November 18, 2017

Reformation Considerations: Reforming Evangelicalism Today

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Bill Hybels did market research and now his daughter does a Christian-spin on a TED tour.

• Jake Meador

• • •

Today, some considerations about reforming the church in our own day.

In the light of the Jen Hatmaker situation that drew a lot of attention in the Christian world this past week (and which I have no interest in discussing today), Jake Meador has written a thought-provoking article at Mere Orthodoxy called “Our Impoverished Imaginations: The World of Jen Hatmaker.”

So, this is more about the world Ms. Hatmaker comes from and which she represents — the evangelical church world that grew out of the boomer-era seeker-sensitive evangelicalism in which today’s young Christians grew up. Jake Meador suggests that this world is in need of serious reform.

This is a critique that comes from a different perspective than the one that has characterized Internet Monk over the years. Michael Spencer and the rest of us here have represented baby-boomers who eventually found that the revivalist-based, consumerist-oriented, culture war transformed, programmatic world of U.S. evangelicalism failed to nourish and support us as we aged into mature adulthood.

As our personal worlds grew bigger and deeper and fuller, our churches appeared smaller and shallower, more in their own little worlds of theological biblicism, moralistic therapeutic deism, and a pragmatic growth mentality that emphasized packaging, programs and performances. By and large, they avoided pursuing spiritual depth through liturgical renewal and practices of silence and reflection, pursuing relational depth through pastoral care and welcoming the poor, and pursuing missional depth by getting out into their communities with forbearance and ecumenical grace. Evangelicalism, in essence, represented suburban U.S. culture as much or more than it did historic Christianity.

While Meador acknowledges some of evangelicalism’s contributions, he strongly confirms this critique:

The suburban Christianity of the 90s and 2000s existed within a broader cultural milieu. This milieu relied upon the same thing that sustains our culture today: Market-backed individualism that sacrifices the social capital existing amongst traditional small societies in hopes of obtaining increased personal freedom for individual members of the society. Within such a space, religious and political identity becomes more of a personal branding statement than adherence to a defined set of principles that you believe to be accurate descriptions of what is good, true, and beautiful.

Boomer-era evangelicalism was itself a creature comfortable living in this ecosystem. Indeed, the institutions that defined it were almost unimaginable apart from that broader system. We had our huge megachurches with concert-like worship spaces and pastors who often behaved more like CEOs than shepherds of souls. We had our radio stations, TV stations (and shows), musicians, and award shows. We had our own tee-shirts and gift store paraphernalia. We had youth ministries that looked like typical after school clubs but with superficial trappings of Christian faith.

In all these ways, we had a Christianity that served more as a brand identity within the broader realm filled with autonomous, self-made consumers building and refining their selves through commercial activity. We had different products, but the differences weren’t the point; the products were.

As long as we shopped and engaged in other sorts of commerce as the primary way of expressing our self-identity, the market was happy to indulge our difference. Thus religious identity for many Americans came to look more like a brand than fidelity to the Covenant Lord we meet in Scripture.

Now, Meador says, the new generation of evangelicals is continuing to subconsciously conform to today’s dominant culture, at the same time they are criticizing and even leaving the evangelical bubble in which they grew up.

Meador calls these young people, “the second generation of seeker-sensitive evangelicalism.” His charge? “Even when they try to stake out a more ostensibly counter-cultural position…they often end up mimicking more mainstream trends in rich, suburban America.” To help us visualize these trends, Meador links to an article that describes the sleek and clean “Apple ideology” that has come to characterize this world.

He compares videos that show the similar ethos between business conferences and progressive Christian conferences. He observes that TED Talks have become the standard and that evangelicals today riff off of that vibe in the same way that previous generations took cultural trends and “Christianized” them in order to appear “relevant.”

In other words, we boomers taught our children well.

By adopting the norms of the bourgeois, the attractional Christians of the 1970s were setting themselves and their children up to become good syncretists and utterly incapable of mounting any kind of serious prophetic critique of their culture.

How does Jake Meador suggest that we reform evangelicalism today?

First, he says, we must counter commercialized and individualized church. “We need to regain the idea of Christianity being an entire life system. Our faith does not simply serve as a set of therapeutic principles to help individual people feel better about themselves. It actually defines what reality is and holds us accountable to it.”

Second, he says we must go local. “What we must recover, then, is the idea of a domain in which we live that is not the global marketplace. We need to return again to the idea of smaller places that we work to build and improve through work characterized first and foremost by affection, intimate knowledge, and patience.”

These are good suggestions that need to be fleshed out. I especially like the way he ends his piece with an appeal to “the glory of the mundane.”

Talking about these very matters has always been and will continue to be a big part of our raison d’être here at Internet Monk. Thanks to Jake Meador for helping us remember the ongoing need for reformation in each generation.

Comments

  1. Adam Tauno Williams says:

    Mr. Meodor does hit it out of the park with this one [much like the Cubs last night].

    I feel this even well beyond Evangelicalism – an impoverished imagination. So of course people are depressed and feel abandoned, there can be no solution to anything, Any change in how things are done or how we live is received as inconceivable, as a challenge to our prosperity [which we are not confident in], and our way of life [which we are not happy with]. This exists in its most concentrated crystallized form in Evangelicalism – but reflects a much broader malaise as well.

    I believe that his two reforms are spot on – and extremely difficult.

