Saturday, June 19, 1999

By Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin
The Rev. Andrew Young spoke this
week at Makiki Christian Church.

Andrew Young in
Hawaii ministering
millennium message

By Mary Adamski


Some religions are obsessing about the arrival of the millennium with fear or predictions of cataclysmic change, but to the Rev. Andrew Young it's just another threshold to cross in his lifetime march as a Christian and civil rights leader.

"If there is a problem of the new millennium, it is that human beings are constantly bombarded with so many ideas and so many opinions that they don't have a framework to make sense of it," said Young. He's best known for his political life as former congressman, Atlanta mayor and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and currently leader of government and private business initiatives in Africa.

Also a minister with the United Church of Christ, Young is the keynote speaker at the Aha Pae'aina, the annual meeting of the church's Hawaii conference, which began Thursday and continues through today at Makiki Christian Church.

"We say that the millennium is within you and that it's happening every day," said Young in an interview. As president-elect of the National Council of Churches, he is continuing in a role of bringing the viewpoint of religions into the political forum. That role began in the 1960s when he joined Martin Luther King Jr. in the Southern Christian Leadership Council that spearheaded the civil rights movement.

"We as a people, as a planet, are floundering in the face of the new millennium," said the minister, author and politician. "It is almost as though the truth that we feel has helped us survive right now, we're beginning to feel the inadequacy of it, that it is not sufficient to deal with some of the tensions or crises we face. In many ways, you would say biblically we are like Abraham going into a land that we know not."

The Council of Churches, including more than 200 denominations, "tends to be willing to challenge the conventional wisdom of the United States, which is what the church of Jesus Christ ought to do," said Young, recalling its early 1960s dialogue on racism, its backing of liberation movements in Africa and opposition to the U.S. boycott of Iraq calling attention to its damaging effect on the children. "The council has always generated controversy, it is always calling the world back to God's view of things."

The April peace-seeking mission to Kosovo, which played in the press as Jesse Jackson's effort to free three captured American servicemen, was actually a National Council of Churches initiative. American representatives of Serbian Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, Protestant, Catholic, Jewish and Muslim religions were in the delegation to Yugoslavia leader Slobodan Milosevic.

"If ever there was a unified religious mission ... the media couldn't deal with it. The press is uncomfortable with the spiritual phenomenon."

Young expresses his goals as a minister in practical politician's terms. "I have tried to define my ministry on how can the hungry be fed, how can the naked be clothed, how can the sick be healed.

"I think we can end poverty in a decade. It's good Christianity, it's good business and it's a worthy mission." Young said government and business could approach the problem in the same terms as the free trade agreements that eased economic barriers with Mexico and Canada. Businesses are willing to brave the problems of expanding into Third World countries, he said, "but when I try to get them to invest in my side of Atlanta, they say they can't because of the high crime rate."

He expanded on the theme at a "talk story" session Thursday afternoon with conference delegates. He took issue with the old political imagery of a "war" on poverty. "We didn't have a war on the moon, we embraced outer space and it worked. No culture can survive with people on lonely islands of poverty in the midst of this ocean of material wealth," he said, using King's imagery.

"We've let our schools become so big, and our lives become so cluttered, that we haven't had time to listen to our children. We preach at them, but there are kids who have no loving relationship with the adult community. They get increasingly hostile because of it."

E-mail to City Desk

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
[Stylebook] [Feedback]

© 1999 Honolulu Star-Bulletin