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Several years ago, I had a friend who taught at the city college across the street from our office. He told me about another professor who made a practice of putting Christians down: "They're hypocrites, they don't care, they don't make a difference, they don't do anything." My friend, who is a Christian, set up a lunch for me to meet the atheist professor.

I didn't know what I was going to say to him. Frankly, I partially agreed with him. I started Evangelicals for Social Action in Fresno, California, because the church wasn't doing much to reach out to the poor, as far as I could see. On the way to lunch, though, I asked God to give me words to say.

We sat down and I said, "I understand you don't think Christians do much to help other people."

He said, "That's right," and he began his speech about what hypocrites we are.

I said, "Tell me what other group does more than Christians to help people in need outside their own group." A silence followed. He couldn't think of any.

"Locally, do you know of such a group?" I asked. "Nationally? Internationally?"

He said, "What about Marxists?"

"Are you serious?" I said. "Stalin killed millions of his own people."

"Well, maybe not," he said.

He eventually admitted that no other group comes close to doing what Christians do to help others outside their circle. There is no Hindu homeless shelter in Fresno. There is no Buddhist food pantry in Fresno. There is no Muslim clothing ministry for street people in Fresno.

I have dedicated my life to mobilizing Christians to help the poor, and I can tell you that we do not do nearly so much as we could or should. In talking to that professor, however, I realized that even with our many failings, we manage to do a lot. That is not because we are fine ...

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January 2005

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