    My only real criticism is: “the glory of the mundane.”. NO NO NO. That strikes me as something quintessentially Evangelical. The mundane need not be glorified, and don’t tell the data entry clerk that hers is a divine vocation. These things are what they are – and have the value they have – no Theologian (and his BS) required. That sounds to me like more TED Talk nonsense. This is the lack of imagination that we need to declare something AWESOME SAUCE in order for it to be VALUABLE. We don’t, it is, calm down.

    • The ordinariness of the mundane is what makes it valuable. Perhaps, though, it is the mundane that could help is revise and redefine glory, which is need of big change given its ongoing relationship to bigness and triumphalism.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says:

        > need of big change given its ongoing relationship to bigness and triumphalism

        I couldn’t agree more. The shrillness of even trying to be calm or normal is exhausting. Many people seem to have forgotten how to “chill”.

        Everything cannot be Glorious or Awesome – – – if they were than nothing is. It can sound like an addict stalking for his next high.

        I can sit on my perfectly ordinary front porch, on an ordinary autumn day, listening to the ordinary sounds that have been playing out here every day for a hundred years, and drink my ordinary latte. I enjoy it, that’s enough. It is beautiful, but nobody is going to put it on a postcard. There is not much reason for anyone else to care, I get that – shrug.

        You cannot talk about “go local” until you are comfortable with that.

        • Burro [Mule] says:

          I can sit on my perfectly ordinary front porch, on an ordinary autumn day, listening to the ordinary sounds that have been playing out here every day for a hundred years, and drink my ordinary latte. I enjoy it, that’s enough. It is beautiful, but nobody is going to put it on a postcard.

          But Norman Rockwell would have been glad to paint it. Why do I find Mr Rockwell, the iconographer of my Eagle Scout days, such a guilty pleasure when his spiritual descendant Thomas Kinkade fills me with loathing?

          • –> “Why do I find Mr Rockwell, the iconographer of my Eagle Scout days, such a guilty pleasure when his spiritual descendant Thomas Kinkade fills me with loathing?”

            I think Rockwell’s “Americana” art was based in reality, while Kinkade’s was based in more of a fake reality.

            • Good observation, Rick.

            • Ronald Avra says:

              I was going to tell my daughter that Kinkade’s work was something that had no basis in the real world and then I thought “How am I going to explain Mark Rothko to her?”

              • Dana Ames says:

                I’ve seen some of Kinkade’s early work, with subject matter the real world. It was actually quite good. Too bad he went the way he did; there must have been some kind of hurt behind it.

                Dana

                • I think the reason is simple, Dana – it sold, big-time. He got wealthy, which is rare for any illustrator or artist.

              • Ronald – well, colors *are* real, and Rothko was doing things with the juxtaposition of colors that are, imo, very deeply emotional and spiritual (as with the Rothko Chapel)).

                I think it can be hard to see what the Abstract Expressionists were after unless/until they are put in the context of other artistic developments of their era, like bebop and hard bop in jazz. And J. Pollock could look out his studio window and see all kinds of bushes and tress that actually form the basis of the colors, patterns and textures he used in works like “Autumn Rhythm.” The National Gallery (in D.C.) has a great online section with photos of his studio, backyard and further out on the property (iirc). It really helps to see those, and to see how his interpretation of abstract *natural* patterns ended up being created on canvas.

                I cannot claim to “understand” these guys’ work, but I especially love Rothko.

            • Rick – a very idealized reality, though. Kind of like Maxfield Parrish, without the overt fairy tale and Hollywoodish aspects.

          • Adam Tauno Williams says:

            I have similar comfort/discomfort with Rockwell. But Kinkade is awful.

        • Many people seem to have forgotten how to “chill”.

          Vote YES on cannabis in your state today!

          lol

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Everything cannot be Glorious or Awesome – – – if they were than nothing is. It can sound like an addict stalking for his next high.

          “Sound like”?

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      These things are what they are – and have the value they have – no Theologian (and his BS) required. That sounds to me like more TED Talk nonsense.

      MY favorite TED Talk:
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8S0FDjFBj8o

      • That’s hilarious!

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          He actually WAS saying something.
          He was demonstrating all the manipulation tactics used in oratory.
          When I posted this link at Wartburg Watch some months ago, a lot of replies were that it was just like a megachurch sermon. Every manipulation tactic, every shtick.

    • My only real criticism is: “the glory of the mundane.”. NO NO NO. That strikes me as something quintessentially Evangelical. The mundane need not be glorified, and don’t tell the data entry clerk that hers is a divine vocation. These things are what they are – and have the value they have – no Theologian (and his BS) required. That sounds to me like more TED Talk nonsense. This is the lack of imagination that we need to declare something AWESOME SAUCE in order for it to be VALUABLE. We don’t, it is, calm down.

      Ironically, I = think you are understanding “glory” in American evangelical terms. Perhaps it was the wrong word for the author to use, but I think I understand what he is trying to say, and it’s something far deeper than an unimaginative labeling of something as awesome.

      Rather, it’s a way of letting people know that who they are and what they do is valuable, sacred, loved. It is God’s presence with us that makes this possible. It doesn’t try to make things other than ordinary, but it puts Jesus with us in the ordinariness of life.

      A lot like the incarnation.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Rather, it’s a way of letting people know that who they are and what they do is valuable, sacred, loved. It is God’s presence with us that makes this possible. It doesn’t try to make things other than ordinary, but it puts Jesus with us in the ordinariness of life.

        i.e. The Little Way of St Thererse of Lisieux.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says:

        > think you are understanding “glory” in American evangelical terms

        Nope, I am confident I am defining glory in the Normal way. A job as a data entry clerk is not Glorious – I’ve never heard anyone describe such a thing that way.

