Ronald J. Sider, 82, Who Urged Evangelicals to Social Action, Dies

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While many evangelicals were aligning with the politics of the right (the Rev. Jerry Falwell founded the Moral Majority the next year) and focusing on abortion and issues of sexual identity, Dr. Sider spoke and wrote from the left, remaining vocal and politically involved for half a century.

That included trying to counter the support among white evangelicals for Donald J. Trump. In 2020 he edited “The Spiritual Danger of Donald Trump: 30 Evangelical Christians on Justice, Truth, and Moral Integrity,” a book that, he told Sight magazine, “grew out of an obvious concern that white evangelicals were not thinking in an adequately biblical way in their reflections on Donald Trump, his character and his policies.”

Dr. Sider wasn’t without his conservative side, especially concerning same-sex marriage and abortion. And he cautioned against being overly focused on causes — one of his books was called “I Am Not a Social Activist: Making Jesus the Agenda” (2008). But he had hope that a faith of personal salvation and one of advocacy on social issues could coexist.

“I long for the day when every village, town and city has congregations of Christians so in love with Jesus Christ that they lead scores of people to accept him as personal Savior and Lord every year,” he wrote in “Good News and Good Works: A Theology for the Whole Gospel” (1999), “and so sensitive to the cry of the poor and oppressed that they work vigorously for justice, peace and freedom.”

Ronald James Sider was born on Sept. 17, 1939, in Stevensville, Ontario. His father, James, was a farmer and later a pastor, and his mother, Ida (Cline) Sider, was a homemaker.

He grew up attending the Brethren Church of Christ. His interest in social activism started there.

“It was thoroughly evangelical but had not experienced the wrenching early-20th-century divisions of the social gospel-fundamentalist battles that helped produce the huge gulf between evangelism and social action,” Dr. Sider wrote in “Good News and Good Works.” “In my early years in the faith I just assumed that devout Christians shared the gospel, as my missionary uncle had in Africa, and also cared for the poor, as my church’s relief agency was doing.”

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