Billed as sharing, "insights about turning oppression into opportunity for women across the globe.", Bill Hybels invited Nicholas Kristof to the stage (no pulpit in sight) of Willow Creek Church this past Sunday morning. The problem is, Pastor Hybels seems to be unaware that Kristof and his wife think Christianity is the problem. Not the only problem, but judging from the tone and slant of their book, the problem of Christianity as an oppressor of women looms larger than that of Islam and China's brutal one-child policy.
Not only was Mr. Kristof granted a platform on Sunday morning, but now his wife Sheryl WuDunn, is listed on the "faculty" of Willow Creek's Global Leadership Summit .
To see Kristof tell of some of the horrors women suffer around the world, obstetric fistulas in particular, it is obvious Kristof cares deeply about the plight of these women.
"Helping people is harder than it looks."
"This is not a perfect outcome, there is no justice."
"There may well be prostitution a hundred years from now ..."
"But we can insure that there aren't 14-year-old girls who are being pimped out, and brutalized. Whether in Cambodia or Chicago."
We can't expect Kristof to recognize the source of justice or the impossibility of eradicating these sorts of injustices in our present age. But Bill Hybels is a minister of the gospel, he should know better than to offer the world's solutions:
"Now, again, throughout this series we have been saying that girls and women are affected, or suffer, more than men do when extreme poverty is in place. But we have also been saying that if you make an investment in a young girl, you get a disproportionate response. It's actually better strategy to lift a whole village out of the cycle of poverty by making an investment in a young girl."
Kristof responds to Hybel's question about why that is by explaining that, if you educate a girl, she will have fewer children (read: babies are bad). The rest of Kristof's solution is not to educate men towards responsibility, but to educate girls and women to (in essence) not need men.
Hybels then prompts Kristof on raising women's voices and the two men collude in the fatal illusion that giving women a voice will equip them to respond to and avoid the consequences of irresponsible men by giving them the rush of achievement and the ability to look after, "her own children".
This prescription victimizes women all over again. Sadly, in jest and only in passing, Kristof does recognize women's civilizing influence on men. Hybels neither acknowledges this or at any time during the 41-minute video does he direct Kristof or the congregation to the one Book which provides the only true solution to the sin of both women and men. Sin? What's that. Not even whispered or hinted at.
In the last ten minutes, Hybels approaches the difficulty secular humanitarians have of working with religious humanitarians and how the "God gulf" really bothers Kristof. Kristof responds by talking about the polarization and distrust between the two groups in spite of "huge areas of common agreement" and "some" areas of disagreement. I'm not surprised that Kristof fails to recognize his own role in that polarization and the creation of distrust. I have previously noted his hostility to Christianity here, here, and here. Hybels concurs in Kristof's assessment and his hope that the two sides can work on common ground, "Because there is so much at stake."
At the end, Hybels turns the "pulpit" over to Kristof for "3 minutes of preaching".
"You have the compassion of a Christian. You have the convictions of a Christian." It's not Christian conviction, Pastor Hybels. Kristof is moved to tears recounting some of the injustices he has observed and he has risked life and limb. But he is not filled with Christian convictions. He is influenced by common grace and a thoroughly secular view of justice and compassion. One that has repeatedly dripped with sarcasm and blamed thoroughly Christian convictions for much of the injustice he battles.
Recently a friend pondered whether Evangelicalism had become the new mainline. Indeed it has. With Willow Creek as the flagship of Evangelicalism's megachurch mentality, we are presented with the old Social Gospel in 21st century social justice clothing.
Watch the video here