        I’m talking about the word: glorious. If you don’t mean “glorious” [amazing, resplendent, ascendent, exceptional] then don’t say “glorious”. And logically, not everything can be exceptional, as then there is no mean to be excepted from.

        > It’s a way of letting people know that who they are and what they do is valuable, sacred, loved

        Okay, then why not say that? Rather than saying something that you then need to unpack because nobody Normal understands what you are saying – a very Evangelical thing to do. It is in the same vein as the defense of Evangelical by some construct of it’s greek derivation or what not – it isn’t what most people using the term means – then it isn’t what it means – MOVE ON! Enough with the linguistic narcissism.

        • Well, evangelicalism has never been very good at describing or ascribing mystery. So yes, it was probably not exactly the right word and I can’t answer for the writer. Just trying to give it the benefit of the doubt.

          At the same time, I remain unconvinced that glory is always as extroverted as you make it out to be.

  2. It’s an interesting critique, and valid in significant ways. I would not go along with it to the degree that it might say that the support of LGBT inclusion is merely an example of such cultural adaptation, but in general I think it’s valid.

    My question is: How are Christians concerned to undertake a reformation such as the one Meador outlines supposed to get sufficiently outside their own cultural conditioning to do it? Easy to say, very hard to do. One of the main characteristics of the modern world is that it’s all-pervasive and encompassing, it’s total. It leaves no places to retreat to where one would first need to find the perspective to set in place the groundwork for such an intentional reformation. More specifics are needed, but I don’t think they will be forthcoming.

    • I mean, what you would expect from a bunch of people who have been formed by modern culture is that, when they set out upon such a project of Reformation, they will end up with even more different versions of how it should look than the European Reformers did. Sufficient unanimity would be highly unlikely.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > Easy to say, very hard to do.

      Yep. That is my own critique of the whole Benedict Option. Sounds good on paper – VERY hard to materialize.

      > More specifics are needed, but I don’t think they will be forthcoming.

      Yes.

      > the modern world is that it’s all-pervasive and encompassing

      Hrmm. I think enclaving in the modern world is possible. I have turned off all Radio and Television news . . . and – WOW! – the world transforms immensely. And I do not feel deprived of anything; actually I feel more informed. But it does depend on what you mean by “enclaving”.

      The hardest part IMO, is the basic material issues: is there a pastor who really has the juevos to say people will be better off without the second car, McMansion, etc… and that pursuing those things IS a substantive choice of autonomy over community? Yeah… I doubt it. But if you are truly interested in community and localism you MUST go to economic issues. I am very convinced much of the Pelvic Obsession seen in Evangelicalism is driven not by moral urgency but by cowardice; they serve as a distraction from economic issues the leaders don’t have the guts to go anywhere near. Pelvic issues are safe.

      Any degree of untethered requires a corresponding degree of autonomy. Autonomy can be measured economically – very few americans have any. And most continue to dig that hole.

      • “I am very convinced much of the Pelvic Obsession seen in Evangelicalism is driven not by moral urgency but by cowardice; they serve as a distraction from economic issues the leaders don’t have the guts to go anywhere near.”

        In the words of Jackson Browne:

        Well we guard our world with locks and guns
        And we guard our fine possessions
        And once a year when Christmas comes
        We give to our relations
        And perhaps we give a little to the poor
        If the generosity should seize us
        But if any one of us should interfere
        In the business of why there are poor
        They get the same as the rebel Jesus”

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tr1d0ivyTTk

      • By the way, “The Pelvic Obsession” would make a great name for a band!

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          As would (from Slacktivist’s Left Behind comment threads) “Fetuses of the Damned” and “Steaming Piles of Fresh Produce”.

          • Drenched in butter? (The produce, not the fetuses)

            I can’t remember the reference, but there was a self-inflicted parody by a fundy somewhere…

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Easy to say, very hard to do.

      “What’s the App for that?”

    • “One of the main characteristics of the modern world is that it’s all-pervasive and encompassing, it’s total.”

      Yes. With the advent of 24/7 news and the technology that supports it, we know more about what is happening in D.C. or other far-flung locales than we do in our own hometowns. We (and I mean the generic “we”) are more invested in the national election than we are in who is on our local school board or city council.

      In a similar manner, it’s easier to give to Compassion or World Vision than it is to go serve in our church’s soup kitchen (if we even have one).

      I, for one, am really trying to make an effort to become more involved in my local community, starting with my next-door neighbors. It’s not easy–I’m really kind of a private person and like my walls and fences but I’ve come to the conclusion that is not what Jesus would have me do.

      “I think enclaving in the modern world is possible. I have turned off all Radio and Television news . . . and – WOW! – the world transforms immensely.”

      I really need to try this.

      • Your comment really strikes a chord with me Scott. It’s something that I wrestle with. I agree that the bible seems to indicate that I’m not supposed to hide behind my walls and fences and only engage with my ‘neighbours’ at a comfortable distance. But why then are so many of us created with a psychology that finds this so gruelling? I’m good with my close friends and family, I can relate well with people in my professional guise, I can hold a conversation, show compassion and present myself as friendly and open. I’m told that people feel comfortable with me. But in reality I’m much more comfortable in hiding. Over-exposure to my neighbours makes me ache with tiredness. That is part of why I find it hard to be part of a church. That is part of why this website is such a gift to me. I’ve been through phases where I’ve prayed to be changed to be bolder and more extrovert but then I’ve also been through phases where I’ve thought that I’ve been designed this way for a reason and that I should just find out how this is meant to play out for me, using the talents I have in other ways.

