April 24, 2017

Fridays with Michael Spencer: September 30, 2016

Collapsing. Photo by Ben Kilgust at Flickr

Collapsing. Photo by Ben Kilgust at Flickr

Note from CM: Michael’s most well known articles were called “The Coming Evangelical Collapse.” I thought it would be good to re-post a few excerpts from these three pieces in light of the other discussions we’ve had this week.

• • •

Party Almost Over

The party is almost over for evangelicals; a party that’s been going strong since the beginning of the “Protestant” 20th century. We are soon going to be living in a very secular and religiously antagonistic 21st century in a culture that will be between 25-30% non-religious.

This collapse, will, I believe, herald the arrival of an anti-Christian chapter of the post-Christian west and will change the way tens of millions of people see the entire realm of religion. Intolerance of Christianity will rise to levels many of us have not believed possible in our lifetimes, and public policy will become particularly hostile towards evangelical Christianity, increasingly seeing it as the opponent of the good of individuals and society.

The response of evangelicals to this new environment will be a revisiting of the same rhetoric and reactions we’ve seen since the beginnings of the current culture war in the 1980s. The difference will be that millions of evangelicals will quit: quit their churches, quit their adherence to evangelical distinctives and quit resisting the rising tide of the culture.

Many who will leave evangelicalism will leave for no religious affiliation at all. Others will leave for an atheistic or agnostic secularism, with a strong personal rejection of Christian belief and Christian influence. Many of our children and grandchildren are going to abandon ship, and many will do so saying “good riddance.”

Monumentally Ignorant

Evangelicals have failed to pass on to our young people the evangelical Christian faith in an orthodox form that can take root and survive the secular onslaught. In what must be the most ironic of all possible factors, an evangelical culture that has spent billions of youth ministers, Christian music, Christian publishing and Christian media has produced an entire burgeoning culture of young Christians who know next to nothing about their own faith except how they feel about it. Our young people have deep beliefs about the culture war, but do not know why they should obey scripture, the essentials of theology or the experience of spiritual discipline and community. Coming generations of Christians are going to be monumentally ignorant and unprepared for culture-wide pressures that they will endure.

Do not be deceived by conferences or movements that are theological in nature. These are a tiny minority of evangelicalism. A strong core of evangelical beliefs is not present in most of our young people, and will be less present in the future. This loss of “the core” has been at work for some time, and the fruit of this vacancy is about to become obvious.

…Despite some very successful developments in the last 25 years, Christian education has not produced a product that can hold the line in the rising tide of secularism. The ingrown, self-evaluated ghetto of evangelicalism has used its educational system primarily to staff its own needs and talk to itself. I believe Christian schools always have a mission in our culture, but I am skeptical that they can produce any sort of effect that will make any difference. Millions of Christian school graduates are going to walk away from the faith and the church.

A Rescue Mission?

A hope for all of evangelicalism is a “rescue mission” from the world Christian community. If all of evangelicalism could see the kind of renewal that has happened in conservative Anglicanism through the Anglican Mission in America and other mission efforts, much good would be done. It is time for missionaries to come to America from Asia and Africa. Will they come? Will they be able to bring to our culture a more vital form of Christianity? I do not know, but I hope and pray that such an effort happens and succeeds.

At present, most of evangelicalism is not prepared to accept pastors and leadership from outside our culture. Yet there can be little doubt that within our western culture there is very little evidence of an evangelicalism that can diagnose and repair itself.

Will This Prompt Change?

Will the coming evangelical collapse get evangelicals past the pragmatism and shallowness that has brought about its loss of substance and power? I tend to believe that even with large declines in numbers and an evidence “earthquake” of evangelical loyalty, the purveyors of the evangelical circus will be in full form, selling their wares as the promised solution to every church’s problems. I expect the landscape of megachurch vacuity to be around for a very long time. (I rejoice in those megachurches that fulfill their role as places of influence and resource for other ministries without insisting on imitation.)

Will the coming evangelical collapse shake loose the prosperity Gospel from its parasitical place on the evangelical body of Christ? We can all pray and hope that this will be so, but evidence from other similar periods is not encouraging. Coming to terms with the economic implications of the Gospel has proven particularly difficult for evangelicals. That’s not to say that American Christians aren’t generous….they are. It is to say that American Christians seldom seem to be able to separate their theology from an overall idea of personal affluence and success American style. Perhaps the time is coming that this entanglement will be challenged, especially in the lives of younger Christians.

I’ll end this adventure in prognostication with the same confession I began with: I’m not a prophet. My view of evangelicalism is not authoritative or infallible. I am certainly wrong in some of these predictions and possibly right, even too conservative on others. But is there anyone who is observing evangelicalism in these times who does not sense that the future of our movement holds many dangers and much potential? Does anyone think all will proceed without interruption or surprise?

• • •

Photo by Ben Kilgust at Flickr

Comments

  1. At present, most of evangelicalism is not prepared to accept pastors and leadership from outside our culture.

    Especially in light of the fact that a great many of them are lining up behind a candidate whose most consistent platform planks are “building a wall” and “throwing immigrants out”…

    • Sorry, one more and I’m done…

      Even in the vaunted example of this “rescue mission”, the AMIA, when push came to shove the leadership fractured over just who had the final say in matters.

    • Let’s be honest: Some of those pastors and that leadership from outside our culture is no better than inside our culture. Some of it, perhaps a lot of it, is downright scary and retrogressive, bearing the terribly imperfect and sometimes toxic imprint of European Christian colonialism.

  2. American Christians seldom seem to be able to separate their theology from an overall idea of personal affluence and success American style. Perhaps the time is coming that this entanglement will be challenged, especially in the lives of younger Christians.

    Perhaps it’s not being challenged just yet, but the success of the Republican candidate with many evangelicals shows just how much they will ignore in a candidate if that candidate panders to the shibboleths of “personal affluence and success”…

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      For me this illustrates the truth about “they just don’t believe anymore” we talked about on Wednesday.

      The truth is – many of them do not believe NOW.

      The line from the Eliza Gilkyson song: “that ain’t the teachings of a man of God”

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Actually, a LOT of Trump’s core support comes out of the movie Network:
      Open your window, lean out, and yell with me —
      “I’M MAD AS HELL AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE IT ANY MORE!!!!!”

      — A similar motivator to the Tea Party and Black Lives Matter.

      And we’re in a peak period of Messiah Politics (which seems to be hanging around longer than previous Messiah Politics peaks). In the words of the prophet Mel Brooks:
      “Germany was in big trouble —
      What a sad sad story!
      Needed a new Leader
      To restore her former glory!
      Where oh where was he?
      Where could that man be?
      …”
      — Mel Brooks, The Producers

  3. The resurgence in the Anglican movement, which I was as an evangelical cross over, was (is) more hype than substance. I deeply enjoyed my time in the ACNA, but my diocese seemed to have more disaffected Episcopalians than post-evangelical refugees. Further more, it was my experience that start up parishes with young members were a very small proportion of the denomination’s make up. ACNA had a bit of a hipster draw, but it hadn’t gained much momentum in the realm of evangelism. People who don’t go to church are still more likely to show up at the big box church down the street rather than the Anglican parish.

