Younger Christian leaders are picking new causes; many are joining the Obama bandwagon as it crosses America, and their elders are not impressed.
"Who in the next generation will be willing to take the heat, when it's so much safer and more comfortable to avoid controversial subjects?" asked James Dobson of Focus on the Family at the National Religious Broadcasters conference.
With the evangelical leaders who fought against abortion -- and for protection of the institution of marriage -- now retiring and dying, a void is beginning to appear. Just like a little wooden boat floating downstream, many evangelical Christians are adrift in new swift currents of a "social gospel."
Respected researcher Berit Kjos aptly explains the changes: "God calls us to serve the poor and fills our hearts with love for the needy. That's why His true followers around the world have willingly given their lives to share His truth and love in perilous places. But today's world-centered church illustrates a different kind of service. Designed to please man rather than God, it trains its servers to hide the 'offensive' truths of the gospel."
"Like Rick Warren," Kjos says, "it uses the Bible to validate its purposes but emphasizes organizational behavior rather than Biblical beliefs -- in short, deeds instead of creeds. Behind its noble appearance hides a postmodern version of the century-old 'Christian Socialism.'"
Evidence of this is the emphasis on problems in Africa/AIDS and the virtual abandoning of the more controversial right-to-life issues. A seismic shift is occurring, from battling the secular culture to seeking safe ground from difficult issues. These younger evangelical leaders crave "respectability" and they seek approval from wider society and secular media. They are heading for much safer territory where one is less likely to step on toes or cause offense for speaking the truth.
Liberal writer Tom Krattenmaker likes the change. Krattenmaker, a self-described "non-evangelical progressive religion writer from the People's Republic of Portland (OR)" was pleasantly surprised when visiting the evangelical sports ministry Athletes in Action. AIA is a division of Campus Crusade for Christ, founded by conservative Bill Bright, who died in 2003.
Krattenmaker wrote: "If a larger pattern can be drawn from my recent perception-changing journey to one of the great bastions of conservative evangelicalism, the walls of division are not as formidable as culture warriors might like us to believe. They might even be shrinking."
Krattenmaker sees a trend "across the religious and political landscape" where more evangelicals are moving toward the center -- or "'common hope' as Barack Obama is given to calling it," he said. The "emerging church" is not being "bound by the old Christian right's playing style," he said. Plus, "more and more born-again believers are emphasizing their religious calling to care for the planet and the poor."
Judy Naegeli, 25, says her generation is worried about social justice. "Each generation chooses their cause, and ours is AIDS in Africa, or poverty or social justice," she said.
But 24-year-old Nathan Johnson thinks differently. "Once the primary is over, and we get into a head-to-head contest, Obama's voting record will come to light. Then there will be conservative voters who won't be able to tolerate what he's stood for in terms of abortion and other socially conservative values."
Both Obama and Clinton espouse this social gospel. In November 2007 Hillary Clinton spoke at Pastor Rick Warren's fourth annual AIDS conference. Warren is the author of "The Purpose Driven Life." Clinton pledged if elected president, she would spend $50 billion on prevention, treatment and care for HIV/AIDS globally by 2013.
Obama spoke in 2006, sparking many protests because of his strong pro-abortion beliefs. "While we will never see eye to eye on all issues, surely we can come together with one voice to honor the entirety of Christ's teachings by working to eradicate the scourge of AIDS, poverty and other challenges we all can agree must be met," he said.
While the Bible has always addressed caring for the poor and oppressed, it advocates personal charity as opposed to the leftist view of directing large amounts of government funding to ease social ills. Conservatives are not against helping the sick and needy. However, they also will not abandon the defenseless unborn to the grinder of modern secular abortion mills. The abortion fight takes guts and because of that, the most vulnerable (the unborn) are deserted.
Obama's talk about "social justice" is just another way of saying socialism. It may sound more amenable to the public, but it is the same thing. To paraphrase Shakespeare: A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.