Within three weeks, in two editorials the Rev. William Barber II, head of the NC NAACP, has berated Christians to the right of him. In his October 19th piece, Jesus, Didn’t Join the Tea Party, Either, he argues the speakers and participants at the October 17th ‘We Stand With God’ Rally,’ are mockers and abusers of the real Christian faith.
In his latest editorial, Evangelicals are not for Trump or Carson, but for the Gospel, Barber claims “’evangelical’ is a label that has been hijacked and manipulated” by those to the right of him.
True evangelicalism, says Barber, was spoken from the lips and words of Jesus placing “concern for the poor and the broken at the center of faith.” He added, “We should not allow extremists to legitimize their agenda by calling it ‘evangelical.’”
Of course, though Barber claims to be an evangelical himself, it’s impossible to come away from his writings without concluding that he believes any professing Christian to the right of him is either deceived, deviated, or even duplicitous, and, therefore, undeserving of the label. That’s hardly Christian.
The word “evangelical” is derived from the Greek “euangelion,” meaning good news or gospel. In its simplest sense, the title refers to a Christian who believes it’s important to share with others that Christ has come to save people from their sins.
In the public arena, however, the word’s meaning is more confusing. It can differentiate a Protestant from a Catholic, although not always. It can be used to describe Protestants who are more politically conservative. Other times it refers to a certain set of beliefs regarding the Bible, the nature of God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, sin, redemption, and the return of Christ.
“Evangelical” can also be further confused with terms like “fundamentalist” and “born-again.” “Fundamentalists” would consider themselves as “born-again” and “evangelical,” while many who claim to be “evangelical” would deplore the label “fundamentalist” and still others who claim to be “evangelical” would not ascribe to having been “born-again.”
The fact is, “evangelical” is a term bandied about by Christians on both the political left and right. Moreover, one can argue without end as to which group is the rightful heir.
But for clarification sake, the term that best explains the differences between Barber and believers to the right of him – the one that succinctly encapsulates his beliefs – is the tag, “social justice.” Barber uses the phrase repeatedly.
Erick Rush, a black author and contributor of social commentary, accurately explains:
“’Social justice Christians’ are those who profess Christianity, but who adhere to politically entrenched concepts of equality and redistribution of wealth. These ideas are ostensibly rooted in their faith, but in truth, they have been incrementally and insidiously insinuated into many American churches by Marxists, progressive politicians and pastors whose religion has been tainted by the aforementioned parties.
“How can this be? Well, through the misrepresentation of the Gospel messages in the areas of charity and egalitarianism, such Christians have been led to believe that:
“Government has a right to enforce religious doctrines (such as those of charity and egalitarianism), and Jesus Christ, as a threat to the existing paradigm, was the ‘first radical’ and essentially commanded this in his teachings.
“A preposterous extrapolation, to be sure, but that’s what they espouse. And of course, government only has the right to enforce the religious doctrines of which these folks and their leaders happen to approve.”
Gary DeMar, president of American Vision, in Do We Need Social Justice? rightly contends that those who oppose “social justice” policies are automatically considered to be “callous, insensitive, uncaring, and lacking in compassion.” But he adds that Christians who oppose ’social justice’ policies are not against treating people in a just way. It’s just that “[t]hey firmly believe that most if not all ‘social justice’ policies that involve the State are wrong and, in the long run, do more harm than good. Attaching the ‘social justice’ label to a program does not make it a just and helpful program any more than attaching a Mercedes Benz hood ornament to a Volkswagen will make it a luxury car.”
When Barber claims, as he does in his latest editorial, that we shouldn’t engage in the politics of “hate, harm and hurt,” yet then turns around and espouses such vitriol for Christians who differ from him politically, it’s hard to take him seriously.
Moreover, there is one final concern. Barber talks about “redeeming the soul of America” and that “our nation must be born-again.” Indeed, conservative Christians would agree, but would strongly disagree this country’s great national sins are linked to a certain segment of society being denied government checks.
The heart of the Gospel is that the impoverished of spirit, those blinded by sin, those imprisoned by the bonds and chains of iniquity, those oppressed by sin’s afflictions can be made free in Jesus Christ – not the flawed socialistic dogma and other courses of action pursued under the slogan “social justice.” And that’s not religious extremism or “a perverted interpretation of faith,” but totally “evangelical.”
Rev. Mark Creech, Executive Director, Christian Action League