    I had hoped the ACNA would have taken a more prominent role in American Christianity, and perhaps it still might. Even as an atheist, I’m still rooting for my former brothers and sisters of the collar.

  4. Adam Tauno Williams says:

    > 1st century in a culture that will be between 25-30% non-religious.

    The latest data from PRRI puts the non-religious number @ 25%, and for those 18-29 @ 39%. So Michael’s ‘prophecy’ has com true, at least in that aspect.

    > a very secular and religiously antagonistic 21st century

    I don’t perceive the turn being “religiously antagonistic”, although many Evangelicals certain do [reality is it seems the Evangelicals are the ones itching for a fight]. There is also still public religiosity aplenty.

    > that American Christians seldom seem to be able to separate their theology from an overall
    > idea of personal affluence and success American style

    On a positive note – I think this is beginning to happen. Perhaps flowing backward from secular space, but many younger people do think in terms of a triple-bottom-line, etc… The great crash and related economic stress has changed a generation, in some ways for the better, IMO.

  5. What we’re looking at is a Christian collapse…

  6. If Christ is the real deal, then he’s always with us; if he’s not, then it was over before it started. Hypocritical American Christianity has long been overdue for a deflation, and here it is. So be it.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      I feel much the same way. I welcome the collapse with open arms.

      American Christianity – a distinct thing from Christianity – being knocked down is a good thing; it has become an ugly spoiled brat.

      • Except that a lot of world Christianity today bears the distorted imprint of American Christianity, having been planted by American missionaries.

        • Adam Tauno Williams says:

          Ok, but I would modify your statement: “a lot of world today bears the distorted imprint of America, having been funded by American’s with surplus wealth”.

          Shrug. That’s just life. There will always be Ugly. Decoupled from the impulses of empire I believe Christianity – much like nearly everything else – becomes a better version of itself.

          I do not foresee a wave of foreign missionaries; sure there will be some, but there isn’t the surplus wealth sloshing around other places for the scale of foolishness American Christianity was/is engaged in [and, yes, I am saying much of American missionary work was/is ridiculous make-work – not to mention heavy with political connotation].

          Even if Christianity in America (distinct from American Christianity [*1]) falls to 10 – 20% that is plenty of center-mass to have a healthy thriving community. Just one which cannot much indulge in delusions of empire. There are vital communities in America among populations and groups that count themselves in the low single digits.

          We need to understand the scale of the numbers here. The metro area I call home is ~1.1 million souls … so if some community is just 3% of that population then it is THIRTY THREE THOUSAND people. And we are the ~76th metro in America by size, not even in the top 50. AMERICA IS BIG.

          [*1] My prediction is that Evangelicalism / Americanist Christianity will be absorbed by the Alt-Right movement and become increasingly distinct from Traditional Christianity. And, of course, those who can profit from failing to perceive that distinction will merrily continue to fail to make that distinction. Again, that’s life, not something that should keep anyone awake at night.

          • My prediction is that Evangelicalism / Americanist Christianity will be absorbed by the Alt-Right movement and become increasingly distinct from Traditional Christianity. And, of course, those who can profit from failing to perceive that distinction will merrily continue to fail to make that distinction.

            Yep. If they can’t have their imagined small-town-limited-government-libertarian-nuclear-family-traditional-values utopia, they’ll take a white nationalist autocracy as the consolation prize.

          • Adam Tauno Williams says:

            > as the consolation prize.

            Just about a perfect summary; nicely done.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Remember the Prosperity Gospel and Celebrity Megapastors catching on in Africa?

          And Uganda outlawing homosexuality with lotsa $$$$$$$ from American Christianese Culture Warriors?
          (Kind of like Elron Hubbard trying to take over a Third World country, “Clear” it, and making it the base for “Clearing the Planet” for Scientology.)

    • Perhaps you are right, Robert. That is a strangely hopeful thought.

      Adam, yesterday you used the term “pessimistically hopeful.” I think I can manage pessimistically hopeful.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says:

        > I think I can manage pessimistically hopeful.

        🙂

        Often times for something to get better on one axis requires things getting a bit worse on a different axis.

      • Strangely hopeful, I agree. But not without awareness that a lot of pain will follow in the wake of the deflation of American Christianity. We’re human, after all. We will have to apply the Lutheran Theology of the Cross in generous measures.

  7. Andrew Zook says:

    Running after DT is going to hasten people’s anathema towards american evangelicalism. I’m exhibit A…. I hope and plan to hold to a faith in Jesus Christ but after this past year, I’ll never identify as evangelical again. I may hold to a few of it’s basic tenets, but I’ll point to another tradition for their source and foundation.

  8. I live in Eeyore’s imaginary small-town-limited-government-libertarian-nuclear-family-traditional-values utopia. It’s quite real and has nothing to do with right wing extremism, which would be as unwelcome here as progressive liberalism. Of the three churches in town when I moved here two and a half years ago, the Lutheran Church is down, the Methodist Church is rumored to have a life expectancy of two or three years, and the Evangelical Covenant Church is comparatively thriving for serving in a village of 250, and is the only church with kids attending. I’ve been to all three churches, all were friendly and welcoming with decent people who would make good neighbors, but it is only the Evangelical church that appears able to avoid collapse, at least in the foreseeable future, and I like the pastor. Thus I am checking the Does Not Apply box for today’s discussion. Maybe I’ll run up to the Evangelical church and tack a note to its door saying “Kids On Board, Please Do Not Bash”.

    • Good for you. Please bear in mind, however, that your experience (living in a town of only 250 people, with little “diversity” I would guess) hardly applies to the vast majority of the American population these days…

      • >> hardly applies to the vast majority of the American population these days…

        I am keenly aware of this, it is why I live here by choice. Little chance of it being ruined in my lifetime but it’s a hard place to make a living, and the vast majority of the American population would consider it so nowhere as to be uninhabitable. I in turn look at the places where most of you all live as uninhabitable. People here refer to people elsewhere as “Flatlanders”. If I won the Powerball, this is right where I would stay, tho I probably would hire a housekeeper and a driver/gardener. And I don’t actually live in town, tho I could walk there. I’m surrounded by hayfields and pasture and woods and good neighbors, a poor man’s paradise and a terrific gift for which I’m most grateful.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says:

        It also is not a “limited-government-libertarian” utopia.

        A town of 250 almost anywhere in America exists on a robust stream of big-government-subsidy. A town of 250 could never afford to pave a street – a “limited-government-libertarian” would have all dirt roads. There also wouldn’t be county snow plows after the blizzard.

        • That’s libertarian with a small “l”, as in you mind your own business, I’ll mind mine, and please don’t dump your trash in my yard. Limited government doesn’t mean no government. Liberty is not anarchy. Half the roads in the county are dirt, that’s a good compromise. And those big-government subsidies have been drying up for years. Can’t support the fat cats and the little people too. This could be changing as we speak, but not holding my breath.

          • Regarding small L libertarian.

            In a small town, if the local bank were to, say, open lines of credit for customers without telling them, costing them fees and earning them lots of money, and a disgruntled former employee or victim spoke up and made it publicly known…what is the proper response? Should the limited government get involved with that private business? Should the townsfolks arm themselves with pitchforks and demand retribution? How should it be handled?

