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Friday, July 29, 2016

The Church That Cries 'Wolf'

Writing for the British Christian website, Christian Today (click here for the website), Mark Woods (no bio) wrote an article on why we American evangelicals should not look at ourselves as victims as society's mores change (click here for the article). This is a needed message because, from what I have observed, many an evangelical leader, be they teachers or pastors, have opted for describing our future as containing certain persecution.  Portraying American evangelicals as the victims of future societal attacks has become a cottage industry for the benefit of certain teachers only. And the effect that such widespread teaching is rather predictable. The effect according to Woods is an ever tighter circling of the wagons. Another effect that was not noted by Woods is that such an expectation of persecution and suffering makes many listeners more compliant to certain teachers.

Woods documents that American evangelicals perceive a growing difficulty in living life as a Christian by citing a Pew Research survey. What has changed that gives evangelical Christians their belief? According to Woods, the Obergefell v. Hodge appears to be the straw that broke the camel's back and despite that, Obama added another straw with his bathroom bills. Much has been written in various Christian websites warning us that granting the LGBT community more freedom will result in us evangelicals being persecuted and marginalized. But here, Woods cautions the Church that because society has grown to exercise a greater tolerance for the LGBT community, we cannot afford to think of associating our troubles with changes that make persecuting the LGBT community more difficult.

Citing a book written by Andrew Brown and Linda Woodward on how the Church of England lost the people of England, Woods gives American evangelicals a warning. That warning says that churches that become congregational by being counter-cultural can lose touch with society by becoming more and more both antagonistic to society and inward. Yes, such churches might succeed in drawing like-minded people who like end times, us vs. them scenarios. But as they draw more and more such people, they sacrifice their ability to stay in touch with society. Woods sees this happening in America and tells American Christian conservatives that they need to better to determine which battles to fight with society and which ones should be avoided. To fail to learn how to appropriately choose its battles with society, the conservative Church will condemn itself to becoming more ineffective in reaching out and speaking to society. With that goes our ability to evangelize.

What Woods says is true. American Evangelicals are, to an extent, making themselves irrelevant to society as they act like a child who  picks up his own game and leaves for home because his friends are winning all of the time. Thus we are isolating ourselves from society and feeling justified in doing so. But Woods misses another perspective. That one is from the Left. That perspective says that the Church is just another institution of indoctrination that maintains the status quo for the benefit of the those with wealth and power. From this perspective, the American Evangelical Church would be succeeding in removing itself from society over issues like society's increasing acceptance of the LGBT community and same-sex marriage because these issues themselves allow the Church to believe it is preaching God's Word while it remains silent on the very important sins committed by those with wealth and power. This analysis pretty much fits the American Evangelical Church despite the fact that it blames society's elites for promoting changes in societal sexual mores. It fits because the most serious crimes of those with wealth and power lie not in the promotion of certain sexual mores, but in maintaining an economic system based on exploitation and an imperial foreign policy that serves their own financial interests at the expense of many lives.

Woods' comments are worthwhile in reading. He just needs to add more perspective to better speak against the legitimate concerns he has about the current direction of American evangelicals.
This current direction kills two birds with one stone. Those two birds consist of the Church feeling like it is fighting the good fight while fulfilling its mission of supporting the status quo for the benefit of those with wealth and power. Yes, what Woods says about American Conservative Christians is true, but he could have said more that would have supported his case that American Evangelicals are sabotaging their own chances and influencing society. 





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