Tag Archives: evangelical
I spoke with a friend today. We had coffee and caught up with where we both are in life and in ministry. It was good to share some time together, and to talk about our congregations, especially about how our congregations are dealing with the repercussions of the last General Assembly of our Church. His set of circumstances isn’t widely different from my own. In both of our instances, our congregations are experiencing a significant drop in income as church members and adherents divert their Christian liberality in any other direction but in the direction of the Church of Scotland. Like me, he has experienced congregational disunity and a loss of members.
Coincidentally, I spoke to a Church of Scotland minister yesterday who, in another part of the country, has experienced precisely the same things, on a different scale. A loss of members and adherents; a drop in income; a slump in morale and a sense of being unsupported and alone.
It has been striking since May how ‘a Church of Scotland spokesman’ has from time to time told the media that it is ‘business as usual’ on each occasion a congregation is reported as having left the Kirk or held its first service outside the fold. Each time a congregation leaves, our spokesman tells the world that our business is going on just as it always does. It is business as usual for the Church of Scotland.
I find it to be a callous and insensitive statement. I regret its use, and I wish that our administrators in Edinburgh would abandon it and find something more understanding and, well, realistic to say.
I don’t for a moment think that we are so strong a denomination that we can simply shrug our shoulders whenever a congregation leaves and say that it is just business as usual for the Kirk.
How does the Church of Scotland possibly think that we can conduct our ministry and mission, just as usual, each time we lose congregations, ministers, members and adherents?
Of course, what we are really being told is that we can all relax. There is no need for anyone to be worried. After all, it is only a congregation here, and a congregation there. We don’t have to fear the worst. It is not the mass exodus that some would have hoped for, and which others predicted. We can all breathe a little more easily. The apocalypse has not materialized. We can get back to business as usual.
But I find the assertion that it is business as usual each time we lose a congregation to be theologically deficient. How can it be business as usual each time the body of Christ is lacerated and dismembered? How can the loss of ministers and congregations not affect our denomination deeply and lastingly, at this stage of numerical and financial decline in every sphere of our work? How can it conceivably be described as business as usual when a congregation divides, when some who have worshipped together for years and years now meet in the community centre whilst others remain in the church building down the street? How can it be business as usual when families are divided and worship separately? When hearts are broken? When the friendships of decades are torn apart? This is what is happening in evangelical congregations in the Church of Scotland.
Is that business as usual for the Church of Scotland?
Two nights ago I spoke to a couple who have left our congregation because they felt we ought to have seceded, and we did not. We have been friends for twenty years. From now on, we won’t eat and drink from the Lord’s Table together any longer. We won’t sing the Lord’s praises side by side any more. We won’t pray together.
Is that business as usual for the Church of Scotland?
In my congregation, as with many evangelical congregations in the Church of Scotland, friends and family members have left, whilst others have stayed. Finances have been massively hit, by those who have left and by those who have stayed but who don’t want to support the Church of Scotland’s mixed agenda any more. There are great and pressing financial problems for many of us, right now. We are deeply worried, at one level, though at another we believe that God will show us a pathway through the Red Sea.
But is this business as usual for the Church of Scotland?
The claim that the Church of Scotland can sail on as though everything is just business as usual is simply theological nonsense, and pastoral clumsiness. Like all pastoral clumsiness, it hurts, at the end of the day, and it alienates.
When my friends told me two nights ago that they were no longer going to associate with my congregation, or with me, that did not feel like business as usual.
But perhaps decline and disinterest is business as usual for the Church of Scotland?
Soli Deo Gloria
Post-Shutdown the Evangelical Movement Is Going to Die Faster Than Ever — GOOD!– Now Actual Christianity Might Have a Chance to Flourish
The 2 weeks of shutdown madness has accelerated evangelical movement’s devolution by 10 years or more. The shutdown is to the evangelical establishment what that fabled 4-hour erection is to Viagra users.
I predict that the unwinding of the loony literalistic evangelical “Bible-believing” movement, made respectable by people like Billy Graham and Christianity Today magazine, just took a quantum leap. American evangelicals are looking into a grim future where they’re both loathed and feared. They are already losing their young people in droves. I mean, who wants to be led by the likes of Ted Cruz and Franklin Graham?
