In American politics, we call them “wedge issues.” These days, it can be just about anything. But, generally, it’s throwing something out there for “discussion” that won’t get discussion because the person throwing it out knows everyone has a pre-fabricated response.
When did we get “wedge issues?” 1970s, when Roe v. Wade was decided?
I would really invite all believers to read N.T. Wright’s challenging book Surprised by Scripture. (He takes on Christian wedge issues there, like women in ministry and more.) His last few chapters are challenging in regards to how we see the founding of the United States and how western Europe in general has been since the Enlightenment.
Wedge issues, in his view, didn’t start in the last few decades for Americans. They started from the founding. The “Enlightenment settlement”, as Wright calls it, allows for “Christian witness” in some arenas, but shuts it off in other arenas. The contract we signed? The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. His argument is the church is told to step back from public life and do its own thing in private.
Again, it comes from the Epicurean philosophy our founding Fathers, especially ones like Jefferson, followed: God exists, but he’s a long way off. The world will now get along under its own steam.
The church can “purchase its independence by colluding with the implied pagan philosophy.” So, people get their “private religion” and can practice as they choose, but leave the spirituality behind when the “big people” issues on how the system runs are discussed.
Then delivers this bomb:
I suspect that one of the reasons why the creation/evolution debate generates to much heat in America — far more than anywhere else — is that people can hear all the overtones, social, cultural, and political, that it throws off. The idea of God having anything to do with the ongoing process of the world flies in the face of all that Western culture has stood for — including Western Christian culture.
Have we fostered a culture in which the lordship and teachings of Jesus, for instance about poverty or human dignity or war, have been honored, studied, taught and practiced? Or have we been content — as so many Christians on both sides of the Atlantic have been content — to drift with this or that prevailing political wind, to trim our sails so that only one or two real distinctives are left, related perhaps to sexual and family life, only then to complain when the principalities and powers, having quietly gained our cooperation in other spheres, such as rampant individualism and the neoliberal vision of the good life that goes with it, now come to attack those last remaining strongholds?
Is it possible America didn’t “fall” with the Supreme Court decision about gay marriage, or Roe v. Wade, but the church abdicated some responsibility leading into the very founding of a nation we thought we could call “Christian?”
Honestly, read Wright’s book. It’s a LOT more to dive into than just this simple post!