"Brothers, I am not a pastor. I am a healthcare worker. I do HIV/AIDS work in Khayelitsha." At this everyone nodded. Known as an informal settlement to some, a squatter area to others, Khayelitsha is the third-largest township in South Africa. Its shacks made of scavenged building supplies stretch along the nearby airport road as far as the eye can see, providing substandard shelter for immigrants from villages across the eastern half of the country. Around half a million black and colored people had landed there seeking a better life after the fall of the apartheid, but now they suffered from predictable problems associated with migration, poverty, and unemployment: substance abuse, domestic violence, and HIV infection. Many of these pastors were working in Khayelitsha, setting up tents to conduct services there Sunday by Sunday.
The young man continued, "You pastors are ..." He hesitated as he raised one outstretched hand toward heaven. "You are causing such destruction in Khayelitsha. It reaches to the skies. I know you mean well, but you don't realize that you cause devastation in the lives of the people among whom I work."
Eyes widened, pastors shifted in their seats, and the young man continued. "You come to Khayelitsha every Sunday and set up your tents, which is good, but I have listened to your preaching, and you are preoccupied with three things, and three things only. First, you constantly talk about healing. You tell people they can be healed of HIV, and some of them believe you, so they stop taking their medication. When they stop, they develop new resistant strains of the disease that don't respond well to the medications, and they spread these tougher infections to other people, leaving them much sicker than before. Then you're always telling the people they need to be born again, but after they're born again on Sunday, they're still unemployed on Monday. They may be born again, but what good is that if their problems are the same as before? You know as well as I do that if they're unemployed, they're going to be caught in the poverty web of substance abuse, crime and gangs, domestic violence, and HIV. What good is that? All this born-again talk is nonsense ..."
"Then what do you do? After telling these desperately poor people to get born again and healed, then you tell them to tithe. You tell them to 'sow financial seed' into your ministries and they will receive a hundredfold in return. But you're the only ones getting a return on their investment. You could be helping so much. You could be monitoring people to learn employable skills, you could teach them and help them in so many ways, but it's always the same thing: healing, getting born again, and tithing ..."
"You know your problem? You Pentecostals and you evangelicals specialized. You specialized in healing, in getting people born again, in creating financially successful churches -- but you need to go beyond that. It's time to get a better message -- something bigger than just those things. If you stop there, all your preaching is nonsense ..."
"By talking only about individuals being born again, [you] keep Khayelitsha and our whole nation from being born again in a fuller sense of the term."
Everything Must Change, by Brian D. McLaren.
Putting aside the fact that there were several sects of Christianity floating around in the first few centuries, I often wonder if the gospel went astray with the marriage of Rome and Christianity. As soon as the religion became a political force, as soon as it had that political power and clout and became the only official and recognized religion, and as soon as it persecuted the "bad" religions ... can you really still relate to the oppressed? If your political clout means that you will have access to medicines, and food, and education, can you truly relate to those who struggle? The struggle and oppression are no longer a lifestyle for the Christian. How can you be free from oppression or poverty -- something that Jesus promised, if you're not in either camp?
If you no longer cry out for a Savior to be rescued from Rome, but rather get to dictate how Rome operates, then can you still hear the cries of those Rome crushes?