        Having submitted this comment I will, of course, find myself regretting having risked sharing anything of myself……

        ……..sigh…….

        • “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” by Susan Cain. Please, please read this book!

          • +100

            Great book. The church, like our culture, is heavily slanted in favor of personalities on the extrovert side of the spectrum — to its detriment.

        • Adam Tauno Williams says:

          “””But why then are so many of us created with a psychology that finds this so gruelling? “””

          Are we? I don’t believe this is true; speaking as a reformed/recovered introvert. This is conditioning. A hostile disconnected society creates introverts.

          • Adam, I don’t think that’s true. Introverts can learn to be socially extraverted (I understand that, as I’m one of them), but nobody can change their base personality. It’s so tied up with biology…

        • That Other Jean says:

          Being a introvert myself, I get it. I go and do things in and for my community, but it is exhausting. I’m one of those people who is absolutely drained by spending time with other people. One on one, I’m fine; just keep me away from crowds and noise, or I’ll need a day to sleep it off. I need to read Susan Cain’s book.

    • I would not go along with it to the degree that it might say that the support of LGBT inclusion is merely an example of such cultural adaptation,

      Yeah, that’s such a tired canard. You are only doing something because it’s culture/cool/hip to do so.

      Um. So we can’t be convicted that being homophobic, racist, sexist, insert whatever is bad through the Holy Spirit or conscience?

      Nope! You can only be a lover of the world, and thus an enemy of Christ.

      https://twitter.com/MattWalshBlog/status/791746125028069377

      • Adam Tauno Williams says:

        I agree. It is a problem with all Natural Law arguments IMO – the current [or previous] condition is Natural but change is suspect – always the hunt for an ulterior motive. Just say “I disagree” and get on with the rest of your argument; if the logic or data or scripture is with you… then you need not bother with the other party, state *your* case.

  3. Burro [Mule] says:

    Where is Ben when you need him?

    CM promotes localism and wow! he is an insightful clear-thinking dude.
    Mule promotes localism and he’s an atavistic tribal brute, little better than a Visigoth.

    Our “neighborhoods” now are not organic. We have few connections to our neighbors because we actually do have few connections with our neighbors. Our neighborhoods, like our livelihoods are accidents of Empire.

    But wisdom is justified of her children.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > little better than a Visigoth.

      The Visigoths broke the mighty roman empire. 🙂 Perhaps it is a compliment.

      > Our neighborhoods, like our livelihoods are accidents of Empire.

      I disagree – our neighborhoods are not accidents – they were designed – primarily to minimize connectivity.

      Our built form is the truest expression of our true values. Which is sad. Public Policy drove the creation of the different built-form editions of America. America [or the white wealthy part anyway] is the cul-de-sac. That this is where you will find the strongest roots of Evangelicalism is what makes me the most skeptical that this Benedict Option talk will materialize into anything. Those people are in those places by choice – a values choice; and now “localism”… hrmm. We’ll see.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        I disagree – our neighborhoods are not accidents – they were designed – primarily to minimize connectivity.

        Except through 24/7/365 Smartphone Screens.

        • Adam Tauno Williams says:

          > Except through 24/7/365 Smartphone Screens.

          I know you are probably kidding – but the smart-device is the anti-thesis of connectivity in the context of localism.

      • Burro [Mule] says:

        Actually, I used “accidents” in the Aristotelian sense, so we are not disagreed.

        The scariest thing for me is the reduction of all human relationships to relationships mediated by the State or the Market, which are increasingly the same entity. I could be more like Finn if I had more faith in the efficacy of Faith rather than DNA to serve as a clearinghouse for our transactions, but I don’t, yet.

        That is to say, I am skeptical about the values of ‘Diversity’. I lived in Balkanized Dade County for a decade, and my experience of ethnic togetherness is colored thereby. However, when Hurricane Andrew barrelled through, people pulled together. I wonder why it takes a catastrophe to bring that side of people out.

        • Adam Tauno Williams says:

          > Actually, I used “accidents” in the Aristotelian sense, so we are not
          > disagreed. …. I could be more like Finn if I had more faith in the
          > efficacy of Faith rather than DNA

          I am not sure we disagree on the DNA part either; and the skeptism about the power of “Faith”. Faith does seem most powerful when coupled with Fear.

          > I lived in Balkanized Dade County for a decade,

          Neither do we disagree that some places are poisoned. Many places need yet more failure before they can begin to turn around; if they ever do. But that is not everywhere.

          I’ve experienced this bulkanization. One neighborhood over – in a place named Northeast Citizens Action alliance [just look at that name!] – neighborhod gatherings have the tone on a clan rally. The audience actually **hissed** [seriously!] at the mention that a proposed development *could* *someday* *possibly* be converted to Affordable Housing. And I’ve been at meetings where someone objected to the city renovating a delapidated park because “everyone knows the darkies and the spicks can’t play together”.

          One the other hand, after hearing religious people like Skye Jethani talk about their perception of a real desire for community, after reading sociologist talk about decline of social capital and the need to restore neighborhoods, after hearing Urbanists [and real estate developers] talk about the intense demand for Neighborhoods … I tried an experiment. Is all this desire real? Or is it talky talk. I spent a little bit of effort, with the help of NextDoor, to ‘organize’ my neighborhood. Our Neighborhood Association has long since been moribund – the vitality withered by white flight and then the economic gut punch of the 1980s. … Now in not all that much time there are 176 households signed up and we meet for pizza and beer about once a quarter, people borrow tools, find lost dogs/cats, … the nitty gritty bits of materialized localism. Does that have a greater follow on to quality-of-life, school performance, etc.. The data would strongly suggest it does. And it is a lot more fun, can save one real money, so what is the downside?

