The New way of being church? Part 2: Why bother?
I was thinking about and praying for a dear friend today, who was a “liberal Christian”, but then later abandoned all pretenses to Christianity and now lives his life as an openly gay atheist/agnostic. As I pondered the “new way of being Christian” and the way forward that is promulgated by the new postmodern forms of liberalism/progressivism, I wanted to look at the issue from his point of view (with a little of mine mixed in).
The first question that arises is why bother to join or remain if you are already a part of a new progressive church.
Here are the possible answers, shedding the “spiritual” language:
- Community of like-minded people. would a secular/political group serve as well?
- Psychological/emotional support…would a professional counselor work as well?
- Like-minded political causes – would the Democratic action groups serve as well?
- Caring compassion ministry opportunities – Would secular non-profit organizations serve as well?
- Looking for mystical religiosity – form without reality – would other re-emerging pagan spiritualities work as well?
- It might make my parents happy?
Why I should not join?
- The gloss of Christian language – I rejected Orthodox Christianity, why should I retain the language?
- The constant guilt from the passing of the plate.
- I enjoy doing other things on Sunday – football, sleeping in, a lazy day at the coffee shop, etc.
- The new is not very new.
- Political/denominational in-fighting.
- I don’t like being “preached” at. Don’t I get enough of that from my new president?
- The pews are often too hard.
- Who or what exactly are we praying to? I thought we rejected the whole idea of a personal (God is a person) God, so why bother praying?
- If I wanted heavy ritual and mysticism, the liberal catholic or Eastern Orthodox church, down the road does it better?
- I don’t want to fit into their “spirituality” mold – the PBS stuff is more polished than this.
As I thought about this some more, other questions arose in my mind.
If I were a liberal/progressive “Christian” why would I want secularists, atheists or followers of other faiths to become “liberal Christians”?
- It would be a more peaceful world if we all believed as I do – but it would be boring too and I could no longer push pluralism.
- I want them to support my causes – but wait, I guess they already do.
In the middle of these thoughts it dawned on me. The only “converts” that Christian liberalism seeks, is from Bible-believing evangelicals. This is the reason for the fight. This is the reason that liberals fight so hard to hold onto congregations that wish to leave. This is the reason that they do not choose to leave themselves. The only real problem is that their convert supply is shrinking. They often function as the bridge from orthodox Christianity to secularism as has happened in Europe. But there the church is supported by the state. In the U.S. it is not, which means that ultimately they are working themselves out of jobs. Therefore, they need evangelicals to thrive and grow, so that they will have plenty of fields to harvest. The “new way” of doing church is an attempt to keep the advances they have made in liberalizing denominations, while somehow regaining a foothold among evangelicals again.
In the animal world, predatory species can decline severely and even become extinct if they overwhelm their primary food supply. For liberal Christians their primary food supply is not the secular world, but orthodox Christianity. Therefore the news of declining number of evangelicals in the West is very bad news. It means loss of jobs and income—no more pay for mystic-babble and psycho-babble.
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