The evangelical church in the United States is a mess. I’m not talking about reports of declining membership and lower baptism numbers. Those statistics merely provided warning signs that something was amiss, that things were going in the wrong direction….
Online or as gathered community, through PayPal or the offering plate, when it is “sanctuary and when it isn’t, we cling to the gospel and the church, not as a hymn-singing non-profit, but as the Body of Christ.
The Church needs a reformation from “empty,” mainstream expressions of Christian faith profiting from indulgences of cheap grace, miscarriages of justice and deception paraded as sound devotion remixed over gospel beats.
Luther’s phrase, “The saints have no extra credits,” reminds us that the practice of selling indulgences didn’t end with the Reformation. Consider William Barr’s recent “religious liberty” speech at Notre Dame Law School.
The church has not just been on the wrong side of history, but on the wrong side of Christianity. Anti-Semitism is by definition a repudiation of Christianity as well as of Judaism, and an enemy of pluralism and democracy.
Jerry Falwell Jr. and other evangelical leaders espouse what Martin Luther called a “theology of glory.” Falwell has a lot of company. Christian history is full of examples of people finding God on their side when articulating their theology, even, and especially when, their theology concretely harms people.
Learning dissent is never easy. One person’s prophet is another’s anti-Christ. One person’s conscience is another’s bigotry. Sometimes dissent can get you damned. Sometimes (like now?) silence can too.
If I read my Bible correctly (and if I read my American history correctly), the only real hope we have for reconciliation isn’t actually through reading our Bible correctly. And it isn’t through winning an argument with someone who disagrees with us. Reconciliation only seems to happen in one way — through carrying crosses.
Churches should see themselves in this movie. The church, like the board of the Post, is tempted to focus on survival. When well-meaning, frightened Christians worry only about the budget, the church ceases to be the church. Institutional Christianity, like a bad newspaper, is organized, conventional and uninteresting.