Yesterday, evangelical leader John Stott passed away. In 2004, I shared an op-ed piece by David Brooks that featured Stott, so I'm reposting it below in honor of this great thinker. Brooks lauded Stott as an authentic representative of evangelicalism, as opposed to those like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, who proferred shallow sound bytes. Brooks also pointed out that Stott explored paradoxes, such as what it means to gain power through weakness. May we continue to ask those excellent questions even after Stott's passing.
David Brooks, himself a Jew, asks "Who is John Stott?" in an op-ed piece last Tuesday (Nov. 30) in the NY Times. He does so in light of the "Meet the Press" I mentioned earlier. With the attention evangelicals have been getting since the election, much of it from the Times' opinion page itself, Brooks wanted to go beyond the caricatures and sensationalized depictions of evangelicals and to find out who really represents evangelicals. I think that he ends up with a good portrayal of Stott, and I especially liked how he pointed out that, except for abortion, homosexuality, and (unfortunately) the death penalty, Stott is not politically conservative. I also liked how he mentioned that Stott brings together both faith and reason:
There's been a lot of twaddle written recently about the supposed opposition between faith and reason. To read Stott is to see someone practicing "thoughtful allegiance" to scripture. For him, Christianity means probing the mysteries of Christ. He is always exploring paradoxes. Jesus teaches humility, so why does he talk about himself so much? What does it mean to gain power through weakness, or freedom through obedience? In many cases the truth is not found in the middle of apparent opposites, but on both extremes simultaneously.
Brooks ends with pointing out that evangelicals are not some group for politicians to pander to and to lobby. Republicans have been using evangelicals all along, and now Democrats are encouraging each other to do the same:
Politicians, especially Democrats, are now trying harder to appeal to people of faith. But people of faith are not just another interest group, like gun owners. You have to begin by understanding the faith. And you can't understand this rising global movement if you don't meet its authentic representatives.
Not Falwell, but Stott.
.,..and notice how Brooks says "rising global movement" too!