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      I live in Eeyore’s imaginary small-town-limited-government-libertarian-nuclear-family-traditional-values utopia. It’s quite real and has nothing to do with right wing extremism, which would be as unwelcome here as progressive liberalism.

      But you live in the REAL “small-town-limited-government-libertarian-nuclear-family-traditional-values utopia”. NOT the Mythical version a la Ozzie, Harriet, Donna Reed, and the Millennium of Left Behind.

      • >> NOT the Mythical version a la Ozzie, Harriet, Donna Reed, and the Millennium of Left Behind.

        The only one of those I have personal experience with is the Nelson family, which while idealized, was not mythical, and in real life as well as the show, little Ricky grew up and became a rock and roll star and influenced Bob Dylan, which is what happened to that generation in general, my generation, altho I have not yet become a rock and roll star. The Nelsons lived in a city, tho not a metropolis, and were quite middle class, as was my family. My little town today did not notice much when the Great Depression hit because they were already living like that, and the Nelson family would have been considered oddball Flatlanders. There’s a lot of little towns around still, but no one notices, and that’s how the people who live there like it.

    • Randy Thompson says:

      I of course don’t know the specifics about your town’s Evangelical Covenant church, but my take on the Covenant Church in general is that it is evangelical but not in the evangelical subculture sense of the term. I’d describe it as an evangelical and ecumenical church, and maybe that’s the future.

      • I only have limited experience with it, but my impression of the Evangelical Covenant Church is consistent with Randy’s.

      • >> . . . it is evangelical but not in the evangelical subculture sense of the term.

        That’s my take on it too. People around here seem to be live and let live for the most part. I’d like to think it was the future, and I don’t run into all that many of the Evangelicals we love to bash anyway. Their decibels may exceed their actual numbers.

  9. I’m a dyed in the wool – long standing conservative Evangelical.

    EVERYBODY I know that is voting for Donald Trump is simply voting against Hillary Clinton.

    I can’t think of any Evangelical friends who’s first choice was the Donald.

    My take on D.T., he is less corrupt and corrupting than Hillary and the Clinton Crime Family.

    • OK, let me ask you a serious question. Is it *just* possible that the Clintons really aren’t as bad and corrupt as you have been led to believe? I am not saying they *aren’t* corrupt (at least, any moreso than any other politician these days) – but are they really SO bad that Trump is the only viable alternative?

      Please explain that to me, because I just can’t see it.

    • This might be the first election ever when Christians won’t vote for a Christian.

  10. Wow! Was Michael Spencer ever prophetic!

    “… American Christians seldom seem to be able to separate their theology from an overall idea of personal affluence and success American style.”
    I think this is key. When you are not affluent or successful, especially through no fault of your own (accident, illness, layoff, etc), the prosperous evangelical church leaves you nowhere to go. And it appear that from the statistics cited, many just go away.

    This discussion reminds me of my conversation with an old college friend this summer which I may have already mentioned here. My friend attends a Catholic Church in a Houston suburb and told me that the members of her church are continually surprised at the number of people that come to the Catholic Church for financial help, counseling, etc rather than go to their own church, the evangelical mega church in the same area. Why do they come to the Catholics? Because they don’t want anyone in their own church to know they are struggling. When you preach that God wants your life to be filled with good things that He will bless you with if you only pray and praise Him, how can you incorporate your losses into your belief system?

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > Because they don’t want anyone in their own church to know they are struggling

      I’ve heard the same thing.

      > how can you incorporate your losses into your belief system?

      You cut those people loose so they can find their way to the pagans and the liberals! 🙂
      Everything remains neat and tidy.

  11. Except in fundamentalist fantasies of “persecution” the problem will not be any so-called anti-Christian movement. No doors kicked in at 2am. No “mark of the beast”. These people don’t hate the church. They are indifferent to it. Much worse.

    There is no “fix”. They don’t reject the church because they were traumatized, or abused (though some have been traumatized and abused) but because they just don’t believe any of it. That’s what the stats show.

    The church will be thrown back to a primal state of relationship with the larger culture. Meaning the church will have to give people some compelling reason to think any of it is true in the first place. It will be 1 AD again folks. They won’t know the stories or the in jokes or share the believer’s assumptions about anything.

    But consider this: in a situation where there is no perceived cultural advantage in positioning yourself as devout then there go the sycophants, the fellow travelers, the hangers on, the barnacles on the ship. All that will be left are the ones who choose to be there.

    For he is like a refiner’s fire…

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      I agree with you, at least in part; I wouldn’t cast it in such extreme terms

      > These people don’t hate the church. They are indifferent to it. Much worse.

      I don’t know that it is “worse”. I would rather have someone not-care about me than hate me.

      > All that will be left are the ones who choose to be there.

      Agree, which could be a welcome change of atmosphere. One aspect I find pleasant about local Catholic churches is that they feel like they are already there – is anybody attending for status or connections? I doubt it. You go to the mega- on the edge of town for that.

      Anyone who has been involved in building any kind of group or advocacy movement can remember the ‘golden age’ that preceded success. Success can feel like the worst possible outcome. 🙂

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        And don’t forget the Curse of Immediate Runaway Success.

      • “Much worse.”

        What I meant by that is the church thrives on opposition. It is encoded in the DNA of the church. Christians can understand that because it was assumed from the get go that they would face opposition. In fact opposition was seen as a validation.

        But how many Christians are as prepared for simple indifference? Having their religion treated like a hobby? Or a personal quirk? How many are prepared to have someone patiently listen to everything they have to say and then just not be interested?

        Even excepting the hyperbole, based on what we know about human nature how demoralizing will it be to live in a society where your deepest held convictions are not shared by most of the population? So yeah I think there are cases like this where indifference can be worse than hate. The church has demonstrated it can survive being hated. Can it survive not being taken seriously?

        • Adam Tauno Williams says:

          >How many are prepared to have someone patiently listen to everything they
          > have to say and then just not be interested?

          I guess i just don’t get it Who ever expected anyone to listen patiently to their schtick? That doesn’t happen. Or it only happens when you’ve given them some ***OTHER*** reason to care.

          Next to nobody cares about your philosophy or theology, likely very few people care about your politics.

          That’s normal.

          > how demoralizing will it be to live in a society where your deepest held
          > convictions are not shared by most of the population?

          That’s today! It has certainly been my reality for years. I do not feel demoralized.

          > Can it survive not being taken seriously?

          Many many things to – thank goodness. I don’t need everyone to listen – I just need someone to talk to. And that is likely going to be someone who is largely in agreement with me.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Meaning the church will have to give people some compelling reason to think any of it is true in the first place. It will be 1 AD again folks. They won’t know the stories or the in jokes or share the believer’s assumptions about anything.

      And unlike all the Heathen in all the Christian fiction and tracts and “witnessing drills”, they WON’T speak and think in fluent Christianese.

    • These people don’t hate the church. They are indifferent to it. Much worse.

      I think some of them are indifferent to it because it was first indifferent to them.

      because they just don’t believe any of it. That’s what the stats show.

      Well, the stats show that a lot of them don’t believe it, but not all. And there’s always the question of what it is that they’re no longer choosing to believe. Was it really Christianity in the first place?

