Back during the Reagan administration, when I was going to Southeastern College of the Assemblies of God it was just a little four-year Christian liberal arts school “in the Pentecostal tradition.” One of the signs of the decadent-pre-rapture-Laodicean-liberal-mainline church, we were often reminded, was that it preached something called the “social gospel.” Real Evangelicals didn’t preach the social gospel; no, they preached the gospel from 1 Corinthians 15: the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus.
But strange things happen when you mess with the Holy Spirit. Southeastern is now a full-fleged university, run by a Methodist(Yeah, he’s a charismatic, but still…). The country’s most ubiquitous Evangelical, Rick Warren is preaching about ending poverty, and I’m not in the Evangelical wing of the church any more. In fact, I have often thought of myself as a post-evangelical or recovering evangelical or just plain liberal.
The reason that Rick Warren and Pat Robertson have decided that ending poverty is a responsibility of Christians is that they were foolish enough to ask the Holy Spirit for help. Jesus tried to warn them: “The wind blows where it wills…” but they are finding that faithfulness to Jesus means being a liberal. Of course Pat would take issue with that (I’m not sure that Rick Warren would), and his website is replete with the kind of kooky and kinky crap that Evangelicals are fascinated by. But you can’t argue with the fact that something is going on here.
I believe it’s called conversion. The Bible uses the term “metanoia” which means, a “turning around of.” Believe me the sight of Evangelicals like Warren and Robertson calling on the powers and principalities to use their resources for justice is a conversion of the very first sort. Evangelicals regularly invoke the Spiriti Sanctus, but when you ask the Holy Spirit to guide you, you don’t get a handprint shaped like a viper’s mouth. You can wrestle with the Spirit, you can ignore the Spirit, you can defy the Spirit, but if you take a deep breath of God’s Wind once too often, you will be speaking God’s Word in truth and justice.
Will the One campaign end poverty? No, probably not. The poor, after all usually take it on the chin from the rich. But it is the voice of faithfulness in the wilderness, it is the speaking of truth to power, it is the sound of justice rolling down like mighty waters. I like that sound. And I suspect that God does too.