Friday, January 27, 2006

Capitulation Theology

What is it with the NYT this month? This is the second horse they have dug up and started flogging. The first was the uranium in Africa memo, now just war.

This has to be one of the worst religion based articles written in a self-described serious publication in awhile. It is so 2003. OK, Charles Marsh is a Professor of Religion at U. Va, but this is, to be frank, lame.
IN the past several years, American evangelicals, and I am one of them, have amassed greater political power than at any time in our history. But at what cost to our witness and the integrity of our message?

Recently, I took a few days to reread the war sermons delivered by influential evangelical ministers during the lead up to the Iraq war. That period, from the fall of 2002 through the spring of 2003, is not one I will remember fondly. Many of the most respected voices in American evangelical circles blessed the president's war plans, even when doing so required them to recast Christian doctrine.
Time out Professor. After, with the rest of my family, leaving the Church my family was part of since, well, Scotland left Catholicism, I wandered until my mid-30s when I got dunked and became an Evangelical - for a lack of better definition. Personally, I just like Christian...but that is me and my personal relationship thingy.

Christian doctrine? Is there one? Now, I know my Catholic friends have all sorts of extra goodies, as do good folks from Orthodox to Mormon....but there is no one "Christian doctrine." From one "E" to another, we should stick inside our own lifelines. Not to mention the "damnation or not" differences between the major branches, from a Southern Baptist to a member of New Life Ministries - there is A LOT of open air on about every chapter and verse. One thing we can agree to Brother, is what do you find in The Word? That is what sinks this whole write-up. All opinion, no Word. Lets get back to the parsing.
The war sermons rallied the evangelical congregations behind the invasion of Iraq. An astonishing 87 percent of all white evangelical Christians in the United States supported the president's decision in April 2003. Recent polls indicate that 68 percent of white evangelicals continue to support the war. But what surprised me, looking at these sermons nearly three years later, was how little attention they paid to actual Christian moral doctrine. Some tried to square the American invasion with Christian "just war" theory, but such efforts could never quite reckon with the criterion that force must only be used as a last resort. As a result, many ministers dismissed the theory as no longer relevant.
Especially if, as an "E" would think, "Just War" theory isn't in the New Testament that I can see. Also, perhaps, the 68% know and experience more than you find in the rarified air of Charlottesville.
The single common theme among the war sermons appeared to be this: our president is a real brother in Christ, and because he has discerned that God's will is for our nation to be at war against Iraq, we shall gloriously comply.

Such sentiments are a far cry from those expressed in the Lausanne Covenant of 1974. More than 2,300 evangelical leaders from 150 countries signed that statement, the most significant milestone in the movement's history. Convened by Billy Graham and led by John Stott, the revered Anglican evangelical priest and writer, the signatories affirmed the global character of the church of Jesus Christ and the belief that "the church is the community of God's people rather than an institution, and must not be identified with any particular culture, social or political system, or human ideology."
You lost me here. After this point, your other quasi-solid ones just faded away. The '70s. Nice point of reference. What else do you want to bring to the front? Liberation Theology? The rise of the Pink Palace? The start of the vast emptying of the mainline Protestant churches? The preeminence of the once powerful Castro loving nightmare of the World Council of Churches?

A little peak into Phibian's background: the Protestant Left and I have a bad history. It started with the Presbyterian Church USA's lurch to the port side in the '70s....and Church became about Central America and the USA as the center of evil in the world......but that's not important right now - except to explain the bee in my bonnet. Let's get back to the babble.
David Brooks correctly noted that if evangelicals elected a pope, it would most likely be Mr. Stott, who is the author of more than 40 books on evangelical theology and Christian devotion. Unlike the Pope John Paul II, who said that invading Iraq would violate Catholic moral teaching and threaten "the fate of humanity," or even Pope Benedict XVI, who has said there were "not sufficient reasons to unleash a war against Iraq," Mr. Stott did not speak publicly on the war. But in a recent interview, he shared with me his abiding concerns.
David Brooks doesn't know beans about Evangelicals (IMAO - to be honest, I'm not the world's expert either). You can organize Evangelicals around one religious leader like you can herd cats.
What will it take for evangelicals in the United States to recognize our mistaken loyalty? We have increasingly isolated ourselves from the shared faith of the global Church, and there is no denying that our Faustian bargain for access and power has undermined the credibility of our moral and evangelistic witness in the world. The Hebrew prophets might call us to repentance, but repentance is a tough demand for a people utterly convinced of their righteousness.
Mistaken loyalty? You imply political loyalty. Therefore, who do you recommend? Afraid to name names? Why is that? Shared faith with the "global Church?" What globe are you talking about? Post-Christian Europe's church? The Church of England? My globe has Nigeria, Sudan, Pakistan, Iraq, China, Korea, Indonesia to name a few. My conscience is clear. I am not arrogant enough to think that I exist on this Earth to stand by and let evil win. I don't see passivity in the face of evil as a virtue.

As a sidebar Brother Charles, have you talked to any Iraqi Christians? Have you seen the results even the NYT's is reporting on? Have we brought hope someplace where there was once none?

I don't pretend to know all the answers, or believe in my own ideological perfection - I will even grant that you make some solid points. What I don't need to hear is someone making theological mote comments while their own beam is blocking out the light.

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