      All that will be left are the ones who choose to be there.

      For he is like a refiner’s fire…

      I don’t think it’s safe to assume that all those who stay will be the pure and those who leave the defiled. Especially with the vacuity of so much in evangelicalism…..

  12. OT – Halloween is coming up, so I imagine the regularly scheduled classic posts will be run. I ended up watching Exorcist for the first time ever last night, and I’d love to have some deep discussions about movies and topics like that.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Though I suspect Mobilization for The Election will TRUMP Mobilization Against The Devil’s Holiday this October.

    • The movie or the new TV show? (The movie is a fave. One of the creepiest, slow-builds of horror ever. I haven’t bothered with the TV show.)

      • Movie! It was good, though I wouldn’t say it was particularly scary. It made me laugh at a few moments, especially the “vulgar display of power” line.

        I wonder if my seeing the movie Constantine first has made it harder for me to enjoy exorcist type films. Just fill a bath tub with holy water and dunk…

  13. Theology matters, even if the depths of it are difficult to understand. I would posit that the reason people “just don’t believe it anymore” is that the “it” has been pulled so far away from what it originally was that it has been stretched to the point of being filled with holes. (Ever made real strudel dough and had an epic fail with it ?…) There is still some adherence by the stuff around the holes to the original message, but the holes occupy much more surface area. This is how it was for me. The older I got, the more I experienced Evangelical theology falling apart between my fingers.

    There are many sincere, faithful, kind, Jesus-loving Evangelical Christians who show up on no one’s radar screen; because they know Jesus, not simply know about him, they are able to live above their received theology and are better Christians than I will ever be. I’m constituted in such a way that I couldn’t ignore the holes, though for a time I tried, because it was constantly stressed to me that Evangelicalism was the theology of the earliest Christians, and who wants to go against that? But I never wanted to be anything but a Christian; even at my most confused, I knew Jesus was the center of everything.

    However, I needed a theology that is seamless, and above all which has as its focus a God wants to be united with us and who is truly good, not a Janus who shows one face to some people and another face to others, depending on who “accepts” Jesus – which ironically makes “salvation” entirely up to what WE do on a psychospiritual level, not what God has done in the reality of history and on every level. It’s the Janus-god many people are rejecting, and rightly so.

    The problem is, in our Enlightenment/individualism/dualism – saturated culture there is nothing left but consumerism – which some “nones” are also rejecting. We are left up the proverbial creek, without the paddle; all we can do is drift… or wander in the wilderness… unless we find what our hearts are really seeking. It’s grievous how our environment of fragmentation, including a lot of Jesus-speak, makes finding it so difficult.

    Dana

  14. Did anyone read the New York Times story yesterday about the older evangelical couple in Iowa who are bewildered about what has happened to them and the things their church taught them to believe? They had learned to be culture warriors over the years, were trying to run an events space business, and their refusal to accommodate a same-sex wedding led to repercussions they don’t seem to be able to comprehend. They also are in disbelief that the country has changed so fast.

    I immediately thought of Michael Spencer’s insights into the coming evangelical collapse when I read it. It is quite poignant.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/30/us/donald-trump-christians-gay-marriage.html

    • Martyr fantasies.

      I wonder if the Odgaards approve of mixed race marriages. Or what their parents thought of it.

      One key quote jumped out at me:

      “My hope is not ultimately in the government,” he said. “I am not of this world. Jesus is going to come back. He’s going to bring the perfect government. Until then, we live in a world of sin.”

      And yet. And yet they want the government to upload their religious views.

      This kind of goes back to that discuss about Christianity in America not being hopeful. We live in a world of sin? Sure, possibly. But it’s a better world now than it was 50, 100, 150, 200+ years ago. That should make you hopeful.

      • “I’m worried for America if we don’t turn away from abortion,” said Mrs. Berkheimer, who is 48. “I think our country is going to be punished, with a nuclear weapon. I don’t think you can mock God forever.”

        …Father forgive them.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          “GAWD’S JUDGMENT FOR AMERICA’S SINS SITS READY AND WAITING IN THE NUCLEAR MISSILE SILOS OF THE SOVIET UNION!!!!!”
          — Radio preacher from the late Seventies/early Eighties/late Cold War period

          • Ben Carmack says:

            You know these kinds of comments are very repetitive. The same tired old tropes about apocalyptic wierdoes from the 70s and 80s. Come on, dude. Come up with some new material. It stopped being funny about 1999.

          • … But the 1970s are back. Didn’t you get the memo?

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            The apocalyptic weirdos are still out there.
            And a lot of them these days are SECULAR.

  15. Ben Carmack says:

    “Our young people have deep beliefs about the culture war, but do not know why they should obey scripture, the essentials of theology or the experience of spiritual discipline and community.”

    If by “culture war” Michael meant the notion that Christianity == Republican Party and conservative talk radio, then I agree with what he’s saying. The term “culture war” has been used so often in a pejorative sense over the last 10 years that it’s often unclear what it means. Commenters or Chaplain Mike may want to fill in the gaps.

    I suspect that’s not the totality of what Michael meant. I suspect he’s referring to various sorts of pro-life advocacy, advocacy against same-sex mirage, and so forth. This part of the essay is out of date. When Michael was writing these words, it was somewhat easier to envision evangelicalism as a big, ominous booeyman trying to pry its eyes into Americans’ bedrooms. Today, the situation is quite different.

    You may not want any part of the culture war, but the culture war does want a part of you. If you believe, teach or confess what the Bible says about sexuality, you are a target. You will pay for abortifacent contraceptives or you will be fined. You will bake the cake or you will be fined. You will cater pizza for a hypothetical gay customer for a hypothetical gay wedding or you will be hounded, shamed and humiliated. In the case of the unassuming Anabaptist pastor Ken Miller, you will be jailed for helping a woman who escaped lesbianism take her child out of the country. (You can Google that one.)

    Michael was probably right that this will result in a winnowing of the ranks of evangelicals…in the short term. Long term, sacrifice, steadfastness and faithfulness will result in a stronger, bigger church.

    • Sigh.

      If you believe, teach or confess what the Bible says about sexuality, you are a target.

      No. I reject your assumption.

      We can do better.

      • Ben Carmack says:

        Care to demonstrate how my examples are wrong or miss the point?

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Standard PERSECUTION!!!!! boilerplate?
          Which I’ve been hearing almost word-for-word since my time in-country over 40 years ago?

          • Ben Carmack says:

            Not boilerplate but the headlines. It’s 2016, not 2004. Read a newspaper. Or a book. The times they are a changin.

            There’s more on TV than My Little Pony.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            So are you stockpiling guns and ammunition?
            Or just “It’s All Over but the Screaming — Enjoy your trip up the chimneys of the Diversity Re-Education Camp ovens”?

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            No, Ben, you have to slap me down with Style. Like (actual comment from way back) “At least I don’t masturbate to cartoon horsies”.

            And what’s the attraction of the Ponies’ land of Equestria? A magical land of wonders, whose ideal is to live in Harmony and Friendship, ruled over by a god-figure who is not only Benevolent, but Approachable and even Playful. Where do you find that nowadays? Not in American Evangelicalism or its afterlife, that’s for sure.