Sometimes everything changes instantly: 9/11, the Kennedy assassination, rock-n’-roll, the discovery that women like sex too provided a new shared awareness when there was a definite before and after change in perception. Pre-WW II Germany was where you went to study medicine, music and culture. Post-1945, there were no good Germans. Even Bach couldn’t save their reputation. Pre 9/11 we were invulnerable. Post-9/11 America was a paranoid surveillance state scared of its own shadow filled with people busy taking off our shoes for TSA agents.
Post the evangelical-Tea-Party led shutdown, (Yes, the Tea Party and evangelical movements are more or less one and the same) there will be few serious people who want to associate with the people who share the theology of the raving morons who brought us to the shutdown anarchic brink.
The heart of the matter – the religious delusions that led to political delusions that have been near fatal — is what I explore, expose, mock and I pray, will help destroy — in my new book And God Said, “Billy!” My book is a work of dark humor (by a writer who used to be an inmate in the evangelical asylum). But the funny has just gone out of the movement I take aim at. My book is funny, but the make-believe world I expose in all its insane glory just crashed into our reality and no one is laughing.
It’s one thing for a Bible-thumper to hand you a tract. It’s another thing for that same delusional person to hijack the value of your home and IRA. Ted Cruz, the Tea Party and the Republicans have done to the respectability of the evangelical establishment that has backed the “family values” folks what the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. did to the “respectability” of social racism. Post-killing you might still have been a southern fried bigot but at least on business trips up north, you cooled it with your stock-in-trade racist jokes, at least in polite company.
So it is that the sort of people who used to think that working for some respectable evangelical outfit like Christianity Today magazine or Wheaton College or even a do-good feed the hungry-type NGO gave their literalistic theology cover will have to recalculate.
What’s looming now for the evangelicals is the realization that their cover is blown. They theologically affirm what is just one more version of fundamentalist Christianity– minus actual snake-handling. They may say “we’re not like Ted Cruz” and sniff at the Tea Party, but they’ll tell you, if pushed, that they believe in the “Rapture” and that gay people choose that “lifestyle.” They’ll tell you that the Bible is inerrant. In other words they can put on a tweed jacket and get a theology degree, but they’re still living in the thrall of very stupid ideas. And now we all know that living in make-believe land in one area of life leads to delusional behavior in other areas. In other words we all know that it’s not a coincidence that deluded religionists just led us to the brink. Their crazy faith made for crazy politics.
Like the Koch brothers, who’s doom is now irreversible in the history books, post-shutdown, so too will the respectable evangelicals have a hard time passing themselves off as normal or even morally decent responsible people. Tough to do with all those pictures of Ted Cruz being cheered by your cousin, your pastor and your denomination burned into the public mind. Tough to do when your friends discover that you believe in a myth-based reality where Jesus walked on water and so did Sarah Palin.
What Joe McCarthy did for anti-communism’s good name, Ted Cruz (not to mention his raving preacher daddy) and company just did for everyone that calls themselves conservative let alone evangelical. The accelerated evangelical discrediting means that evangelicals will:
- Lose their young people at a faster pace
- Have lost face for good
- Have become a feared and pitied weird minority on a par with survivalist and bigamist communities as far as national respect goes
- Will be the kiss of death for any serious political leader (Chris Christie stayed away from the “Values” gabfest this weak).
I guess the lesson is this: live in your own walled-off echo chamber long enough and you’ll start to believe your own nonsense. It started with belief in the Bible as “true in all it affirms,” despite science, “inerrant,” despite just about everything, and “prophetic” in spite of the fact Jesus never came back… and won’t.
Crazy was okay, for a while, but then morphed into stuff sane people could test like, “Global warming isn’t real!” “Obama isn’t American!” “Being born gay is unnatural!” “There’s no need to raise the debt limit!” “Who needs an economy when Jesus is coming back?!”
One other thing: With evangelicalism out of the way — thank you Jesus! – Christianity actually may flourish for the first time in American history. And to know what I think that inner spiritual flourishing might look like, you’ll have to read And God Said, “Billy!” Hint: There’s more truth found in the least experience of ancient liturgical mysticism, love and mercy than in the entire commercialized politicized fake spiritual world of big time religion…. but that another story. Or as I put it in the book: “My final word to you is this Billy: If there is a Creator — and that is a big if — perhaps He, She or It embodies love. I believe that the source of love must be outside of our cold mechanical universe.”