The Boston Globe took a crack at an under-reported story today--the role that Evangelical Christians have played in shaping US foreign policy towards places like Sudan.

Here's the lead:

Days before George W. Bush was elected president, he took a break from his harried campaigning in Florida to have breakfast with evangelist Franklin Graham, whose father, Billy, inspired Bush to ''recommit" his life to Christ.

The candidate and the minister prayed together, and Graham made one request: ''Governor, if you become president, I hope you put Sudan on your radar."

Months later, Charles Colson, the Watergate figure who is also a born-again Christian, conveyed the same message to Bush adviser Karl Rove: Remember Sudan.

Such quiet diplomacy, tinged with religious fervor, helped elevate Sudan to a top foreign policy priority for the Bush administration, which worked to end a two-decade civil war between the Muslim north and the mostly Christian south. Separately, the administration last month declared the killings in the country's Darfur region a ''genocide."

The Globe piece underestimates the role that Evangelicals played in getting $15 billion in AIDS funding approved--while some are unhappy that the funds have come slowly--only 4.5 billion over the last two years instead of 6 billion (an average of 3 billion a year)--this president has spent more on AIDS than his predecessors. Bill Clinton did not pay attention to the AIDS pandemic the way Bush has.

The piece misses one other crucial connection--the motivation behind Evangelical's concern for Sudan. One factor is likely the face to face connection with Sudan that churches have experienced by helping resettle refugees--you could argue that the Lost Boys of Sudan are helping to save their country by putting a human face on the conflict.

Sudan and the AIDS conflict are the kind of social justice issues that Evangelicals understand--they may not see why God might care about fair taxes--but when they hear about sick people or mass murders, they respond.

Consider this--know anybody who was in Rwanda after the 1994 genocide. I know three of them--all of them Christian missionaries. Two doctors, and one engineer who was installing a water purification system, so people in a refugee camp could have clean water. There was no prostelyzing--just lending a helping hand.


The Clones Got To Havard

The Houston Chronicle reports on a stem cell poll--53%Americans are in favor of doing research on stem cells taken from left over embryos. That's up from 48% in 2001.

The same poll shows that 56% of Americans oppose creating cloned embryos for research--which is exactly what researchers at Harvard want to do.

''This is exactly the kind of work that we envisioned for the Harvard Stem Cell Institute," said Harvard biologist Douglas Melton told the Boston Globe. ''We want new ways to study and hopefully cure diseases."

The crux of the argument for using embryonic stem cells--is that they come from embryos that will be discarded anyway. A move to cloning changes the entire dynamic of the debate.


They'll know we are Christians by Our Cars

When I wore a younger man's clothes and had a long black pony tail, I used to teach semi-subversive songs with titles like "They'll Know We are Christians By Our Cars," and "Don't Let Them Burn the Flag" to young, impressionable teenagers who came to work at the Habitat for Humanity work projects I used to run.

So it warmed my heart to see this site, They Will Know Us By Our T-shirts -- thanks to Durblog for finding it--with some thoughtful commentary on the theological implications of Christian retailing:
I tend to believe that Christian bookstores provide a place for Christians to hide from the real world. We have created this infrastructure of marginally well-produced literature, music, film and “art” that seems to sustain us. We have no need to engage with the greater culture, unless we’re picketing to stop gay marriage or to let teenage girls seeking abortions know they’re going to burn in hell with Hitler, Osama and Clinton.

I wonder if I dismissed the idea of Christian bookstores because the vast majority of them are exactly what I described: a safe haven for Christians who forget the parts of the Bible that call us to be active participants in the world around us. Maybe there is hope for a Christian bookstore that seeks to be countercultural instead of anti-culture?

Then there's this take from So the Fish Said about her Christian neighbors who have a Lexus:

Now, this makes me really jealous. Apparently, Jesus gave these people a Lexus and all he ever gave me was some teenage guilt and confusion. Maybe if Jesus would have given me a car I would have stuck with that whole church thing rather than skipping merrily down the path of heathen bliss which certainly leads straight to hell.

So I would like to hereby officially offer to give the religion thing another shot, provided that Jesus provides me with a new car. I think I would like a Mercedes, but if all he has is a Lexus I will take it.

I'm not pointing any fingers, but there are some people who might just promise that God wants to give you a Lexus if you make a big enough pledge. On credit cards.

I can't recall any of the words to They'll Know We Are Christians By Our Cars. I am, however, teaching my children the subversive verses to This Land is Your Land, which Woody Guthrie orginally titled "God Bless America for Me."

In case your grade school music teacher left them out (as mine did) here are verses three and four.

As I went walking, I saw a sign there
And that sign there said "No Trespassing"
But on the other side
It didn't say nothing
That side was made for you and me

On a bright shiny morning
In the shadow of a steeple
by the relief office
I saw my people
As they stood there hungry
I sat there wondering
Did God Bless America for me

For the really curious, here's what I can remember of "Don't let them Burn the Flag." It's from 1991 or so, which explains the broccoli line--and the whole flag burning idea. For those who weren't alive or paying attention back then, this was when the Exxon Valdez had crashed, billion dollar B1 bombers were being taken out by wild geese, the hole in the ozone layer was getting bigger by the minute--and the Congress was fighting about that number one national priority, a constitutional amendment to ban flag burning.

(The verses were followed by a chorus of "Don't let them burn the flag, don't let them burn the flag, we got people living in a paper bag but don't let them burn the flag.)

There's an oil spill on the shore, won't you let them spill some more
Gonna let them ruin the environment but you can't burn the flag

Got big planes they don't fly, they're falling out of the sky
Won't you let the Pentagon rob you blind but don't let them burn the flag


Got kids flunking out of school, mediocrity's the rule
You can let your chilren be illiterate but don't let them burn the flag

Got a President named Bush, who sits round on his tush
Saying I won't eat my broccoli


Who cares about freedom of speech
your rights are out of reach
they'd string up old Thomas Jefferson
if he tried to burn the flag

The world is getting hot
The atmosphere is shot
cause you can burn hazardous chemicals
but you can't burn the flag

It's time to stand and fight
Time to do what's right
time to straighten out this country
and stop hiding behind the flag.


Powered by Blogger