This article is from Issue 50: Mar/Apr 2011

An Open Letter to This Generation

Many would consider Dr. Ron Sider the father of the modern Christian social justice movement. He released his seminal book, Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger, in 1977 after observing racism and poverty in inner- city Philadelphia. Since then, Sider has written nearly two dozen books and more than 100 articles on social injustice and biblical discipleship, including Completely Pro-Life, which ushered in a new “holistic” thinking on what it means to affirm life in areas beyond abortion opposition, such as capital punishment, nuclear weapons and severe poverty. Here, Sider considers his legacy and the legacy of his peers as he challenges a new generation of “young, radical evangelists” in how they approach justice, relativism, marriage and homosexuality. He offers four questions, the answers to which he believes will inform Christianity in the 21st century.

Just writing that title feels a bit strange. For a long time, people called me a “young evangelical.” Actually, the adjectives were sometimes less gracious: “radical,” or “leftist” or “Marxist.” (My response to the “Marxist” label was simple: “I’m a Mennonite farm boy, for Pete’s sake. Have you ever met a Mennonite farmer who wants the government to own his land?”)

So I used to be a “radical, young evangelical.” But I was born in 1939, so, however reluctantly, I have long since had to abandon the label “young.” Hence this open letter to a younger generation, many of whom are 40 years younger than I am.

I have no desire to lecture you or “set you straight.” I have enormous appreciation for I won’t lecture this generation. Forty years ago, when some of my friends and I started talking about social justice, racial justice, God’s special concern for the poor, and holistic mission that combined evangelism and social action, we were considered radical.

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