Yancey's excellent synopsis
Philip Yancey has again stated what so many evangelicals feel but have difficulty expressing. His essay "A State of Ungrace" [Feb. 3] is an excellent synopsis of the struggle many have with the tension between state and church. He is correct to assert the church is too preoccupied with its role as the countervoice in the culture wars while forgetting its central focus: the proclamation of the whole gospel message of love for all people. The church has all too frequently co-opted the world's methods of protest to advance the kingdom.
I find the tendency by those so intent on fighting back the tide of paganism in a post-Christian America is to forsake the whole counsel of God. We can learn from the early church as a model, yet we can learn how it can be expressed today through the examples given throughout Christian history.
* I am sorry to hear of Yancey's troubles following his interview with President Clinton. It seems like the age-old problem of loving the sinner yet hating the sin. Many hate the sin and the sinner. They are the kind that wrote nasty letters. Some have loved the sinner and the sin. This seems to be the culture that nurtured Mr. Clinton. It seems to me, though, that Yancey has walked the line well: loving the sinner and still hating the sin.
Abortion is a brutal practice, and government support of it is reprehensible. To those who insist on "civil" discourse, the Bible says, "Open rebuke is better than hidden love." I would submit that Mother Theresa's rebuke of President Clinton was Christlike, uncivil, yet still within the character of God's love.
Clifton Park, N.Y.
* Warning us against political idolatry, Yancey says "grace is the Christian's main contribution to the world." Applying the term (or its absence) to the vicious letters and public rantings of certain Christian activists, he seems to imply that grace is graciousness—minding your social manners. Later he uses it in relation to the abolition of slavery, the founding of hospitals, and his modern saints, indicating that grace means acts of social humanitarianism. Both are vital to Christian witness; both have fallen on hard times. But the church can recover both with vigor, keep politics in its place, and never make its main contribution to the world: communicating that part of the gospel which Paul said was of "first importance"—the atoning death of Christ.
Colorado Springs, Colo.
Great article by Philip Yancey. That's why I subscribe to CT—to get the more thoughtful pieces that are so hard to find for those of us Christians "in the middle of it."
Academic Content & Performance Standards State of California
* Yancey deals with culture wars in America and other Western nations. My work as the head of an overseas Christian relief agency often leads me to aid people in Eastern countries like Iraq, where 600,000 Christians live in anguish along with their Muslim neighbors. Daily they face the reality of half a million children who have died of preventable disease in the aftermath of the Gulf war. Should I care about these Iraqi children or just be angry with the circumstances that brought about [that situation]?
Local Christians in some foreign lands find there is nothing much they can do to change their plight through temporal power. Not even the mighty cia seems able to change things.
After being out of the U.S. for 33 years, it gives me concern to read that many evangelicals in America appear reluctant, or refuse, to pray for President Clinton and his administration, using their disapproval of his morals and politics as their excuse. Americans could take some lessons from our brothers and sisters in the Middle East. Fellow Christians in these non-Western countries take the biblical injunction to "pray for kings and all those in authority" seriously. Prayer for those in authority is a Christian's unique contribution. God acts when we pray! Why should we neglect this uncommon means for change and use clever power tactics? Prayer changes people, and people full of grace change nations.
Venture Middle East
A changed attitude toward youth
* I've always kept my distance from youth ministry, but "The Class of '00," by Wendy Murray Zoba [Feb. 3], has changed my attitude. The teen-led platoons and adult shepherds she described inspired me, and now I can't wait to discuss this article with every church leader I know.
God help the class of '00. According to your article, this generation has essentially redefined the church. It is obvious they "don't trust adults." For what reasons? They don't even know, except that it's not "cool" to do so.
How interesting, the "church of the millennials." How amazing it is to jettison 2,000 years of church history and decide, "just for the heck of it," that church has to be defined on the nebulous, fuzzy terms of the "kids of '00." Has the thought ever occurred to these spoiled, self-absorbed, narcissistic teenagers that church history, music history, Christian hymnody, and time-honored worship experiences just might have something meaningful to offer them?
-Joe Walters, Youth Minister
Edgewood Baptist Church
In an otherwise outstanding article, "The Class of '00" took a cheap shot at all pastors. "Churches tend to be run by—as Borgman puts it—'control freaks,' so reinventing youth ministry might be 'an uphill battle,' he says." Borgman's sound bite is an affront to every pastor who has taken a vow to serve the church.
David L. Goetz
Glen Ellyn, Ill.
You did a wonderful job reporting on today's Christian teenagers and how the church is trying to minister to them. Thank you for not stereotyping them (as that age group usually is).
La Crosse, Wis.
What teen in any generation didn't think church was for older people? Show me adolescents from any generation who don't sense their own sinfulness. What adolescents in history ever had an easy time applying a sermon to the hard parts of teenage life? Being a teen, no matter when you've been born, is hard. Adolescents of every generation and time period have had to deal with coming of age and asserting their own identity in an adult world that is not always sure where it's going. Sure the music has changed and so have the TV shows, but certainly the Class of '00 is no different from the "breeds" that have gone before them.
Associate Pastor, Youth Ministries
Gregory Drive Alliance Church
Chatham, Ont., Canada
Thank you for including some of my thoughts in the article. One correction: My colleague Rick Dunn is chairman of the Christian Education Department at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.
Mark H. Senter III
God is no unmoved Mover!