        • Because they focus almost exclusively on sexuality, to the exclusion of other sins (greed, pride, wrath) that the Scriptures and Jesus spend comparatively a heck of a lot more time on.

          • Ben Carmack says:

            Jesus also spends no time addressing pedophilia. Does that mean the coverage of the Roman Catholic Church’s priestly abuse scandal was un-warranted?

            Jesus also said nothing about scolding Internet commenters about focusing on certain sins. So I guess you must not be very Christ-like.

          • Additionally, they don’t even focus on sexuality. They are basically “you all know these things to be true” arguments. Maybe even not that far.

            Why would I sail to the horizon? I’d fall off the edge of the earth.

          • Still, the fact that Jesus spent the vast majority of His time on earth (as recorded in the Scriptures) criticizing the religious authorities of His day as opposed to condemning the folks guilty of ‘carnal sins’ – who on the face of it were rather attracted to Him and His ministry – means no never mind to you?

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            I think we got a Troll here.
            A RIGHTEOUS Troll.

          • Ben Carmack says:

            Eyeore, you’re missing the point. My post was making fun of your argumentation. A bit of righteous trolling, if you will.

            As to Jesus not condemning carnal sins, He did tell the adulterous woman of John 8 to go and sin no more. Last I checked, adultery was a carnal, sexual sin. So you reveal your ignorance of, not only proper argumentation, but also the content of the Gospels themselves.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Because sex makes people stupid and homosex makes Christians go crazy.

            Christians are just as sex-obsessed (and just as messed-up sexually) as all those Heathens(TM) on the outside, just flipped in a different (and usually opposite) direction.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Everybody here is missing one dynamic in play — the 80/20 rule of Groupthink.

          When consensus within a community reaches 80%, Groupthink locks in and dissidents are purged. This holds for straight, gay, Christian, Republican, Democrat, whatever.

          I’ve been in-country for 20+ years in Furry Fandom – a subculture that attracts rejects and sexually messed-up people due to a Perfect Storm situation in its formative years. Specifically SoCal Furry Fandom, which through that Perfect Storm of dominant founding personalities and Mid-Life crises at age 30 became extremely gay-heavy. And when the Groupthink locked in their favor, they threw their weight around — Straights NOT Welcome.

          The same would have happened if the Groupthink locked in Christians’ favor, as you see in a lot of churches. The 80+% become The One True Way, the 20-% get Persecuted, the Lunatic Fringe rises to the top by virtue of tunnel-visioned dedication and the loudest throats, and things go crazy until the Lunatic Fringe burns out and cooler heads prevail.

    • “If you believe, teach or confess what the Bible says about sexuality, you are a target.”

      I think “what the Bible says” is more often than not a matter of interpretation. Dogma is becoming increasingly irrelevant.

      “Long term, sacrifice, steadfastness and faithfulness will result in a stronger, bigger church.”

      I think the word “church” is a loaded word these days. What specifically are you envisioning?

      • Ben Carmack says:

        Marc B,

        Shall I quote Michael Spencer to you?

        “Our young people have deep beliefs about the culture war, but do not know why they should obey scripture, the essentials of theology or the experience of spiritual discipline and community.”

        Notice he said, “obey Scripture,” which in context was the good thing, the thing we want evangelical young people to do.

        But if dogma is increasingly irrelevant, and you can choose whether to obey Scripture by simply “reinterpreting” it, Michael’s words become devoid of meaning. His whole complaint collapses.

        • “But if dogma is increasingly irrelevant, and you can choose whether to obey Scripture by simply “reinterpreting” it, Michael’s words become devoid of meaning. His whole complaint collapses.”

          Quote him all you want, but I don’t think it’s that simple. If I had to guess, you are in or close to the camp that says people reinterpret Scripture for selfish reasons (i.e. I don’t like what it says so I’ll change it). If that is the case, then you and I are at an impasse. I brought up dogma because that is generally how the “church” operates. “I’m the authority because I say so, this is what you need to obey, and it’s because I said so”. THAT is what young people are rejecting. Simply saying “obey Scripture” IMHO carries very little weight.

          • Ben Carmack says:

            And so it is that Michael Spencer has become too much of a conservative Neanderthal for even his self-professed admirers. Irony, thy name is Internet Monk.

          • “And so it is that Michael Spencer has become too much of a conservative Neanderthal for even his self-professed admirers. Irony, thy name is Internet Monk.”

            Yes, because of course Michael Spencer never changed his views one bit. Had he remained alive his views would have remained EXACTLY the same. (sigh)

            In fact the reason why I admire him is because he was able to analyze in depth and rethink things. IOW, he was not a neanderthal.

          • Richard Hershberger says:

            I thought even at the time that he was behind the curve on homosexuality. The classic example of this was his post where he posited that there were a bunch of disaffected Evangelicals who would eagerly jump to the mainlines, if only the mainlines weren’t pandering to the gays. Or, from my perspective as a member of one of those gay-pandering mainlines, there are some bigots who might join my church, but first I have to toss under the bus by brothers and sisters in Christ. Tempting, but no thank you.

            This didn’t make sense even on its own terms. You want to be Lutheran, but not the gay-pandering kind? That kind of Lutheran exists, and they have their own organizations, so you won’t even have the same sort of sign out front as the gay-pandering kind.

            Beyond that, Evangelical churches are starting to come around on the issue. It is early yet, but twenty years from now anti-gay Evangelical churches will be like KJV-only churches are now: a weird fringe. Michael miss this. I wonder what he would be writing, were he alive today.

        • Notice the sleight of hand of “obey scripture” into “my interpretation of it”.

          No.

          Wait! Better response.

          “Wrong.”

      • I think “what the Bible says” is more often than not a matter of interpretation. Dogma is becoming increasingly irrelevant.

        This.

        There is a difference between saying “this is what I believe the Bible teaches about sexuality” and “this is what the Bible teaches about sexuality”.

        When you lead with the second, you aren’t discussing or talking. You are proclaiming. And I reject the starting assumption.

        • Patrick Kyle says:

          The Bible now becomes a book where you can speculate upon it’s meaning but you can never know it’s real meaning. Oh and by the way keep your interpretations to yourself if they don’t fall in lockstep with our culture. Yeah, and these threads are full of discussion about why the church is dying….

    • Apologies, Ben. I react too strongly to such loaded language and tone. I’m open to discussing all of this, but we’d need to take a step back first, because I can’t meet you at where you start in good faith.

      • Ben Carmack says:

        You don’t need to meet where I start, necessarily (though it would be nice). Just interact with what I said, and the specific examples I give. Explain why those examples are untrue, made-up or do not apply. You know, Logic. Reason.

        The kinds of things progressives are so known for these days.

        • Ok.

          You may not want any part of the culture war, but the culture war does want a part of you. If you believe, teach or confess what the Bible says about sexuality, you are a target. You will pay for abortifacent contraceptives or you will be fined. You will bake the cake or you will be fined. You will cater pizza for a hypothetical gay customer for a hypothetical gay wedding or you will be hounded, shamed and humiliated. In the case of the unassuming Anabaptist pastor Ken Miller, you will be jailed for helping a woman who escaped lesbianism take her child out of the country. (You can Google that one.)