          > However, when Hurricane Andrew barrelled through, people pulled together.
          > I wonder why it takes a catastrophe to bring that side of people out.

          Because crisis is a Social Capital amplifier; and it burns out, like any bit of magick. Is there any doubt that a place with a high degree of connectivity [lots of social capital] can recover from a crisis more effectively – they have more to amplify.

          Crisis can also amplify distrust [negative social capital].

      • The suburbs were designed for the automobile, which has had a massive effect on design, planning, and many other aspects of our culture. I recommend reading Asphalt Nation by Jane Holtz Kay for an interesting study of this.

        • John – +1.

          There’s a great essay by the late jazz critic Gene Lees, titled “Pavilion in the Rain,” about the relatively fast death of public transit post-WWII, and especially post-Korean War, and how it affected communities and cultural developments in small towns. Case in point: my hometown (near where I now live), which used to have trolleys, bus service to far-flung spots in the county (which is almost entirely rural) 9 east and 9 west-bound passenger trains per day, etc. All gone now.

      • The suburbs were designed for the automobile, which has had a massive effect on design, planning, and many other aspects of our culture. I recommend reading Asphalt Nation by Jane Holtz Kay for an interesting study of this.

    • ‘Ben’ – is that me, or a different one?

      (I’m the guy that comments on occasion, often with reference to Rob Bell)

  4. Hmmm, so this Wendall Berry wannabe thinks Jen should stay home with her kids more. Got it. Great critique (sarcasm).

    • Wow. One of the most insightful comments ever. Great critique!

      • I read the original article that is linked, and it’s a mess, IMHO. CM focused on the better bits.

        However, don’t you think it’s odd that a man in Nebraska is using a famous woman in Texas to tells us all to be more local and mundane. Maybe he should take his own advice.

        • My apologies, Ezk! I thought you were referring to CM as the Wendell Berry wannabe, and your comment further puzzled me because I certainly didn’t read any reference in CM’s post that suggested Hatmaker go back to taking care of the kids at home.

      • Yep, I read the original article, and this is one of Meador’s points. CM picked up on the better bits, but it still a weak critique from Meador..

        Someone form Nebraska using a famous person from Texas to tell us to be more local and mundane…the irony is killing me.

  5. Richard Hershberger says:

    What I find interesting about the Meador piece is the relationship between racial and LGBT issues. He seems to think that there is none.. From over here, I see them as the same issue: different manifestations of the same underlying principle.

    The issue in both cases is discrimination on the basis of what you are, as contrasted with what you do. I might, for example, loath Cubs fans[1]. This is problematic, but qualitatively different from loathing African-Americans. Those fans are fans by choice. They might come to see the light and start rooting for the Phillies[2]. Those African-Americans don’t have the option of deciding one day that they are now of northern European ancestry. [3]

    For many years LGBT persons were treated more like Cubs fans than like African-Americans. A gay person was thought to be gay by choice, and could chose to be straight. Gay conversion therapy might be required, conceiving of gayness as a disease to be cured. This was no improvement. Either way, someone who persistently and perversely chose the “gay lifestyle” was fair game. You could despise him just like you can despise Cubs fans [4] without sacrificing your “decent human being” credentials.

    What changed was the broad recognition that the “gay by choice” model is a poor description of reality. It only worked so long as most people didn’t know any gay people[5]. It is a lot harder to hold onto this model when you have LGBT friends or family who you know aren’t simply adopting the “gay lifestyle” for that sweet, sweet San Francisco bathhouse experience.

    Once we move from LGBT being what you choose to do to understanding that LGBT is what you are. then the game is up. Despising gays is no longer like despising Cubs fans, but like despising blacks. Notice how pointing out that gay conversion therapy doesn’t work correlates strongly with accepting LGBT persons as full members of society, with all the privileges and responsibilities appurtenant thereto. When we speak of LGBT rights as a Civil Rights issue, we aren’t making a mushy analogy in fuzzy hope of co-opting some of that Martin Luther King, Jr. cred. We are pointing out that LGBT rights and the 1960s Civil Rights movement are based on the same principle.

    Returning to Meador, any analysis of the LGBT discussion that treats it as if it were unrelated to the Civil Rights discussion of the past is doomed to incoherence. We can start with his critique of Hatmaker as following the lead of the general culture on LGBT issues, while glossing over the unpleasant reality that Evangelicalism was [7] hardly in the forefront of the Civil Rights discussion.

    [1] I don’t, actually. Yankess fans, on the other hand…

    [2] The Orioles are an acceptable alternative, if you prefer the American League.

    [3] Of course a very large fraction of African-Americans actually are of northern European ancestry as well. Why that doesn’t count is a fascinating and worthwhile discussion, but for another day.

    [4] Not that you should. Many Cubs fans are lovely people, and have the potential to, with just a little work, become productive members of society.[6]

    [5] Or, more accurately, didn’t know that they knew any.

    [6] Dallas Cowboys fans, on the other hand… Don’t even get me started!

    [7] and is

    • Burro [Mule] says:

      Being gay isn’t really isn’t like either being black or being a Cubs fan. It’s more nuanced than that. The co-option of the imputed righteousness of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr for what has been referred to here as “pelvic obsession” is thus rendered less exact than most would wish.

