How well does our post-Christian culture cultivate volunteers willing to work in disaster relief, soup kitchens, and other crisis missions?
As a Southern Baptist I am so thankful for our Disaster Relief ministry that has been at the forefront ministry to people devastated by various catastrophes ranging from floods to tornadoes! They have been a powerful witness for Christ, and one that has attracted not only the attention but admiration of those who are very much a part of our Post-Christian Culture. Philip Yancey in his relatively new book Vanishing Grace has documented several striking stories about Christians, not secularists, who are leading activists in helping the victims of disasters!
The producer of 60 Minutes, John Marks, carried out an in-depth investigation of his former religious group, Evangelicals. The result was a book entitled Reasons to Believe: One Man’s Journey Among the Evangelicals and the Faith He Left Behind. A positive turning point in his life was what he saw in the aftermath of Katrina.
“One Baptist church in Baton Rouge fed sixteen hundred people a day for weeks; another housed seven hundred homeless evacuees. Still another church served as a distribution point for fifty-six churches, and churches in surrounding states sent regular teams to help rebuild homes for years after the hurricane, long after federal assistance had dried up,” John Marks wrote this marvelous and memorable assessment:
I would argue that this was a watershed moment in the history of American Christianity … nothing spoke more eloquently to believers, and to nonbelievers who were paying attention, than the success of a population of believing volunteers measured against massive and near-total collapse of secular government efforts.
Joe Klein the political editor of Time magazine, observed what Christian groups were doing, groups from all over America. He commented in a cover story: “Funny how you don’t see secular humanists giving out hot meals.” New York journalist Nicholas Kristof, winner of two Pulitzer Prizes and regular columnist for the New York Times admitted that, “nearly all of us in the news business are completely out of touch with a group that includes 46 percent of Americans. The entire evangelical movement often has been pilloried among progressives as reactionary, myopic, anti-intellectual and, if anything, immoral… Yet that casual dismissal is profoundly unfair of the movement as a whole. It reflects a kind of reverse intolerance, sometimes a reverse bigotry, directed at tens of millions of people who have actually become increasingly engaged in issues of global poverty and justice … go the front lines, at home or abroad, to the battles against hunger, malaria, prison rape, obstetric fistula, human trafficking or genocide, and some of the bravest people you meet are evangelical Christians … who truly live their faith. I’m not particularly religious myself, but I stand in awe of those I’ve seen risking their lives in this way – and it sickens me to see that faith mocked at New York cocktail parties.”
Surveys and studies show conclusively that the pool of Givers, Sharers, and Servers in our society comes from churches that have inspired them to love others, to help others! Volunteerism is nurtured in a culture that does not dwell on self-esteem, self-nurture, self-absorption, or in what one writer has aptly described as “withering selfishness.”
Arthur C. Brooks authored the well-researched book Who Really Cares: America’s Charity Divide; Who Gives, Who Doesn’t, and Why It Matters. He reports: “An enormous charity gap remains between religious and secular people.” We must ask our secularist friends two questions: “Why?” and “Is this not cause for concern if our culture continues to become more ‘post-Christian?’”
A third question to ask is this: Who would you put up as a secular alternative to Mother Teresa? I love what the once-up-a-time acerbic and caustic writer Malcolm Muggeridge said about Mother Teresa. As I re-read what he said, I ask myself: Can secularists field anyone who can even approach a Mother Teresa?
Muggeridge wrote: “When I first set eyes on her … I at once realized that I was in the presence of someone of unique quality … not due to her appearance … nor quick understanding … nor her manifest piety and true humility and ready laughter … but ‘the beauty of holiness’ – that special beauty, amounting to a kind of pervasive luminosity generated by a life dedicated wholly to loving God and His creation.”
While Mother Teresa is a rarity, there are millions and millions who embody some “beauty of holiness” in their willingness to let God’s love flow through them to embrace people in need! That is what we as Christians, as Southern Baptists, are all about!
What about today’s secular cultural pacesetters? What/who do they offer?