The New York Times columnist talks with the progressive evangelical leader about Christianity. Wallis talks about “secular fundamentalists,” the meaning of the word “evangelical,” Christmas, and abortion.
Here is a taste:
Kristof: I’ve seen conservative evangelicals do heroic work, including Chuck Colson’s work in prisons, and George W. Bush’s leadership in fighting AIDS in Africa that saved 20 million lives. But some of the grossest immorality of my life came when evangelicals like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson smirked at AIDS and resisted tackling the disease because it was killing gay people. How do we understand a faith that can produce so much good and so much evil?
Wallis: The religious right leaders you name hijacked the word “evangelical.” Result: White evangelicalism has destroyed the “evangel.” When “evangelical” strays from the radical love of Jesus into hateful partisan faith, we see the worst.
Kristof: Do you think about abandoning the term “evangelical” because it has too much baggage?
Wallis: I understand why so many have moved to “post-evangelical” or “adjacent evangelical” as the old term has become so tainted by right-wing politics and hypocrisy. Many of us call ourselves “followers of Jesus” who want to return to the original definition of a gospel that is good news to the poor. And we believe that any gospel that isn’t good news for the poor is simply not the gospel of Jesus Christ. Period.
Kristof: We’ve been denouncing religious intolerance, but I’m afraid many of us liberals have a problem with irreligious intolerance. A Black sociologist, George Yancey, once told me: “Outside of academia I faced more problems as a Black. But inside academia I face more problems as a Christian, and it’s not even close.” Do liberals have a blind spot about faith?
Wallis: I have been fighting “religious fundamentalists” my whole life. But are there also “secular fundamentalists”? I would say yes, and they can be as irrational, ideological and intolerant as the religious ones.
Read the entire interview here.