Tuesday 6 November 2007
A little while ago the New York Times had an interesting article about Christians and politics in the USA. It has its own predictable slant, and quotes broadly and therefore pulls in a lot of loons. It perpetuates confusing use of the noun "conservative" to mean either "theologically conservative" or "politically conservative" when these are very different things --- whose divergence the article is supposed to be analyzing. There are some quotes I really like, though.
But many younger evangelicals — and some old-timers — take a less fatalistic view. For them, the born-again experience of accepting Jesus is just the beginning. What follows is a long-term process of “spiritual formation” that involves applying his teachings in the here and now. They do not see society as a moribund vessel. They talk more about a biblical imperative to fix up the ship by contributing to the betterment of their communities and the world. They support traditional charities but also public policies that address health care, race, poverty and the environment.
Amen --- though there is nothing new or radical about that in the history of the church.
If more Christians worked to alleviate needs in their local communities, he [Rick Warren] suggests in the church’s promotional materials, “the church would become known more for the love it shows than for what it is against” a thinly veiled dig at the conservative Christian “culture war."
On the Sunday before the referendum on a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, Carlson reminded his congregation that homosexuality was hardly the only form of sex the Bible condemned. Any extramarital sex is a sin, he told his congregation, so they should not point fingers.
"I think they are going to have a hard time going out into the pews and saying tax policy is what Jesus is about, that he said, ‘Come unto me all you who are overtaxed and I will give you rest.’ ”
The article mentions "the Gospel" many times without actually saying what that is, except that it has political and social dimensions and evangelicals struggle over the emphasis placed on them. That gives the impression that evangelicals are more divided than they really are, because the core of the gospel is more important than anything mentioned there.
That core is, roughly --- acknowledging that each of us is guilty before God; recognizing that God has provided for our forgiveness by having Jesus take punishment that we deserve; and claiming that forgiveness by committing ourselves to Jesus as Lord.
That's really what we're all about. Of course that has huge social, political and other implications. But to me, that article and most others like it feel hollow. They pick at the fringes and try to understand what's going on (cue the "blind men and the elephant" analogy). I wonder whether the author actually know what "the Gospel" means themselves. I wonder who out there does. I didn't myself, for twenty years.