By Jonathan David Faulkner
In the news this week has been the Urbana 2015 Missions Conference. I had many friends who attended as well as a sibling and have heard many good things about the conference. Alongside those good things have been the coverage of Michelle Higgins comments declaring the Pro-Life Movement to be a “Spectacle.” Higgins is a worship leader, #Blacklivesmatter Activist and director of “Faith for Justice.” In her comments she also took shots at conservative evangelicals who she accuses of bowing to the “Idolatry of white supremacy.” Which she says evangelicals have made their “Sidepiece.”
InterVarsity, who runs the Urbanna Conference, released a statement affirming their support of the Pro-Life Movement. Joe Ho, InterVarsity’s National Director of Asian-American Ministries supported Higgins initial comments and InterVarsity’s embrace of this new Social Justice Movement mentioning the fact that Evangelicals largely failed to support the initial Civil Rights Movement led by Dr. King and others, stating that “I (Joe) do not think our neutrality in those years honored God.”
(Read InterVarsity’s response to Higgins Here)
As a student of Urban Ministry, having served in an Urban setting with Global Expeditions, World Vision and Mile High Ministries. As well as holding a bachelors in Urban Ministry I am not afraid to admit that I identify very strongly with the Social Justice Movement. I have seen, and lived in the conditions that are often being protested against. I have sat out on the street with the homeless, seen the shame on the face of the father who cannot find work. Talked with street kids and worked in impoverished neighborhoods. I love the goal of social justice, it is good.
But Higgins comments reveal several problems with the Modern Social Justice Movement. The first is that it stands deeply divided. Higgin’s attack on the Pro-Life movement, another social justice movement, reveal this to be true. Despite the fact that 60% of abortions are African or Middle American, sparking a #BlackLivesMatter movement within itself. Secondly is the fact that social justice activists are quick to condemn conservative evangelicals who they see as “Unsupportive of their cause.” For instance a mem on Facebook that proclaims “Instead of building mega-churches, we build mega-homeless shelters instead.” Failing to realize that Mega-Churches tend to be the largest supporters of Homeless Shelters and Orphanages and Crisis Pregnancy Centers. The Day Shelter I worked at in Denver, was funded, for the most part, by Grace Chapel, a Mega-Church. The pastor, was a Conservative Evangelical, like myself, who cared for those men and women who came through his door everyday. Third is the push towards Cultural Absolutism, which is reflected in the attitude of condemnation towards Evangelicals and final is the lack of strong doctrine and good theology behind the movement. Take the Progressive Presby’s or the Chicago Protestors from Black Friday, who operate from an extremely liberal interpretation of Jesus that has been modified to justify their actions.
All of this has brought the Social Justice Movement to an all-time low. A point where it is doing little more than clanging like a gong. Leaving Higgins words sounding as hollow as an empty coffee thermos. Not that Conservative Evangelicals are any better, we are just as divided, moreso in fact, due to having much more time to do so. We can have bad theology, we are far from perfect, but largely the evangelical church has sought to live quietly, sometimes to our detriment.
With all the issues given above you might be questioning the title of this article. Wondering why you should become involved with such a mess of a movement and how I could possibly support the kind of “Movement” described above. I gave the reason, because the goal is good, it is, in most cases, a noble goal. Racial Reconciliation is a good thing, one I pray is one day realized. The issue becomes the methodology chosen to carry out the desired “Justice.”
This is where Conservative Evangelicals can have the greatest impact, by bringing in a strong biblically centered, theologically sound and spiritually effective backbone to the Social Justice Movement. See, we have the study, we have the knowledge and the sense of the Holy Spirit that Liberals admittedly lack. We have the moral and ethical background and teaching and have the ability to put that into practice on the individual level. Often times Conservative Evangelicals are very good at this, not all the time, but often times.
Instead of using this study and biblical insight to work to better the earthly kingdom in the hopes of leading people toward the heavenly one most Conservative Evangelicals have chosen isolationism and some have even chosen anger and hatred. Some have even taken the Conservative Evangelical equivalent to Higgins position and attacked their like-minded brethren. Yet again furthering the division within all Evangelical circles.
So why should Conservative Evangelicals support the Social Justice Movement? For the sake of unity amongst the people of OOD and for the sake of effective spread of the Gospel in its purest and most attractive form, guided by the Holy Spirit, with us as vessels. To marry spirit led sound theology with what I believe to spirit driven zealousness for those in need.
This is a hard road, it will require both sides to lay down presuppositions about the other and acknowledge the good points of both sides. It will require reconciliation and sincerity in attempts to renewal, acceptance of and forgiveness for past mistakes and most importantly an ever deepening devotion to being led by the power for the Holy Spirit by all within the Kingdom of Heaven.
In closing I think that Joe Ho is right, after reading Dr. King Jr’s. Letters and various speeches, Conservative Evangelicals should have supported the Civil Rights movement. Perhaps if we had, we would not be in our present predicament. We are still here though, we can reconcile, we can be united again.
Authors Note: These are the thoughts of a conservative evangelical pastor and you are free and welcome to disagree with the above comments.
Jonathan Faulkner is a student at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and a pastor. He has served in the projects in Dallas, Wichita and Denver, he is also a musician and writer.