Recently, I had the opportunity to visit with Anthony Fauci for one of his rare interviews with a religion journalist. When I pitched the story to one prominent evangelical news outlet that promotes itself as being a balanced news organization, I was met with anything but balance.
I faced an unusual amount of criticism, along with questions about why I would even want to interview Fauci. They believed if I were to interview him for their publication, he wouldn’t want to be open to critical questions. I found this to be interesting, especially since they hadn’t even asked him any questions yet. They already had made up their minds on Fauci. Their standard of deciding news value was based on a subcultural model of journalism and not that of a balanced and unbiased organization.
Although I conducted the Fauci interview instead for Baptist News Global, I gained some insightful information. I couldn’t help but think to myself, has evangelicalism and the people who influence it been hiding out in caves? Not only hiding out in their proverbial caves but doing so while also predetermining and judging individuals they haven’t even had conversations with.
Today’s evangelicals aren’t the first group of people to hide out in caves. We find various individuals throughout the Bible who did the same thing, one of them being the prophet Elijah. By all biblical accounts, Elijah was a prophet of faith and courage. Yet even he could be found hiding out in a cave in 2 Kings. Elijah was on the run from the queen of his day, whom he was trying to avoid. God finds Elijah inside the cave and confronts him with these words: “What are you doing in here?”
That’s a question I not only wanted to ask my editor but many of today’s evangelicals. They use these caves to come up with false conspiracies and judge anyone who isn’t like them.
Just like God had a word for the prophet Elijah, I believe God also has a word for people of faith today. God wants us to leave our caves and stop avoiding the culture around us.
“Today’s evangelicals aren’t the first group of people to hide out in caves.”
I’ve come to realize that for many of my evangelical friends, when they hide out in caves it’s easy for them to conjure up wild conspiracy theories and words for people who aren’t like them. Using words such as “liberal” or “woke.” Many of them either don’t know people who aren’t like them or have simply decided to demonize the very people Christ has called them to reach out to.
When God confronted Elijah in the cave, God gave him reminders. God reminded Elijah that the Creator is above our circumstances. Elijah was reminded that God cannot be defined by what’s happening around us. God is more powerful than anything we go through. God is in control, and as people of faith, we shouldn’t be controlled by the things or forces of this world.
When we decide to hide out in caves, we align with subcultural living. This is dangerous for people of faith who have been called to love and embrace the culture around us with the same kind of love that sent Jesus to the Cross. It’s easy to choose subcultural living and, let’s be honest, it may even come across as safe. We must remember our first love and encounter with God who called us to love the world and those around us and not demonize them.
When God confronts Elijah in the cave and gives him a path forward, God advises Elijah to go and find community, to realize he isn’t the only one doing the work of the Lord. There are others around who are eagerly working as well.
Although Fauci and I share different faith beliefs and rhythms, I realized at the end of our conversation that he, just like me, wanted and needed prayer — and he even asked that I keep the prayers coming.
I’m hoping evangelicals might embrace praying and love and walk away from subcultural living. Embrace a world that needs us to come out of our dark caves and become more educated about others. As God tells Elijah, this life is not about you. You are called to do and experience so much more.
Maina Mwaura is a freelance writer and communications consultant who lives in the metro Atlanta area. A native of Orlando, Fla., he earned a bachelor of science degree in communications from Liberty University and a master of divinity degree from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
Elijahs and Elishas | Opinion by Brent Newberry