Full disclosure: I am a Christ-follower who attends an evangelical, community-centered church in the South. I also happen to be a staunch young Conservative ( Note that I did not say Republican. Although I have more hope that they can be converted to Conservative principles than I do the Democrats.)
I know that there are several different religious persuasions represented here at RS. There are even some of no religious persuasion whatsoever. This kind of diversity is something that I have come to appreciate about RS. Religious topics are seldom made the subject of diaries, as it should be. But this is one thing that I felt warranted some investigating.
Going on right now is a mega-conference for evangelical Christian churches called Catalyst. Many people have never heard of it, but is is a big deal among churches. It was started to bring young church leaders together to train and equip them for the future. The individuals who began Catalyst are prominent leaders in the Christian Church, one of whom I greatly admire named Andy Stanley. He is a great pastor of an equally amazing church called NorthPoint.
Needless to say, I have always viewed Catalyst favorably even though I have never had the privilege to attend the event. Catalyst always invites a wide variety of speakers ranging from prominent pastors to successful business leaders and leadership gurus. Not all of them have shared the Christian faith, which I have never found offensive. The fact that they did not share the same faith as the attendees had no bearing on their ability to speak with authority on the subject that they were asked to speak on.
Imagine my surprise when I was recently told by a friend some of the names of the individuals being invited to attend this year's events. I will only name two, as a diary can only be so long.
One of the main speakers this year is Dr. Cornel West. Here is his bio as listed on the Catalyst website. From their description, you can gather that he is a Democrat activist, an intelligent man (he is a Professor at Princeton University), and that he is passionate about keeping the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King alive. All in all, he sounds like a pretty good guy from their description (minus being a Democrat activist), right? Wrong.
Unfortunately, Catalyst forgot to mention a few other notable things about Dr. West and decided to simply list the bio from his website. For instance, they forgot to note that in the mid-1980's Dr. West wrote a piece for the Democratic Socialists of America as their Honorary Chair. He continues to be a member of this organization to this day.
He has described himself as a "non-Marxist socialist" which still makes one a socialist, just not of the Marxist variety. Most recently, Dr. West has joined the OccupyWall Street protest in which over 700 people have been arrested for blocking the Brooklyn Bridge.
Dr. West recently on MSNBC called Republicans "mean, cold-hearted, and tied to oliogarchs." . Now why would you invite such a person to speak to a group of Christian leaders? Perhaps it was for diversity of thought. However, there are better ways to achieve diversity of thought than to invite a radical socialist to be one of your main speakers at an event billed to "train up the next church leaders."
Another speaker featured in one of the "labs" is one Lisa Sharon Harper. Her bio is also listed on the Catalyst website. Once again, her bio indicates that she clearly is left-of-center but is "reaching out" to Conservatives. She even wrote a book on it!
But one glance at her blog on God's Politics reveals a none to loving attitude towards Herman Cain and the Tea Party. In fact, it smacks of downright hatred. Once again the question remains, why invite political activists to a church convention? And if you are, why not include some from the Conservative side? Either make the event apolitical (the ideal) or give equal representation.
To be fair to Catalyst, the vast majority of speakers are only there to encourage the Church and build up Church leaders. They are well-respected pastors whom I have listened to on a number of occasions. I have personally read and been inspired by either their books or blogs. But there are others not mentioned in this diary who are speaking at Catalyst who are quite left-of-center and open about it. Which brings me to another question. Why is it cool to be a pastor and air your political views if you are on the left, but a national faux-pas if you are a conservative and do so? It is the epitome of hypocrisy.
For the sake of my great respect for Andy Stanley, I am doing my utmost to give Catalyst the benefit of the doubt. To be fair, they are not the only church conference out there booking these types of speakers. Maybe it is some strategy I am not privy to. Is it for diversity and to not be divisive? If so, I can realy stretch myself to understand. But did it ever occur to these people that not every Conservative is a Christian? Inviting these kinds of speakers may make this group of people never want to set foot in church again.
Please, if anyone from Catalyst can explain this to me I am all ears. I even looked for a main contact number on their site to maybe ask some questions and get some explanation. I just do not want to believe that a great event like this is turning into what I fear it is.