Some species of evangelical religion will ultimately rise from the rubble of American conservatism, but it will be greatly curtailed, politically irrelevant and, I pray, more recognizably Christian.
Forty years ago, Hinson’s open letter challenged Southern Baptist Convention President Bailey Smith’s pronouncement that “God Almighty does not hear the prayer of a Jew.” Today, moderate Baptists know they don’t want to follow Smith and his tribe, but have we embraced a clear alternative?
Frank Tupper’s view of providence is unflinchingly honest. We survive our personal Gethsemanes, not because we experience miraculous rescue, but because we are not alone: “Jesus has already gone through Gethsemane, a Gethsemane that we will never comprehend, and he stands with us in ours.”
My work on the case of Curtis Flowers over more than a decade exposed me to three kinds of Christians: Kingdom Christians, Culture Christians and Conflicted Christians. I have learned that Kingdom Christians are almost always driven to the margins by the clarity of their convictions.
Pastors like SBC President J.D. Greear, academics like Sarah Sumner and Bible teachers like Beth Moore gladly sign off on biblical inerrancy, but they are quietly transposing the scriptures into the key of Jesus. “For the times they are a-changin.’”
Maybe God doesn’t expect people of faith to agree on everything. Maybe God wants us to feel cross-pressured, uncertain and confused. If we are to grow in love we must listen to people who see through other windows because they live in other rooms.
How can post-evangelical Christians talk about a loving God when the God described in many biblical texts appears to be otherwise? We must explain why, evaluated by the standards of Jesus, God comes off so badly in much of the Bible.
We want our children to come of age hearing the same message of civil religion in church, at their “Christian school” and on Fox News. For those who live in this kind of environment, reparations talk sounds like heresy.
In the Southern Baptist Convention no one has the power to tell local Baptist congregations who they can and cannot ordain to ministry. When abuse comes to light, the church sends the offending pastor on his way with a glowing letter of recommendation because congregational morale would suffer if the truth came out.