      The guy who lives two doors down from me is not noticeably gay when he’s cutting his lawn, weeding his garden, or playing with his daughter. I saw an interesting TV scene where a man was mourning the passing of his lifelong partner in a hospital. People used it to comment on their solidarity with the cause of “marriage equality” or some other horsesh*t. He looked up plaintively and asked them with tears in his eyes “Can I just not be gay right now?’ That’s pretty close to what I want to say, but not in the bulls-eye.

      But this is not a swamp that I want to drain right now. It is probably not a swamp that can be drained at the present time.

      • Burro [Mule] says:

        moderated again

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        People used it to comment on their solidarity with the cause of “marriage equality” or some other horsesh*t. He looked up plaintively and asked them with tears in his eyes “Can I just not be gay right now?’

        That is not Gay(TM), that is not Straight(TM), that’s not a Social Justice Cause(TM), that’s someone who’s HURTING.

        Like Matthew Shephard, the kid who got lynched for being gay many years ago and subsequently became a Martyr for The Cause (with a much more solid provenance than Comrade Ogilvy).

        I figure Matt Shephard would much rather still be alive and living his life than becoming a Rally Banner and Martyr for The Cause.

    • +11111111111111

    • Love your footnotes. And I appreciate the very logical and rational layout of your post.

      However, there are several points you propose that I don’t think you have properly supported.

      I know several LGBTs, and they don’t appear to me to be well adjusted (my euphemism for happy, at peace, emotionally stable). This is claimed to be because society is mean to them. If only society would change, then they could be happy. If only they had a sex-change operation, they could be happy. But many folks who have gone to COURAGE have said that getting healed from their abuses (as in childhood sexual) have given them peace and stability and they celebrate leaving the LGBT community.

      The other aspect is the long-term affect on the community. Raising children without their own mother or father, without both a male and female parent, are not optimal ways in which to raise children. Current PC literature would have you believe otherwise, but more children are getting the word out based on their experiences. Just like post abortion mothers are sharing their stories of physical, emotional, and spiritual wounds that remain for decades, if they survive that long.

      Thank you for allowing me a glimpse into evangelical life, I had no understanding of how the current culture had influenced their thinking.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says:

        >I know several LGBTs, and they don’t appear to me to be well adjusted

        Ok. But I know a whole lot of maladjusted heterosexuals. So?

        >Raising children without their own mother or father, … are not optimal ways in which to raise children

        I agree – 110%.

        On the other hand, this non-optimal form of raising children, is the historical norm. The ‘aberant’ familial form is almost certainly the majority of the people walking the Earth today. Many of which are amazing.

        Optimal is great, but then there is the reality of the choices available and the circumstances encountered.

        • I know a ton of well-adjusted heteros, but still searching for a well adjusted homo.

          “On the other hand, this non-optimal form of raising children, is the historical norm. The ‘aberant’ familial form is almost certainly the majority of the people walking the Earth today. Many of which are amazing.”

          And many more are dead with a needle in their arm. We have to love people into seeing the importance of a committed marriage and that children need the stability of that committed marriage.

          • Richard Hershberger says:

            “still searching for a well adjusted homo”

            They aren’t that hard to find. I know quite a few. The hallmark frequently is that they are in stable committed relationships, especially once they are a little bit older and past the sowing-wild-oats stage–just like straight people, come to think of it.

            • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

              More like “they’re not going to be making a big splash.”

              And the Loud Crazies (with or without axes to grind) have a way of defining the public face of any movement.

      • –> “I know several LGBTs, and they don’t appear to me to be well adjusted (my euphemism for happy, at peace, emotionally stable).”

        Good point. And more reason to offer concern, support, grace, mercy and kindness to them, rather than picking up the stone to throw at them. It’s like I wrote a few days ago on FB, most transgender people aren’t transgender because they like it. They’re going some major stuff, especially if they begin the process of transitioning. So show love and concern, and lay down the stones.

        • By all means, show love and concern, but they are deeply troubled souls looking for help in all the wrong places. You see someone cutting themselves, do you try to help, or just let them continue because it’s what they want?

      • SottoVoce says:

        “I know several LGBTs, and they don’t appear to me to be well adjusted (my euphemism for happy, at peace, emotionally stable). This is claimed to be because society is mean to them. If only society would change, then they could be happy.”

        You know, it’s really surprising what living under constant threat of being assaulted, slandered, disowned, bullied, abused, and/or murdered (possibly by your own family members) will do to a person’s emotional stability. It turns out that it makes it really hard to be happy and at peace. Who would have thought?

        • Just like me and Christianity, if I’m honest.

          • You were in some of the worst stuff. Others here (like myself) got caught up in slightly less evil, slightly less extreme, cult-like “Christian” environments. I’m still recovering from that, but the bad stuff is not my only experience of xtianity. Still, when I read about abusive environments, all the internal fire alarms go off.

            I’ve had to try and accept that I’ll never recover fully in this lifetime. Which is actually less stressful than it sounds, but it’s not an easy thing to grasp, let alone truly accept.

    • Richard – well said!

  6. I know this is completely off-topic but…

    I am so excited for Game 7 tonight and I don’t even have a dog in this fight. I would imagine you’re on pins and needles, Mike. Congratulations and good luck!

  7. If a sample of the memoirs we’ve written is any proof, there are far more young evangelical and post-evangelical Christians who grew up burdened by a kind of white suburban civil religion with Christian elements to it.

    Sigh. I’ll finish reading the article, but that right there…is that gaslighting? “It wasn’t “really” Christianity these people left, it was something else!” No, it was really, truly Christianity.

    • Burro [Mule] says:

      “We are all boutique religionists today” – my former deacon.

