|Sunday, 17 March 2002|
|For a long time now, since my migration out of the Evangelical/Pentecostal side of the Church into Anglicanism, I have had a growing misgiving towards the direction of a large segment of evangelicalism. For to many common adherents, the expression of much of their faith in the civic arena has increasingly focused on gaining political power. The leaders of the Christian Right political movement have become the movers and shakers of evangelicalism. The goal of engaging our culture is a good one -- past isolationism due to the belief that common Christian folk shouldn't concern themselves with the profane, politics being an example, is not a constructive alternative. The question of methods regarding engagement, however, has become the issue in many quarters even more then the social issue being addressed. The methods are increasingly forcing the conservative Christian perspective into the realm of fanaticism and irrelevance when the calmer voices are pushed out of the discussion because they don't 'measure-up' to the criteria of the 'truly committed'.
From one perspective, the desire to gain political power and influence (or if not raw political power, then ultimate cultural influence) has pushed many people to view the focus of the Church in general and the Evangelical Church in particular as being more political then spiritual, more about demanding the culture (and everyone in it) confirm to their perspective and ways of conduct, which from their view is God's own perspective and law, rather then focusing on presenting the Good News of freedom, renewal, forgiveness, and restoration. I believe the cause of Christ -- to bring reconciliation between God and God's creation -- is in many cases irreparably harmed at worst and made irrelevant in our culture at best. It isn't that our nation is so ungodly or anti-God, thus rejecting the Christian message as come claim, but that the image the conservative Church presents is wholly unappealing to many people today. Regrettably, the Christian Right politicos continue on in their political quest, and according to some theological perspectives they must take over the political system as a command from God in order to spare American God's condemning judgement and to avert the destruction of Western civilization.
Recently, as I've been following things, the newly elected president of the National Religious Broadcasters association was forced to resign because in an interview given a few days after his election was announced, in which he "worried allowed about mission drift" of the organization. According to the most recent Christianity Today editorial, he said "Evangelicals are identified politically more then theologically," in a Minneapolis Star Tribune interview. He goes on to say, "We get associated with the far Christian right and marginalized. ...Sometimes in taking our stands we have allowed ourselves to be typecast and the effectiveness spiritually has been diminished..." For this, people like James Dobson from Focus on the Family and Don Wildman from the American Family Association and others, demanded his resignation, else they would withdraw from the organization. They are, obviously, major players in religious broadcasting, and if I may say so -- self-empowering over-lords. My, how they have learned from our modern political processes. My, how they have exemplified the cause and methods demonstrated by Jesus.
All that to present this portion of the editorial that puts into words many of my scattered thoughts on the subject, "Pederson's critics incorrectly accuse him of trying to separate the spiritual from the political. But they risk falling prey to an even worse binary distinction common in modern evangelicalism. The only alternative to the politics of hysteria and outrage, this view claims, is disloyalty to the gospel.
"When we take this view, we typecast ourselves -- not by the positions we take but in the way we proclaim them. The default method for our 'engagement with culture' then becomes outrage. We respond to disagreement with demonization and exaggeration. We make our dissidents (even those on small points) our 'enemies' and threaten or savage them. Pederson questioned this approach, then found himself the recipient of this kind of angry bullying." (Christianity Today, April 1,2202, pg.37)
The above is obvious, but my question is why normally intelligent people can't see this? The conservative Christian movement, within any denomination, will not survive because of their increasingly stringent demands for adherence to their perspective. The only outcome is continued damage to the cause of Christ. They are increasingly determined to make their brand of faith the only definition of Christianity in this country. If that truly happens, American will move into a place where Christianity looses whatever significance and influence it has. But, maybe that isn't a bad thing! In due time, the error will be made evident and then from the ashes God could raise up a new witness to God's truth -- the cause of Christ to reconcile all things, to restore relationship between God and God's creation. Of course, then we begin all over again and the cycle continues. We are all human, after all.
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