as a huge sports fan and pundit, I am constantly finding myself drawn to sports radio as well as espn page 2 (a part of the espn website that caters to semi-casual sports fans that are also concerned with items of social relevance – pop culture, politics and other items). page 2, on a somewhat regular basis, has writers that contribute editorial content that deals not only with sports, but also the social ramifications of sports in america (it is also darn funny at times).
one of the contributing writers to page 2 is gregg easterbrook, a fellow at the brookings Institute, prolific author, and editor of the new republic, has spoken out many times in his career about the role of the evangelic church in american politics (the new republic is a neo-democratic/liberal journal – think the politics of bill clinton). now to be fair, easterbrook’s criticism comes from someone with a background studying christian theology (basically over his career he has used his theological foundation to criticize evangelicals).
In his most recent article on espn.com easterbrook goes out of his way to not only acknowledge the good that comes from the evangelical church but also to give plugs for two evangelical leaders in america trying to do things right:
“the six-for-six success of higher minimum wage proposals tells us four things. first, americans are a fundamentally generous people. the majority of voters who said yes to raising the minimum wage are above that wage themselves, and know higher minimums will result in higher prices for their goods and services. second, concern with social justice is a rising trend among christian voters. the 76 percent yes in missouri is especially revealing because evangelical turnout was high in that state, owing to a referendum about embryonic stem cell research on the same ballot. Jesus taught that the first concern of social policy should be the needy, and in recent years, evangelical christianity has been waking up to that teaching. (on that topic i commend to readers the new book “tempting faith” by former george w. bush aide david kuo, an evangelical; also it’s important that rick warren, america’s most prominent christian pastor, has recently been talking more about obligations to the needy than any other topic.) third, the referenda results are another indicator of how far out of touch the house and senate were, since in 2006 the republican leadership in both chambers worked to sabotage a higher federal minimum wage. finally and most important, the vote tells us the federal minimum wage /must/ go up.”
while the topic of his conversation was the minimum wage, the comments, I feel are a signal of the changing winds within the evangelical community. when the world can look at election results in missouri (or other places) and see that the church is concerned with the basic welfare of the people it is meant to care for – things are going right.
contrast this with how things have played out with ted haggart and the fallout from two weeks ago, and to me it seems to me that we have a unique opportunity to begin to do a great deal to change how the church is viewed in popular culture.