On Monday Feb 20, Rudy Carrasco spoke at Biola about his ministry of Christian community development. We actually invited him to speak on the wide-open topic of “social justice,” but he immediately confessed that that term carries too much baggage. Carrasco, who attended Biola for two years in the 8o’s, spent much of the time Monday night sharing about the ministry of John M. Perkins before going on to explain his own work at Harambee Ministries in Pasadena.
It would be hard to explain everything Carrasco said as he spoke for two hours to spellbound students. He launched two or three different speeches, then announced that he was scrapping them, and switched instead to gripping stories about racial reconciliation and community renewal. He got about halfway through explaining the three Rs (relocation, reconciliation, redistribution), but then veered into testimony, stories about his years at Biola, and what I can only describe as very effective stand-up comedy with chairs for props.
One snapshot from the many: When Rudy Carrasco was a young Christian, he and some friends wanted to take a blanket to a homeless person they saw regularly. An elderly man in their church talked them out of it.
Talked them out of it! Carrasco still sounds incredulous when he tells about it.
In retrospect, he can sympathize with the guy. What did he see? Evangelical kids with big hearts rushing out to do something immediate, without considering the structural forces that create the situation. Evangelical kids salving their own consciences with the ultimate short term missions trip. Evangelical kids who see need at their doorstep and are likely to fall into the clutches of liberal or social gospel teachers before they make it to age 20. Evangelical kids getting distracted from the gospel of salvation and putting their attention on temporary fixes of physical problems. Evangelical kids, recent converts, who didn’t have deep enough roots to hold fast when the winds of liberalism come howling.
So Carrasco can see where the guy was coming from, and he can even tell the story with almost (almost!) no anger or bitterness. But the main point is that something is deeply wrong when the natural compassion of the evangelical heart gets truncated before it makes its way to action. I suspect that for evangelicals this truncation is second nature.
Second nature: But it’s not nature. By nature, the gospel spills over into action, and gets all mixed up with the physical and emotional needs of the people it’s proclaimed to. By nature, the gospel makes such a difference that it changes everything.