      There is a sense in which only Jesus practiced a religion that was not a culturally bound civil religion with Christian elements.

      Suburban white people – I complain about them as much as anyone else on this board, but they are well-behaved and probably preferable to what will inevitably replace them.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      I read this as a Classic Meodor Trope – a construct carefully placed to defend the continued ownership of the term “Evangelical”.

      He could, more honestly IMNSHO, have said “Evangelicalism is a degenerate form of Christianity, thoroughly corrupted by a white suburban civil religion” That is, after all, what he IS saying. But he wants to keep “Evangelical”. It gets tiring.

  8. So anybody but me get the impression that all this reform jargon simply masks a desire to be able to keep being bigoted against gays and lesbians?

    “Then it came burning hot into my mind, that, whatever he said, and however he flattered, when he got me home to his house he would sell me for a slave.” – Paul Bunyan

    • I didn’t get that impression. I have a very different perspective from the author of this piece, but I think he was genuinely trying to work his way to figuring out why younger members of his tradition think and act the way they do. I also think genuine bigots are pretty rare – I’m highly involved in a conservative christian tradition and go to the kinds of meetings that very churchy members of that tradition show up at, and it seems to be about 5% on average.

      Blind spots or semi-unconcious mild prejudice seems to be far, far more common than unremitting bigotry in my experience. The sense I got from the article was a “blind spot” sense, and I’d guess the author is truly searching to understand.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      I read almost all of his posts. In a dark mood I can read Mr. Meodor that way. But I am inclined, when not seized by a dark spirit, to be much more charitable than that. I am confident his intentions are noble.

  9. I am so glad that I don’t read Christian blogs very much, THIS one included. You CANNOT reform evangelicalism because it is an outgrowth of human nature which cannot be changed, only modified on an individual basis.

    I attend a small church, belong to my HOA board, and work in a service type job for a small company. My individual goal is to model Christ in all situations and that is a task that consumes ALL of my time and energies. I don’t have the desire to reform large organizations or to try to change any sub-culture.

    Why bang away at the bogeyman of evangelicalism when it is the individuals IN those large organizations that need to change? People are getting what they want from these groups and churches. Sure, it may make us FEEL better because we don’t “fit in” with the cultural character of these organizations, but rather than bang away let’s try to promote individual change instead.

    Jesus stated that HE will build HIS church and, I dare say, that original Christianity never survived the first or second century before morphing into “something else”. In fact, with every societal shift the perceived church changed in subtle ways so that over the centuries we have something that I doubt the early Christians would even recognize, save Communion and Baptism.

    I guess I’m just in an intolerant mood this morning…

  10. Evangelicalism, in essence, represented suburban U.S. culture as much or more than it did historic Christianity.

    Is this really much of a surprise? Hasn’t Christianity or various strands of it always reflected the subculture it’s a part of? The Apostles were an apocalyptic group under foreign rule, the early 300s were a ruling class of a nation state, the medieval church reflected the nobility/peasantry divide, the Puritans et al reflected another small apocalyptic group under persecution, the black church in the south in America reflected their origins and persecution, and the suburban church reflected their money and prestige and isolationism…etc etc.

    I saw a headline this morning that said the Catholic church was donating close to $1m to protest the legalization of cannabis. Immediately my mind started thinking up rebuttals, appeals to scripture, appeals to authority…when I quickly realized that there can be no appeal to authority, because for centuries, the Pope has de facto claimed ultimate authority on earth…much like a King or person of royal birth/nobility would do. At which point, there’s no point in arguing. The ability for each person to reason and argue and decide for themselves is a modern, Protestant invention…it is not rooted in the old world like the Catholic Church is.

    So really…this is all nothing new. All you can do is recognize where you are, which way you lean, and whether you choose to play the game or not.

    • What is Christianity? It is all of these, and it is none of these. It is a blank slated centered around a person and a series of writings that anyone can paint their world on to. Christianity is nothing, and it is everything. There is no such thing as a “True” Christianity, there is no such thing as a “False” Christianity.

      There just is.

      • Burro [Mule] says:

        It often presents itself to me as an intellectual puzzle if there is anybody on the planet who is out of communion with the See of Canterbury.

        • When the Archbishop of Canterbury said he didn’t believe in the Resurrection and I realized he was basically a political appointee, I left.

          • Which Archbishop of Canterbury was that? The present one, and the last two, most certainly do and have believed in the Resurrection. Could you tell us the name of the one you are referring to?

            • I don’t remember his name, I believe it was in the 70’s.

              • I believe you are referring to Archbishop Carey, who around the turn of the millennium wrote that it’s easier to believe the life and death of Jesus occurred, on historical grounds, than to believe his resurrection did, which requires faith not required to believe in his historical life and death. At no time did he deny that he believed in the resurrection of Jesus; in fact, his faith in Jesus was of a distinctly evangelical flavor, and he held to all the basic doctrines of faith.

                But the media had a field day with taking his comment out of context, which gave rise to this completely false story that you repeated. So you left the Anglican Communion under a misconception and because of a false report: no Archbishop of Canterbury has ever denied the reality of the resurrection of Jesus, and none has ever denied believing in the resurrection of Jesus.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > Is this really much of a surprise?

      No. EVERYBODY other than Evangelicals knows this. But one of *them* saying it is unusual.

      > All you can do is recognize where you are..

      Mr. Meodor’s posts [with which I disagree regularly – but find interesting] is the process of doing exactly that.

