Bono's Burning Question
Earlier this year, Sheryl Henderson Blunt, our go-to journalist in Washington, D.C., had a brief taste of life in the fast lane as she drove her car through Washington's streets, trailing an Air Force fighter pilot late for a church service. Blunt recalls she followed Lt. Col. Martha McSally through a red light and then the wrong way down a one-way street. "I was a little bit scared for my life," Blunt says. When they arrived safely, the A-10 Warthog pilot who served in the Gulf War joked, "I drive like I fly."
In covering Washington for Christianity Today for the past three years, Blunt has mastered the art of the chase. A 1994 graduate of Wheaton College, Blunt polished her reporting and writing skills at Stars and Stripes and Congressional Quarterly before she took time out for the birth of Carissa, her and husband Matt's first child. About that time, she began free-lancing for CT. When CT caught wind in March that a group of evangelical leaders was about to meet with mega-rock star Bono from the Irish band U2, Blunt jumped on the story and was one of only two journalists to grab post-meeting interviews.
The Bono story posed an unusual challenge. Evangelicals often have a nagging question about celebrities who have made various comments about Jesus but who stop short of the Four Spiritual Laws. What do they believe about God? In Bono's case, much to the surprise of the evangelicals at the meeting, the singer answered that question up-front and affirmed his personal faith in Christ.
"When I met him, he seemed very real, very low key," Blunt says. "I asked people coming out of the meeting [about Bono]. They were very surprised that he seemed very sincere, 'humble' in how he presented himself and what he had to say. They all came out singing his praises."
In turn, Bono has his own burning question: Will American Christians stand by as Africa dies for "small money"? The genocide, famine, war, and AIDS epidemic in Africa are distant from the experience of most American evangelicals.
In its past reporting on AIDS, CT has turned to Calle Almedal, an official with the U.N. AIDS agency who works alongside church leaders. "Churches in the North do not feel the pain, do not smell the stench, do not see the emaciated faces of their own Christian brothers and sisters," Almedal says. "Churches in the United States should reflect theologically on the close connections between the sinner and the stigmatized and work toward a theology of reconciliation. Churches … commit the sin of omission when not doing more in this field."
American Christians are generous with their time, talent, and treasure. But the AIDS pandemic is a highly complex foe. Lingering stigma, discrimination, ongoing sexual promiscuity, and safe-sex advocacy—all are barriers to Christians becoming committed to fighting AIDS in Africa. But Franklin Graham, president of Samaritan's Purse, recently struck a bold new stance. "We as the church have been too quick to pass judgment on this disease," Graham said at February's Prescription for Hope event. "Let's put this issue at the top of our agendas as individuals, churches, denominations, and Christian organizations."
CT's Blunt, who also reports in this issue about legal assaults on crisis pregnancy centers, says Christians in Washington strongly sense that the time is at hand for new action on the African AIDS crisis. "Christians feel like they have a lot more allies than they used to have, especially with Bush in office. Their agendas are going to the forefront now."