Friday, July 26, 2013

Fighting Over The Same Shrinking Pie

I would find it amusing if it were not so sad to watch the public posturing and positioning of fellow Christians as they seek to enlist God on their side in political squabbles. The so-called "religious right" has been doing this for decades seeking to force conformity to a particular moral code on unregenerate people and doing it in the name of "restoring America", as if America had ever been a specially or particularly moral nation to begin with. That same group has also been one of the most supportive of war and capital punishment but hey I am sure God wanted us to smite those people anyway.

Of course the religious right is not unique in their attempts to co-opt the Gospel. One need simply look at the chest beating triumphalism in a recent article in The Atlantic, The Rise of the Christian Left in America that purports to prove that "progressive" or liberal Christianity is sweeping the land

Lisa Sharon Harper, director of mobilizing for Sojourners, a progressive Christian organization, says shifts are due to young people choosing to identify with Jesus and his teachings as opposed to a particular political party. Harper believes the GOP is being pulled to the far right by extremists on issues like abortion, thus forgetting and alienating those whom Jesus affirmed and advocated for: poor people, ethnic minorities, and women.

"I think the focus on the person of Jesus is birthing a younger generation inspired by [Jesus' Sermon on the Mount]," she says. "Their political agenda is shaped by Jesus' call to feed the hungry, make sure the thirsty have clean water, make sure all have access to healthcare, transform America into a welcoming place for immigrants, fix our inequitable penal system, and end abject poverty abroad and in the forgotten corners of our urban and rural communities."

Now I have read all of the New Testament on more than one occasion. I have looked at many passages and themes quite closely. I don't recall Jesus saying anything about "access to healthcare" or about government income confiscation and redistribution. Of course I would expect nothing less from Sojourners, a mirror image of all the terrible exegesis and practice of the Religious Right, an organization where every left wing political cause can be dressed up by pseudo-Christian clothes to make it sound pious. As Russell Moore is quoted in the same article it isn't like so-called "progressive" Christianity is thriving based on religious attitudes when you look at actual religious behavior. So called mainline Protestant denominations have been dying a slow death for years and that shows no sign of abating. Predictably there are several rebuttals online to the findings and perceived implications of the Atlatic article including Rod Dreher's piece The Dying (No, Really) Of Liberal Protestantism. The world groans under the weight of sin all around us and the two largest and most powerful factions in the church are engaged in a public war of words amounting to "We're not dying, you are! No we aren't, you are! Liar!"

What is really happening and likewise what is largely being completely misinterpreted by both Left and Right is that Christians and many others are checking out of the whole religious system on a massive but completely predictable scale. While those invested in perpetuating the system try to spin this as people abandoning the faith, what is really happening is two-fold. First many religious but unregenerate people simply see no compelling reason to keep showing up for religious events. I don't blame them. Second many Christians are likewise finding very little to keep them showing up to a weekly performance in support of a system that often seems mostly interested in perpetuating itself.

I am not sure if people are just willfully blind or if they are so caught up in our traditions that they cannot see but what is happening all around us is obvious. The religious world that we have grown fat and comfortable in is dying and quickly fading from the scene. That is nothing to lament. Let those who wish to fight over the corpse of our religious culture do so. Let God's people be about the business of His Son.

1 comment:

Aussie John said...


Very perceptive, and universal, even though the protagonists have different nationalities.