Frances FitzGerald’s book, The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America, is mostly a trip down memory lane for me. She gives a quick history of early revival movements in America to establish her trail as to where our current state of “evangelicalism” has its roots. But the bulk of the book is spent on the rise of such organizations as the Moral Majority and moves forward. This is the time period in which I grew up and I was thoroughly entrenched in these kinds of things. Continue reading “The trip down memory lane”
Dallas Willard has an essay titled “The Failure of Evangelical Politics” in the book Renewing the Christian Mind. In it he lays out the failure of the evangelical church in the past several decades to live out what is truly the gospel. Continue reading “The calling we have in culture”
Today, equality is not actually regarded as a matter of human dignity and value. That is very hard to defend. Rather, it is regarded as a doorway to freedom. Freedom itself is not regarded in terms of the inherent dignity and value of human beings, but rather as opportunity. Opportunity is not regarded as opportunity to do what is good and right, but to get what you want. We talk a lot about them, but the basic values of our society are not equality and freedom — they are pleasure and “happiness.” And these are interpreted in sensualistic terms. Our society is a society of feeling… Feeling is our master. That’s why we have so many issues about abuse of one kind or another: abuse comes out of frustration over feeling. That is why we are such an addictive society. Also, watch your commercials for automobiles and so forth, and see how many of them are predicated upon feeling. Feeling furs our society. It also runs our massively failing education system. It is the only acknowledge ultimate value. That explains why we do so badly in areas of learning that require sustained discipline — which doesn’t “feel good.” — Dallas Willard, Renewing the Christian Mind
Knowing “right answers” doesn’t mean we believe those answers. To believe is to live in a way where we act as though they are true.
We can “know” the right answers about salvation, Jesus, etc. Living out what Jesus said becomes another matter. How can we possibly say we believe in Christ and then NOT do what he said? How can NOT live out the principles he modeled for us? Yet, we do it all the time. Continue reading “Moving beyond knowing “right answers””
Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, has taken away the “evangelical” in the label and replaced it with “gospel.” His preference now is to be labeled a “gospel Christian.”
We’re into labels, but sometimes we don’t get a choice. In our culture, “evangelical” is something that was put into place to separate some conservative theological Christians from “fundamentalists.” Then, it has become a moniker used by media and pollster to try and describe a “voting bloc.”
He pointed to the conflation of “evangelical” with an election-year voting bloc. He noted polls don’t distinguish between churchgoers and those who self-identify as evangelical but who “may well be drunk right now, and haven’t been into a church since someone invited them to a Vacation Bible School sometime back when Seinfeld was in first-run episodes.”
Even for “evangelicals” it has become too broad. We’ve become more “cultural” than “Christian” in many ways.
I think I may join him. This election is drawing out such nastiness, even among people I would consider Christian in some way, I’m done aligning myself as a voting bloc. I don’t hate people for one thing. I don’t blame others (especially the marginalized) for issues I may be facing. I don’t have to have someone to target and intentionally put down to be able to put forward ideas that would make our nation run better.
I will also not be “scared silent” anymore, as Moore puts it. There is too much poison in the atmosphere and it has reached a point of grief for me. It doesn’t mean I’m not “politically active.”
What it will probably mean is I won’t be your token statistic anymore.
Following up on my re-read for Chan’s book Liturgical Worship has come my re-visit to Harper and Metzger’s book Exploring Ecclesiology.
Written by evangelicals, it is an excellent tool for me as I re-think ecclesiology in my own life.
In the chapter dealing with “The Church as a Serving Community” they still bring forward the evangelical concern of “preaching the Word.” Their conclusion, though, is that even though we’ve called ourselves “evangelical” based on “preaching the Word,” for several decades now we’ve done everything BUT preach the Word. We’ve slid into preaching self-help.
The ultimate consequence of Christianity centered on personal issues and self-improvement is that theology becomes therapy, the search for righteousness is replaced by the search for happiness, holiness by wholeness, and truth by feeling, and God’s sovereignty is diminished to whatever it takes to have a good day. Christians become consumers who shop the church like they do a shopping mall, delighted to find something to meet every felt need.
There is a serious need for an increase in biblical teaching and literacy. And it’s not just an evangelical problem anymore.
A CALL TO AMERICAN EVANGELICAL CHRISTIANS
I very rarely read a book than once. Outside of the Bible, there are a handful I’ve made a second attempt at. Beyond that, it’s been Dallas Willard’s The Divine Conspiracy and one more: Thomas Merton’s autobiography The Seven Storey Mountain. Those of you who read me enough think I’m a Willard nut? (And I am.) I’ve read Merton’s book at least twice as many times. It is like Augustine’s Confessions to me. I love Confessions as well. When he finally gets to the passage of “Pick up and read” I am in tears.
“… the dread of war is not enough. If you don’t want the effect, do something to remove the causes. There is no use loving the cause and fearing the effect and being surprised when the effect inevitably follows the cause.”
“If I had accepted the gift of sanctity that had been put in my hands when I stood by the font in November 1938 (when he was brought into the Church), what might have happened in the world? People have no idea what one saint can do: for sanctity is stronger than the whole of hell.”
“But the world did not get very much … out of me.”
“People have no ideal what one saint can do: for sanctity is stronger than the whole of hell.”