The death of Rev John Stott, whom I mentioned in yesterday’s posting, has meant a massive outpouring of obituaries, good, bad and indifferent. You would expect this from the Christian media, but I was surprised to find it in the New York Times although I do know that Stott was named by Time magazine as one of the world’s 100 most influential people.
Nick Kristof defines himself as ‘not particularly religious’, but speaks very warmly of John’s compassionate, humble and scholarly evangelicalism. He goes on
‘Mr. Stott didnt preach fire and brimstone on a Christian television network. He was a humble scholar whose 50-odd books counseled Christians to emulate the life of Jesus especially his concern for the poor and oppressed and confront social ills like racial oppression and environmental pollution.
Good Samaritans will always be needed to succor those who are assaulted and robbed; yet it would be even better to rid the Jerusalem-Jericho road of brigands, Mr. Stott wrote in his book The Cross of Christ. Just so Christian philanthropy in terms of relief and aid is necessary, but long-term development is better, and we cannot evade our political responsibility to share in changing the structures that inhibit development. Christians cannot regard with equanimity the injustices that spoil Gods world and demean his creatures.
Mr. Stott then gave examples of the injustices that Christians should confront: the traumas of poverty and unemployment, the oppression of women, and in education the denial of equal opportunity for all.
For many evangelicals who winced whenever a televangelist made the headlines, Mr. Stott was an intellectual guru and an inspiration. Richard Cizik, president of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good, who has worked heroically to combat everything from genocide to climate change, told me: Against the quackery and anti-intellectualism of our movement, Stott made it possible to say you are evangelical and not be apologetic.
I am aware that the label ‘evangelical’ in this country can bring down fire and brimstone on one’s head … but John Stott, with his intelligence and reasonableness, made it intellectually respectable. Evangelical churches in this country are most likely to be flourishing, with real commitment in its members both to God and to social need. Kristof remarks:
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.
Im not particularly religious myself, but I stand in awe of those Ive seen risking their lives in this way and it sickens me to see that faith mocked at New York cocktail parties.
Why does all this matter?
Because religious people and secular people alike do fantastic work on humanitarian issues but they often dont work together because of mutual suspicions. If we could bridge this God gulf, we would make far more progress on the worlds ills.
And that would be, well, a godsend.’
And wouldn’t that be great?
The whole article is here: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/31/opinion/sunday/kristof-evangelicals-without-blowhards.html