    • Sometimes to understand something, you have to look deeper than media sound bites. The pope is not free to depart from centuries of Catholic thought and teachings, the magisterium. He is considered infallible in very rare, well-defined pronouncements. Cultural departures may occur, but are usually reconciled in a generation or two.

    • The current Pope, a much beloved man who is rightly lauded for his compassion and open-mindedness, this past week said that it’s highly unlikely that women will ever be allowed to be priests in the Roman Catholic Church. If this most tolerant of all Pope’s believes this, if he does not consider it a practicable goal to be worked towards, does anybody really believe it will happen?

      For my part, my conscience and my faith constrains me to stay in the world of Protestant churches that allow women full inclusion in all leadership roles.

      That’s where I am, that’s the way I lean, and the only game I’m willing to play.

      • The Catholic Church recognizes that there is a difference between men and women, but they are equal in importance and dignity. Men will never have babies. Not all the new age, PC hand-wringing will change that. The church recognizes that women have a very important role in the church and encourages them to come to the table and participate. They feel that Jesus made it very clear that the priesthood is not for women. I chaffed a bit at this until I heard of Mother Angelica. She was way more influential than any priest! She followed the will of God, not her own. Important women throughout church history have been recognized and honored, such as St Teresa of Avila. Many women are active in parish churches all the way up to Rome in a variety of capacities, just not as priests.

  11. To understand part of what is going on in Evangelicalism think of this: I attend church on a regular basis, read this blog regulary (bonus points!) but I have no clue who this Jen Hatmaker is so I’m hard pressed to care what she thinks. I can only imagine the reaction of those outside the church when they hear of church people getting their shorts in a knot about her statements.
    Christians are to be in the world but not of it. Increasingly, though, we (they?) are trying to make our own little world far, far away from the evils of the real world with our own speakers, writers, movies, etc. Problem is, the real world creeps in, no matter how many times you slap the name “Christian” on something and then chaos ensues.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > so I’m hard pressed to care what she thinks.

      I know who she is, and I’m not really concerned. You’re fine.

      > I can only imagine the reaction of those outside the church when they hear
      > of church people getting their shorts

      Fortunately it is unlikely they will. This all occurs in a small, and shrinking, pocket universe; which isn’t a bad thing, there are innumerable pocket universes on the Internet.

      > Christians are to be in the world but not of it. …

      Which is what Mr. Meodor is struggling through. That is the entire Benedict Option debate – how to be separate from the world without being separate from the world.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Christians are to be in the world but not of it. Increasingly, though, we (they?) are trying to make our own little world far, far away from the evils of the real world with our own speakers, writers, movies, etc.
      This is called “Of the World but not in it.”

      Or “Just like fill-in-the-blank, Except CHRISTIAN(TM)!”

      In the words of the prophet Steve Taylor:
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UplOF-GtoS8

  12. “Christians are to be in the world but not of it.”

    This verse has caused so much mischief. We are of the world. We were born into it, we live in it and we will die in it and we do so among others, believers and non-believers alike, who will do the same. Christians have taken this verse as permission to separate themselves from “the unclean” because we are “holy”–after all, that is what “holy” means, right? But that would totally discount the Incarnation, in which our “holy” God did not consider himself above entering into this whole, broken, “unclean” mess of a world.

    Instead, what is meant by being “not of the world” is we do not embrace the “world’s” means of living among each other, i.e., Christians turn the other cheek, pray for our enemies, we do not revile when we have been reviled, we keep no record of wrongs, we forgive, etc. etc. In short, we love as Christ loves. In fact, that is how we are to be known–by the way we love one another and by the way we love others. These types of behaviors are so different from the values of “the world”. Instead, we are known for so many other things (see the twitter link Stuart posted above).

    We have reduced not “being of the world” down to not “drinking, smoking or chewing or going with girls who do.”

    • Darn. Didn’t close italics. Again.

    • Yes, Scott. Not being of the world in so many circles means seeing every new Christian (TM) movie that comes out, making your excercise routine into God’s will (how can we model Christ if we feel lousy because we don’t have healthy bodies & good eating habits?), and listening only to Christian(TM) music. We’ve gotten so deep into our caves that the rest of the world only knows we exist at election time or when a couple of gays try to get married.

    • Fundamentalists and Evangelicals are people who aren’t in the world and are not of the world. They fail on both accounts, yet alone understand what that passage truly means.

      At this point, if you want to live like Christ and follow him, you will make an enemy out of The Church and become a friend of the world.

      But that’s nothing new.

      An aside, just a quick thought. There are the 10 commandments, a list of dos and donts. Thou shalts, thou shalt nots. We’ve made a test out of the negative of both. Thou shalt remember the Sabbath…ok, if you didn’t go to church, you aren’t a believer. Thou shalt not bear false witness. Have you ever lied? According to our absurdist absolutist literalist legalistic reading, you are de facto a liar. Strike two, care to go for strike three?

  13. Of course we sin, then repent, are forgiven, and try to sin no more. That’s what Jesus taught.

  14. Or, he could just let it die.

  15. How are we going to be local if everything is connected to every other thing through machines, internet, and media? Going local was natural outcome of the way of life decades ago. Now in context of pervasive networks and machines that connect us (I’m talking about virtual connection as a fact not as something as deeper, heart-felt bonds) the very attempt to go local will have different color or sense to it because social climate is different.

    • I agree with this. It’s a “new local” with a variety of different characteristics than, say, the small Midwest towns I grew up in. The key is having local conversations, supporting and enhancing local communities, and participating in local good works while guarding against an insular spirit, a parochial mindset, and an insistence on uniformity.