          Michael was probably right that this will result in a winnowing of the ranks of evangelicals…in the short term. Long term, sacrifice, steadfastness and faithfulness will result in a stronger, bigger church.

          For starters, I don’t agree with what you assume the Bible teaches about sexuality. Dogma, interpretation, translation, social mores, scriptural context, ANE context and so many other factors have a play in this. Even for the sake of argument, I can not start at an assumption that a 21st century conservative interpretation of sexuality in the Bible is the de facto for all times authoritative interpretation. Maybe I’m a relativist, or maybe I’m a historicist, or something, but I cannot accept that base premise. Strike one, I guess.

          Next, I strongly support the distinction between Christianity and government, and while the two influence each other, there must always be a separation. In a secular environment, people must abide by secular rules that were agreed upon by the majority for the good of all. This includes all the cakes and contraceptives and wedding halls as secular businesses offering goods and services abiding under and by secular laws. This even includes public education and all civil rights/segregation issues. A private business is a business that is owned privately; it is not in any way the same as a non-business run privately, or even a private bedroom activity. There is no persecution here, there are only people breaking the law, unless they are one of the “good ones”. Strike two.

          Finally, if removing the liberals, moderates, intellectuals, samaritans, whatever from a church results in a stronger, bigger church, that church will instead be based entirely on negatives and will begin eating itself over generations, producing in-bred, ill-equipped believers for any task in this world. I’m a product of fundamentalism, I’ve seen it first hand. We just talked about the Old Mennonites on here last week. We all know of Westboro. HUG can mention that guy who is a church and evangelist of one and his family, and his family is suspect. If a church or religious group is not founded in openness, love, grace, confession, it will either slowly die or can only make converts by the stroke of a sword. Or a pen.

          Strike three.

          • @StuartB – EXCELLENT response, with a baseball metaphor to boot.

          • uhhh…shoot

            “4th and 20. Punting the ball, you’re turn.”

            …salvaged it!

          • Patrick Kyle says:

            “Next, I strongly support the distinction between Christianity and government, and while the two influence each other, there must always be a separation. In a secular environment, people must abide by secular rules that were agreed upon by the majority for the good of all. This includes all the cakes and contraceptives and wedding halls as secular businesses offering goods and services abiding under and by secular laws. This even includes public education and all civil rights/segregation issues. A private business is a business that is owned privately; it is not in any way the same as a non-business run privately, or even a private bedroom activity. There is no persecution here, there are only people breaking the law, unless they are one of the “good ones”. Strike two.”

            The tyranny of the majority. So if it’s the Law of the Land, you must comply. Period. End of Story. Sheesh.. and you guys are worried about Trump. On this point I submit that you are a hypocrite. You would be a lot less ‘Law and Order’ if our immigration laws mirrored those of Mexico or Canada, or our Sodomy Laws reflected any number of other nations. Of course you consider those laws wrong and immoral. You are convinced of your own righteousness with the zeal of a fundamentalist. I also love how Church and State need to be separate, but when it comes to the feeding of the poor and relocation of refugees the proponents of these programs appeal to Christian Ethics. (Which I have heard on both this blog and others.) So as long as the goals of the Church and those of secular society align it’s OK to appeal to Christian morality, but if they do not align, invoking Christian morality is not only wrong but is bigoted and borders on hate speech.

          • The tyranny of the majority.

            Dude. You just described the civil rights era. You just described the modern gay rights era.

            Laws change, thank God. And guess what? Often there are losers and winners when laws are voted on and made. But that can change with time too.

            Blessings not just for the ones who kneel…luckily.

          • I don’t even know how to address the rest of that. Christian Ethics and feeding of poor and whatever else? I don’t…

            Do you think those mercies like feeding the poor only come to those with Christian morality and ethics?

          • Patrick Kyle says:

            “Do you think those mercies like feeding the poor only come to those with Christian morality and ethics?”

            Not especially. However I find it ironic that those most vocal about separation of Church and State are often the quickest to invoke Christian Ethics when it involves these policies. Even a mere mention of cutting back on social programs or opposing refugee resettlement (which is run by church organizations) bring howls of protest and appeals to Christian morality. However, question gay marriage on the grounds of Christian Ethics and you are met with cries of ‘SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE!’

          • Ben Carmack says:

            Stuart,

            Thanks for the substantive response. This is good. I appreciate you taking the time to do it.

            Concerning the biblical arguments, I’ll sidestep those. You’re not convinced of the authority of Scripture, so making biblical arguments won’t do much to advance the debate. There you have Strike 1.

            As for your second point, the baking of wedding cakes and the provision of wedding facilities are properly called “glorifying.” These are services that beautify an event. As such they are hardly essential services, such as grocery stores or gas stations (thinking of the Jim Crow South). Since they are glorifying professions, there is an inescapable connection between providing the service and approving the event. This same connection does not exist for other services or other situations. If I sell you gas, I do not thereby approve or beautify whatever you do with it.

            If you investigate the situations closely, you will frequently find, particularly in the cases of Baronelle Stutzman and the Kleins, that they did do business with sodomite clients on other occasions. There was no blanket ban on doing business with someone simply because of their sexual identity or relationship. They simply objected to glorifying an event that they believed dishonored the institution of marriage.

            That said institution of marriage has been understood to be limited to man and woman until, literally, last year. There are centuries of tradition, across cultures and religions, honoring marriages which contain sexual polarity and difference (male and female). This holds for both polygamous and monogamous societies. It’s hardly unreasonable to continue to hold to the old definition. Who are the real extremists here?

            If believing in male/female only for marriage is out the window, what’s next? Women in combat? Scratch that, already doing that. Drafting women? Scratch that, noted right wing extremists Jeb Bush and Chris Christie already approve of that. Transgendered males competing in female sports? Already happening. Bathrooms? Ditto. Again, who’s the real extremist, here? Who are the wild-eyed zealots seeking to impose their will on others through government force?

            You refer to obeying the law. I missed the law that required any private business to perform anything a customer desires. Should a Jewish bakery bake a cake for a Nazi celebration? Really, you’re with Gary Johnson on this? Again, who’s the extremist?

            And there is no law. We’re talking about an overzealous regulatory state. None of this was part of a Supreme Court decision or act of Congress.

            As to your point three, spare me the hysterics and the fake martyrdom and the pearl clutching about evil Christians obtaining power to silence their enemies. The only people doing that these days are people like you, the so-called tolerant ones. This is self evident.

            Stop trying to force your moral code on others. Stop using the state to bring in some kind of post-Christian nirvana. Mind your own business. If you can’t convince a Christian baker to bake your cake, move on to the next bakery. Is this really that hard? We’re going to destroy religious liberty for this?

            Madness.

          • Sodomite? Really?! Do you think you could find a more dehumanizing word to use?

          • We’re done. You crossed a line with the slur.

            I wish you well.

        • I have mixed responses to your examples. On one hand, I am sympathetic with the fact that people are trying to act on their convictions and that the pushback they receive are (in some cases) inordinate.

          On the other hand, the principles being uphold in these cases are valid and important. The equal protection clause is very important. The laws against kidnapping are important. These law are more important than the feelings that people may have when tempted to violate them.