Thank you for publishing "The God Who Suffers," by Dennis Ngien, and "The Emotions of Jesus," by Walter Hansen [Feb. 3]. I believe the image of God in humans can only be fully understood in terms of the emotions of God and Jesus. When God created us as persons "in his likeness," does that not include valid, beautiful, and holy capabilities for feeling? We wrecked our emotional make-up and relationships through sin and rebellion. Doesn't Jesus restore our emotions and make them healthy and holy again through the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit?
It seems to me that classic Protestant theology, especially much in the Reformed tradition, has fallen into the reductionist trap. Isn't it God's divine feeling for us that compels him to save us, or is it some cold, dispassionate decision in eternity past that puts us on his saving list? I am helped by the mystery of his vulnerability even though I don't fully understand it. When I pray to him, he is not the unmoved Mover!
Paul E. Hostetter, Professor Emeritus
Reformed Bible College
Grand Rapids, Mich.
Shock over "cynical treatment"
After reading "After the Hugs, What?" by Andres T. Tapia [Feb. 3], the only emotion was appall. It has been some time since I have read such a cynical treatment of any issue. The initial shock was accompanied by a deep sadness. I was at the rally in Atlanta of which he spoke so derisively. My experience—yes, as a white pastor—was much different. Sitting in a mixed group, we all were overwhelmed by a sense of God's love and forgiveness. We looked with excitement at new opportunities to cross racial barriers. We continue to do so.
What saddens me most is the gradual hardening I sense in my own heart after encountering other people who sound like Tapia. All right, we have admitted sins have occurred. We have sincerely grieved over this. We have confessed these sins of our forefathers. We have accepted our complicity. We have made an effort to bridge the gap. So you don't believe us? I fear a backlash. It started with, "We were wrong." Then we said, "We are sorry." We now ask, "Can I help?" Don't be surprised to hear soon, "Get over it."
Battle Creek, Mich.
Tapia wrote that it "does not mean that evangelical whites have to vote for a certain party or candidate." But what he had just written implied just that. We aren't supposed to vote for Jesse Helms, oppose affirmative action, or support English-only initiatives, drug crackdowns, welfare reform, or some kinds of immigration enforcement. As I read him, if we do any of these things we are impeding racial reconciliation.
This is politicizing Christianity with a vengeance. The unity of the body must transcend political differences. Racial reconciliation cannot be conditioned on political agreement. We are not required to change our political opinions just because some Christians of other races disagree with us.
It becomes necessary for Christian brothers to agree on political issues only when a position or belief is clearly contrary to biblical teachings. There are Christians on both sides of every issue he mentions who have tried to think through their ideas in a biblical manner. We need to respect that even when we are convinced that they are greatly mistaken. When we face our Lord, we may be surprised as to who is mistaken about what.
The Religious Right has been properly faulted for equating too many political issues with biblical Christianity. The Left must beware of making the same mistake.
As a white evangelical ordained in a black denomination, I am frequently annoyed by the simplistic ways most individual white evangelicals talk about racial issues without even listening to the voice of the black church; tokenize and then misrepresent black or Latino Christians; and so on. I appreciate CT for letting Tapia voice his concerns, even though you could anticipate negative letters from white readers who would rather pontificate than listen.
-Craig Keener, Visiting Professor
Eastern Baptist Seminary
Superb album, Christlike unity
* It is really hard to believe the report in the February 3 issue [North American Scene] about how Michael Card and John Michael Talbot have been treated by some. Especially disappointing is the way Moody magazine and bookstore have reacted. I thought the album was superb, not only in the music, but also in the Christlike attitude of unity. We talk a good game of unity, but don't practice it well at all. We must begin to work together to become one. I applaud Card and Talbot for what they did and continue trying to do. Repentance is called for by those who have treated them in an ungodly manner.
-Doug. W. Jantz
Who can find fault with a man, Catholic monk or not, who croons out Bible verses! This only highlights the ignorance of average "Bible Christians" in the arena of church history and their subjective reading of the New Testament. The bias that Catholic is not Christian is dangerous.
Mount Vernon, Ohio
I guess the days are gone when someone could say, "Those Christians, how they love one another!" What an example for those of other religions (or no religion) when fellow Christians are threatened by music played by someone of another denomination.
El Salvador's civil war
Your report on the growth of evangelicalism in El Salvador is encouraging [World Scene, Feb. 3], but marred by a misleading statement that 1981 was the year "when the guerrilla movement set off a war that claimed 75,000 lives and dislocated hundreds of thousands." This mistakenly implies the movement was the cause of the civil war which racked the country for 13 years. These so-called guerrillas were primarily poor subsistence farmers, laborers, and students who finally took up arms against a repressive military government after a decade of attempted peaceful reforms.
El Salvador continues to have the worst income inequality in all Latin America. Even now less than 2 percent of the population owns 60 percent of the land. The poorest 20 percent own no land. The conflict was over land, not political ideology, as the U.S. claimed. Poor, landless people fought a wealthy oligarchy when their poverty passed the point of desperation. Supported by $6 billion in U.S. aid that included arming and training its soldiers, the Salvadoran government waged war against its own people to protect its power.
To state that the FMLN—the people's army of resistance—started the war is grossly unfair. It ignores the chronic political and economic inequities that made the conflict inevitable. In 1992, when the UN negotiated peace accords, the International Truth Commission on War Crimes stated clearly that the vast majority of 75,000 civilian deaths and almost all of the atrocities were committed by government troops. That included killing innumerable priests, lay Christians, and even Archbishop Oscar Romero.
-Charles E. Hummel
Old Saybrook, Conn.
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