terms, we oppose Rick Warren’s decision to ignore Senator Obama’s clear pro-death stance and invite him to Saddleback Church anyway,” the letter said. “If Senator Obama cannot defend the most helpless citizens in our country, he has nothing to say to the AIDS crisis. You cannot fight one evil while justifying another. The evangelical church can provide no genuine help for those who suffer from AIDS if those involved do not first have their ethic of life firmly rooted in the Word of God.”

The signatures on the letter included Phyllis Schlafly, president of the Eagle Forum, Judie Brown, president of the American Life League, and Tim Wildmon, president of the American Family Association.

Are they so blind and possessed with such a narrow definition of life that they can think of life only in utero? Are they so partisan they feel the need to attack any ascendant Democrat after this fall’s elections? Or is there another explanation? I think there is. I think that these old, tired, “Christian” political powerbrokers realize their time is past and they realize that those Jesus followers they felt they could easily command are moving on. Because there is nothing that they can say and nothing that they can do to stop the march of righteousness that is moving countless Christians to give money, time and life to helping the most hurting people in the world. Here is one example:

  • Just outside of St. Louis, Missouri Pastor Jeff Perry leads the St. Louis Family Church. Their motto is simple, “Honor God. Help People.” Those words are displayed behind the pulpit. They do. 18-wheel trucks leave regularly from the church parking lot to go to New Orleans where rotating teams of people work to rebuild. Across the world his brother is helping rebuild homes in Sri Lanka. During this last campaign season Pastor Perry closed his pulpit to politicians and in so doing made an important statement about what matters most.

This movement is new and it is just starting and there is a long way to go. As N.T Wright would put it, the kingdom of God involves God’s people putting the world to rights, but it’s a constant struggle both against the various powers that be AND against ourselves (ie, against our capacity to fall short of the vision of the kingdom). That being said, onward Christian compassion.

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