          We’re better off with such protections, than without them, even when they lead to comfortable conflicts. And I think the potential for ‘persecution’ of groups of people gets much higher without them.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Definite RIGHTEOUS Troll.

          “SHOW ME SCRIPTURE! SHOW ME SCRIPTURE! SHOW ME SCRIPTURE!”
          — Raul Rees, Calvary Chapel, every time someone tried to argue with him

          • Ben Carmack says:

            Yes because incoherent ravings in all caps will certainly best answer the argument and contribute to the overall raising of public discourse.

            I’m astonished at your tolerance for differing viewpoints. Truly, you have the scent of Jesus shaped spirituality about you…

    • HOLD UP.

      This Ken Miller? The one who conspired with a mother to KIDNAP and escape the country with her daughter??

      http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2013/03/man-of-sorrows-the-minister-who-helped-a-woman-kidnap-a-child/273661/

      Why does this ring all the Tina Anderson bells in my head?? So it’s ok for a pastor and a woman to kidnap a little girl because they were escaping from a former partner’s ‘lifestyle’ that they didn’t agree with??

      Holy heck.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trinity_Baptist_Church_sex_scandal

      • Let’s flip the example around.

        You fight a court battle to secure visitation rights to your child.

        Your ex comes to me. We agree that Christianity is nuts, that your beliefs are dangerous, and that your influence will be bad for your child.

        I help your ex take your child to a third world country, location unknown; means of support unknown; access to education unknown. You can’t so much as check on this child’s basic welfare. You may never see this child again.

        That would be real, true persecution. No matter how strongly I felt while helping your ex to leave.

      • Ben Carmack says:

        Stuart,

        The pastor in question is a quiet, pacifistic Anabaptist. He is the same sort of man our government used to persecute for his conscientious refusal to take up arms in war. He has been fully cooperative with his prosecutors this entire time.

        He believes, as everyone including the Clintons and the Obamas believed until 4 years ago, that marriage is between a man and a woman. That’s what marriage IS. The lesbian coupling that Vermont approved was not a marriage, and it certainly wasn’t recognized as such under U.S. or Virginia law. Until 4 years ago, most people agreed that children should have a mother and a father. Lisa Miller was the mother; her former lesbian partner had no biological connection to the child.

        The child was not kidnapped. The child belongs to Lisa Miller. This would be clean cut to everyone in history except people living today.

        But when you frame mischief with a law (same-sex mirage or civil unions) this is what you get. And good men like Ken Miller get caught in the crossfire.

      • Patrick Kyle says:

        How do you kidnap your own daughter? Really? If it was a woman escaping a bad relationship with the child’s stepfather you would be all for it. However, because the step parent in question was one half of a lesbian couple (a relationship in which the child’s birth mother no longer wished to be a part of) it is now ‘kidnapping’ and a horrible ‘crime.’ Do I not speak rightly when I say that is absolute insanity on your part, or the part of anyone denying the birth mother’s right to be with her daughter and calling it a crime.

        • With respect, I don’t think you are acknowledging some of the details. You are correct to point out that these situations are controversial and that there’s plenty of room for people to feel bullied. But in the kidnapping case, to use one example, you are dancing around or or don’t see the logic of why these cases got into court in the first place. It isn’t total insanity, there’s logic to why the court is willing to hear the case.

          You are incredulous —
          “How do you kidnap your own daughter? Really?” —

          But this is actually fairly common. Children often have more than one legal parent or guardian (not always related by blood). Following divorce, courts ordinarily establish who has custody and what visitation rights are — among many other matters. These agreements are supposed to guard the rights of all persons involved, and they are legally enforceable.

          Married or divorced, if you take “your own child” and disappear to an undisclosed location away from another legal parent / guardian, your actions are illegal. Period. In all cases, not just in Miller’s case.

          You can argue about the specifics of the Miller case. You can disagree with the standing that civil unions or marriages have. But the logic of why the cases has standing and would warrant court attention is should be reasonably clear.

          • *But the logic of why the case has standing and would warrant court attention should be reasonably clear.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > You will pay for abortifacent contraceptives or you will be fined

      You pay for bullets, shoulder-launched grenades, and the maintenance of nuclear weapons – or you will be imprisoned.

      You pay to plow highways through low income neighborhoods – or you will be imprisoned.

      You pay to restore the beeches in front of the condos of millionaires – or you will be imprisoned.

      Sorry, try again.

      • I agree, Adam.

      • Ben Carmack says:

        So you’re an anarchist. Got it.

        • Adam Tauno Williams says:

          No, I’m saying these arguments of forced-moral-entanglement are false on the basis that they are not only cherry-picking – they are hyper-meta-cherry-picking. You can not endorse policy-X, that’s fine, buit that doesn’t exempt you from the system, nor should it.

          • Ben Carmack says:

            A non sequitir. You’re not even trying to understand the argument, the situations, or why they’re different.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Fact1 — Christians are as obsessed with sex as a nymphomaniac on Spanish Fly, just in the opposite direction.

        Fact2 — After a long time on the bottom, gay activists now find themselves on top, and anyone in that position will try to throw their weight around. HARD.

  16. Ben Carmack says:

    I should think it clear from the above that, to the extent the culture war is a real thing, the aggressive party, the conquering party, the party with the full force of law behind them…is the progressive party. It is not the conservative, or evangelical, or Christian party.

    So, in the spirit of Michael Spencer…would the progressives care to stop fighting a relentless culture war against Christians? Might they lay down their arms? If they don’t we might have to talk of a coming progressive collapse…or rather, an ongoing progressive collapse (given the numbers from the mainline denominations).

    • Ben, you sound very frustrated and argumentative. Let go and let God…..

    • You are not acknowledging that what makes the examples you offered consequential is the fact that these questions concern legal rights of persons/groups.

      Although there may be some over-eager activists and some gloating, which I agree is unwarranted, these cases aren’t coming about just for progressive LOLZ. They involve legitimate legal questions. However we settle these questions, the goal of the law and courts is to proper balance the rights of parties in dispute.

      There is no ‘war against Christians.’ There have been lawsuits involving how *businesses* may or may not interact with customers and employees.

      Oh, and please, no kidnapping. Do we need really need to argue about the legitimacy of kidnapping?

      • Ben Carmack says:

        “…is the fact that these questions concern legal rights of persons/groups.”

        No it doesn’t. There’s no law that says I must bake a wedding cake for a gay wedding. There is no law that says a Jew must bake a cake for a Nazi celebration. No one’s legal rights are in jeopardy. You’re just lying. Worse, you’re lying on behalf of the powerful against the powerless.

        It isn’t kidnapping if it’s your child.

        • Patrick Kyle says:

          Ben, I appreciate your comments here. I was a friend of the original proprietor of this blog, and while we disagreed on many things, I respected him for his honesty and transparency. This was a far different place when he was alive and even in the years afterwards. Now it is a leftist/progressive echo chamber with very little room for anyone of a more conservative bent regardless of what Christian tradition they may be from. While many here would say that I am angry and bitter (I have been known to be both those things) I certainly have no corner on that market in these threads, especially in regard to anger towards the church. Thanks for the breath of sanity.

          • “Now it is a leftist/progressive echo chamber with very little room for anyone of a more conservative bent regardless of what Christian tradition they may be from.”

