Another Road Trip, Please?

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In recent days, an HBO documentary about American evangelicals titled Friends of God has been generating a buzz. As its subtitle, A Road Trip with Alexandra Pelosi, indicates, it was made by the youngest daughter of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

Those expecting a hostile treatment of evangelicals might be pleasantly surprised. Pelosi’s portrait shows us to be a diverse, happy, and occasionally quirky people whose certainty in an age of doubt makes us stand out. We love God, our families, and our country, and we don’t mind telling others about it.

It’s a fair-enough introduction to one side of evangelicals, that is, for the Church and how it feeds its flock. And Ms. Pelosi was apparently impressed, because she said she would prefer Jesus Christ to Paris Hilton. I think she meant that to be a compliment. But I would really like to see a sequel, one that takes a look at the other side of evangelicalism, one that rarely gets much attention. That is the part that rises above the “Jesus and me” ethic and identifies with the last, least, and lost whom Jesus called His brothers.

My dream sequel would introduce viewers to the International Justice Mission (IJM) and its founder, Gary Haugen. Haugen, the winner of this year’s Wilberforce Award, is the voice of those who have no voice: the victims of child prostitution, sex trafficking, and other neglected forms of oppression. While many Christians are content to sing “Jesus set me free,” International Justice Mission is busy working, obeying Jesus’ command to set the captives free.

International Justice Mission is not the only Christian group working to better the lives of people overseas. New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof called evangelicals “the new internationalists” because of our concern about AIDS, religious freedom, and human rights. I’d love to see HBO direct some attention toward these efforts.

For instance, more than one million children in other countries are sponsored through just two Christian groups: World Vision and Compassion International. More than one million children are fed, clothed, and educated because Christians whom they have never met believe that in helping them they are helping Jesus.

It doesn’t stop with feeding and educating children—groups like these are eloquent advocates for all of the world’s poor.

Closer to home, literally, there are thousands of Prison Fellowship volunteers who invest themselves in the lives of prisoners. They do the hard work of reaching out to people whom many think of as unlovable—if they think of them at all.

There are many other evangelicals that fly under the media’s radar: people who run soup kitchens, homeless shelters, and crisis pregnancy centers. What they all have in common is an unwillingness to settle for just getting “high on Jesus” or otherwise reducing faith to a warm fuzzy, as we saw in the film.

So instead of the usual stereotypes that Ms. Pelosi showed—that is, Christian wrestlers and Jerry Falwell from an unflattering camera angle and the notorious health-and-wealth gospel service—let’s see some scenes of love in action, of evangelical Christians living out their faith, feeding the hungry and clothing the naked. Now that would be a road trip really worth taking—and a film really worth watching.
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From BreakPoint®, February 1, 2007, Copyright 2007, Prison Fellowship Ministries. Reprinted with the permission of Prison Fellowship Ministries. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or distributed without the express written permission of Prison Fellowship Ministries. “BreakPoint®” and “Prison Fellowship Ministries®” are registered trademarks of Prison Fellowship Ministries