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2010 Vision

"2010 Vision" Continued...

Issue: "2010 The Year Ahead," Jan. 16, 2010

We need a renewal of the courage that motivated generations of past missionaries who headed to Africa and Asia carrying their coffins with them. Some younger evangelicals fault older leaders for seemingly making politics preeminent and seeking a soft spot at the table with Caesar. They gravitate to new leaders such as Gary Haugen (International Justice Mission) who fight slavery and sex trafficking around the world.

Cultural: Baby boom evangelicals wanted to make the world safe for our children and sometimes looked to government to help. Many demanded, among other things, prayer in public schools, family-friendly television times and ratings, and a ban on pornography or erotica in drug stores or museums. Sometimes we majored in the minors and equated niceness, inoffensiveness, and blandness with Christianity. Younger evangelicals reacted to what they saw as a defensive moralism that attempted to preserve what we proclaimed but often did not practice.

We need a renewed emphasis on truth-telling in journalism, movies, music, and other cultural products. We should continue to criticize slow-motion murder, fast-talking obscenity, and amoral destructiveness, but our goal should not be smiley-faced sponge cake frosted with faith in man's natural goodness. Moralism apart from Christ is idolatry: Priests used hyssop to spray the blood of sacrifices on the people in Moses' time, and authenticity today is bound up in the realization that payment for sin required the shedding of Christ's blood.

Political: Older evangelicals should work to develop coalitions with three particular groups: free-market proponents, immigrants, and-younger evangelicals. Leaders of all three of those groups have become leaders because they are not timid. They do not want to be softened and bent.

Many proponents of free markets look to gain economic advantage through adventure. They want to be entrepreneurs, not corporate managers. An Acton Institute film, The Call of the Entrepreneur, suggests the call of the wild that leads to enterprise. Here's that movie's advertising language: "A merchant banker. A failing dairy farmer. A refugee from Communist China. One risked his savings. One risked his farm. One risked his life." Common denominator: Risk.

Many immigrants are by nature adventuresome, or else they would not have left home and made their way to a strange new land. (My grandfather, known in family lore as Louis the Pioneer, walked across Europe to find the Atlantic and a ship to America, so such folks naturally impress me.) Why should they settle in this country for the stifling governmental control and economic stagnation from which they escaped? Common denominator: Risk.

It might seem hard to bring younger evangelicals into a small-government, anti-Caesar coalition, because so many of them voted for Barack Obama and his big-government policies. But some of that was payback for the failure of many Southern evangelicals to support desegregation in the 1950s and 1960s. My sense is that many evangelical Obama-voters, having made history by sending an African-American to the White House, are disappointed that he has not been the rational, above-politics leader for whom they yearned.

At a deeper level, the goals of some younger evangelicals may seem antithetical to those of free market advocates. After all, many have learned from classroom and media tutors that capitalism equals selfishness. In reality, the opposite is true. Few among us are likely to love our neighbors as ourselves on a regular basis-but we are normally willing to help our neighbors if we can help ourselves in the process. Free markets merge altruism and selfishness in a way that no system based on either command-and-control or singing-around-the-campfire can do.

The possibility of an adventuresome evangelical-immigrant-fiscal conservative coalition may be doubted on other grounds as well. On the surface, the goals of some immigrant groups may seem a mediocre fit with a pro-entrepreneurship position. After all, doesn't more governmental redistribution serve the poor?-and most immigrants initially are poor? But millions of newcomers to America over four centuries have learned that our streets really are paved with gold-so why settle for the fool's gold of a governmental dole?

Can an anti-Caesar entente succeed? The founding era of America offers a strong precedent. Signers of the Declaration of Independence risked "our lives, our fortunes, our sacred honor." We may choose to think of all of them as strong Christians, but that was hardly the case. Evangelicals like Samuel Adams and Patrick Henry had to work alongside non-believers like Thomas Jefferson.

We should welcome those who supported Barack Obama, valuing his historic ascension, but have seen where he is leading us. We now venerate Benjamin Franklin as a leader among the Founders, but he decided to sail home from London and join the rebel alliance only a month before the Revolution broke out. Franklin had worked for the British government until he finally gave up and blasted "the extreme corruption prevalent among [London officials who garnered] enormous salaries, pensions, perquisites, and bribes."

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