            Patrick, I’m not sure what you mean when you say there’s “very little room” for conservatives here. You, for example, and Ben are always welcome and there are no guards posted checking anyone’s theology or politics. Michael was much more decisive about moderating comments and banning commenters than I’ve ever been, and most of them thought he wasn’t conservative enough either.

          • There’s plenty of room for you both. But not for bullying attitudes or personal attacks.

            Everything is up for discussion with a fair, charitable spirit.

            Why can’t we have that?

          • Patrick Kyle says:

            CM, I have no problem with your moderation of the blog, the subject matter of the posts etc… But don’t take my word for it. Go back in the archives and look for yourself at the diversity the comment threads had. Even 3 or 4 years ago. Nowadays it’s the same 8 or 10 commenters, always siding with the culture on whatever issue is under discussion, and contradicting or mocking any conservative voice that speaks up. Forget discussing any ‘traditional’ interpretation of the Scriptures, especially in the area of sexuality, but other areas come to mind too. I didn’t even agree with the plurality of commenters back in the day, but there were more, especially from more conservative or traditional views. The comment threads have drifted more and more to a progressive viewpoint, many comments(ers) indistinguishable from the voice of the secular American culture. That’s fine too, I’m just pointing out that less and less conservative voices from any Christian tradition are heard here anymore. The progressive voices are strident enough to have muted or driven out other voices. Brother, it’s your show, and Michael entrusted you to keep this blog going. On that score I think it is a testament to your commitment to our mutual friend that this blog still sees regular posts almost everyday, and the comment threads are maintained and moderated. You have striven mightily to keep Michael’s legacy alive and relevant and I and many others thank you. This is just my honest opinion about where I have seen the discussions go in these threads.

            • Thanks, Patrick. I too have noticed a shrinking of the commenter base. I don’t know how much to attribute to natural attrition vs. what you suggest, but I do assure you that I welcome all voices no matter their viewpoint who agree to stay within the bounds of civility (though I’m not sure new folks always grasp HUG – our resident court jester). I miss Steve Martin and some of the others who used to push some different buttons and stir things up in a variety of ways.

              Our lives have all moved on and a lot has happened, including the addition of a lot more blogs and places of interest on the web. It’s hard to believe that I’ve been writing here for nearly seven years now.

          • Patrick, for the last year or so you have consistently only shown up to either direct attack me or comment directly at my posts. It’s becoming personal; I almost feel like I know you in real life.

            You and several others have made this a very unwelcoming place for me to voice my ideas, to grow, to learn, to listen and interact. Several times I’ve considered leaving Internet Monk entirely directly because of you. It’s only because multiple people have reached out to me personally to tell me to stay that I’m still here.

            You want discussion? You want variety? You want your views to be taken seriously? It starts with respect. It starts with ending the personal attacks. It starts with contributing meaningful debates.

            If anything drags down or ends Internet Monk, it won’t be the regulars.

            I’m sure I’ll see you again, Patrick.

          • Patrick, I agree with you completely. I feel like any time I see any comments here that are even vaguely supportive of othodox Christianity (by that I mean acceptable to Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and conservative Protestants) it is literally a dog pile.

            And when folks like you come along and try to call them to task they play the hurt card or that you are being disrespectful and claim it is no longer safe. Much the same nonsense we get here in Canada on our university campuses where people can’t handle those who disagree with them.

            This is not a comment about Chaplain Mike. I come by less because I don’t see any dialogue here any more, but a hotbed of voices who are ticked off and just want to spout their progressive agenda.

            • Hey everybody, this critique is worth your consideration.

              We can improve our listening skills and make the conversations around here better. Always.

              Let him who has ears…

          • Chaplain Mike I want to be sure that you know my comments are NOT directed to you, you put a lot of effort in and I am thankful for what you do. But I really do think it has become lopsided and I have not the energy to fight or just do intellectual jousting, I have a life outside of the internet.

            And to others who might be reading this, I understand all too well what it is like to have been messed up by fundamentalism. To have questions and be thought of as unspiritual. I have been there when they made noises like cukoo clocks and felt it was God (weird NAR stuff), or a legalistic fundamentalism that is mostly mind. I have been almost the full gamut.
            And I walked away feeling hurt, rejected and disappointed. I did my science degree and became agnostic. And then realised that part of the reason I was messed up was my fundamentalism. I had the choice either move on or just get bitter and sceptical. There are tons of targets out there on which to focus our frustration. But there is redemption – not everyone who believes in a conservative interpretation of scripture and does not follow the culture is an enemy. There are many out there such as NT Wright, Alistair McGrath, John Stott just to name a few.

            If you want continued good dialogue here you will need to listen to the critiques of people like Ben and Patrick. Otherwise you will dwindle to a room full of people sitting around bashing Evangelicals and Conservatives.

          • If you want continued good dialogue here you will need to listen to the critiques of people like Ben and Patrick.

            I personally welcome them and would love the discussion. Especially since I am not a progressive as much as an opposed former conservative.

            But it starts with respect. It starts with good faith.

            Please continue bringing the critiques. Just drop the attacks and playing the hurt card.

          • Not personally hurt by any of it.

            I just see no use joining in a discussion in which others don’t welcome other perspectives, and it seems to me that is what IM has become.

            It seems like mostly grumpy disaffected evangelicals who want to remain that way. And if that’s what the majority wants that’s fine by me.
            I understand that, as I was mega ticked off at one time in my life. I guess I have mostly moved on and had to readjust my mindset.

            I still serve Christ and follow him. I have landed in a more mainline expression and have a lot more peace.

          • Patrick Kyle says:

            StuartB, I am sorry that you have been discouraged by my comments. It is nothing personal.Your comments seem to stand out and provide a counter point to my argument. I have been greatly discouraged by the discourse here and have sworn off ever reading the blog again on several occasions. To be written off as a racist or bigot because I disagree with you guys is every bit as offensive and off putting as anything I have said in return. It kills dialogue because once I have been labeled as a racist/homophobe/bigot, my arguments and opinions are dismissed out of hand. It’s intellectually lazy and a cheap excuse not to deal with my arguments or point of view. (Not to mention it bears false witness against me and people who think like I do.) You do not know me, though you may think you do from a scattering of comments on the internet. Other than what you have said about yourself here, I have no idea who you are. I assume that like me, you have an entire other life apart from the online world that only tangentially intersects with what you say here.
            Respect runs both ways. Maybe the divide is too deep. You are convinced I am wrong and a bigot, and I am convinced you and the progressive cadre are deeply deluded. Where do we go from here? Anyway, that’s the view from my side of the fence.

    • You are right on Ben.
      And if you want to see more just look north to Canada where the progressives have taken over. Their idea of toleration is I tolerate anyone who thinks like me.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        And Christians would be any different if they took over and Restored a Christian Nation?

        The result of Power + Righteousness is the same in either case.

        • You are correct. They would not be any different. And that’s why I do not believe in Christian government.

          But I do believe that we need to call out hypocrisy and I see it in spades with progressives. I see that they have morphed into what they hate – fundamentalists in secular dress.

          I used to look longingly at the US and envy the checks and balances because in Canada we elect dictatorships. But as of late I have seen that even your system, once the envy of many, is also broken.

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