Eleven years ago, Richard Stearns went to Washington.
Stearns - president of World Vision, the billion-dollar Christian relief organization - joined other faith leaders in lobbying Congress to spend $15 billion combating AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean. He acknowledged he and his fellow evangelicals were late to the fight against this pandemic and explained their tardiness with remarkable candor.
At first, he said, Christians perceived AIDS as a disease of gay people and drug users and so, "had less compassion for the victims." This, from followers of the itinerant, first-century rabbi who said, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened ..." So Stearns' words offered stark illustration of one of the more vexing failings of modern Christianity: its inability to get there on time.
"There" meaning any place people are suffering, hungry, exploited or simply denied some essential human right. Yes, there are exceptions; let us not deny the good works of good people of faith.
And yet ...
On issues where it should take the lead, where it should make noise and news, challenging the status quo, marching in the streets, actively advocating for human dignity, the great body of Christendom always seems to bring up the rear, arriving decades late to the place the rest of the nation has already reached.