The Contemporized Christian by Dr. D. Gordon

Thesis

In today’s political and secular climate, it is an extremely difficult task to defend biblical text worldwide when the churches are kneeling to the louder voice.

Introduction

We live in a society enthralled by expressive individualism that has caused a great divide in the American people and politics, domestic and abroad. The divide has produced extreme hate, and non-existent moral compasses’ as a portion of the population is willing their individuality to life threatening and dangerous levels. These new behaviors are ego driven for attention, no matter what the cost, as anyone can put their views on the Internet, create a video, and garnish a large audience. The more extreme the notion, the more attention is congregated. This has been shown in those wanting abortion rights after the child is born at full term, same sex marriages, destruction of historical monuments, shootings inside churches, levels of homelessness that has never been so apparent, and much more. This type of behavior is not selectively geared to the everyday person, these extreme behaviors have spilled over to elected officials, people who are leaders, mentors, clergy, and lawmakers. Although the behaviors are considered extreme, the behaviors can be used virtuously as well as depraved. “But every one of us experiences a world of complexity, and we all try to piece our lives together in a way that gives them coherence and meaning. This is part of what it means to be human.”[1]

However, when coherence and meaning of today’s negative and unbiblical human behavior, crosses over and condoned by some churches, condoned by the Pope, and condoned by our leaders who try and hide under the veil of Christianity, how do we find coherence and meaning? The larger these egos grow, the further from Him they go.

The Un-biblical

We must ask ourselves, just what is an un-biblical person? Some would concede un-biblical simply refers to an unbeliever. The church community would widen the scope to include those that do not live their lives in a Godly fashion, live a Christian lifestyle or those that do not contribute to the body of Christ.

In the past, a church would shun the sinner, excommunicate the sinner, make the sinner feel uncomfortable in an environment, or simply just not welcome the sinner. Paul wrote in 1 Cor. 5:9-13 that it was required to not associate with those that are immoral, and he even pushes the relationship to include not eating a meal with such a person. Paul tells us to “Expel the wicked person from among you.” This has been the common practice. The sinner would proceed with their disinvolvement, maybe obtain counseling, change their ways, welcome God back into their lives and they would be welcomed back into the church. However, in this new ‘woke’[2] society, everyone is welcome, and it is very rare that anyone is shunned or excommunicated.

Responding to Accommodate the Un-biblical

Two thousand years later, the church atmosphere has changed to accommodate those that at one time, would have been removed from the church. There are still some exceptions within various denominations, yet for the most part the churches are welcoming all or have made accommodations for those that do not fit into the traditional body of Christ.

One example we can look at are the Synods of the Lutheran Church. The American Lutheran Church, Lutheran Church in America and the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod are very traditional, conservative, against same sex marriage and view the LGBTQ community as un-biblical, yet the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America welcomes same sex marriage, and the LGBTQ community is written into their mission statement. The non-traditional members have their own church to attend, away from the traditional.

In 2013 the General Assembly of the Disciples of Christ issued resolution GA-1327 which was a major turning point for them as their mission statement changed to include the following: “to recognize itself as striving to become a people of grace and welcome to all God’s children though differing in race, gender, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, nationality, ethnicity, marital status, physical or mental ability, political stance or theological perspective” and “to affirm the faith, baptism and spiritual gifts of all Christians regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, and that neither is grounds for exclusion from fellowship or service within the church, but we celebrate that all are part of God’s good creation.”[3] Lee Hull Moses, and Eugene Bryant acknowledge, “Disciples’ attitudes are shaped far more by cultural factors than by theological or biblical conviction.”[4]

The Baptist are not far behind, as the Southern Baptist Convention, Independent Fundamental Baptist and the American Baptist still stay true to the Bible, and believe a marriage is comprised of one man and one woman, and that homosexuality is a sin. Yet, in 1993, the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists emerged catering to the LBGT community.

We must ask ourselves, should we disregard Gen. 2:24, Mat. 19:5, Eph. 5:31, which speaks to one man and one woman in which makes up a marriage. Lev.18:22, Rom 1:24-32, 1 Cor. 6:9, and 1 Tim. 1:10 all speak out against homosexuality. Malachi 2:15 is apparent in one man, one woman, as God is seeking Godly offspring. However, we are all sinners, Rom. 3:23, 1 John 1:8-10. Jesus told us not to judge others, Matt. 7:1-12, He tells us to love each other, 1 Cor. 16:14, 1 Cor. 13:1-6, 13.

Today the popular conversation is the term relevant. Paul was a big believer in relevant, as he was majorly responsible for the branching off of Judaism. Paul spoke to the Greco-Roman culture in a way they would respond, while he side-stepped the first five books of the Bible. Paul adapted his voice to reach the greatest number of people. 1 Cor. 9:19-23, demonstrates the behavior that Paul used while becoming relevant to the times. Lastly, Paul’s speaking at Mars Hill in Athens as he quoted Greek poets connected with the people, as it showed his relevancy to their culture, and obviously was successful, yet he never went against His word, and still was able to stay relevant. An old proverb states, “Where there is a will, there is a way.” It appears those that have given into to popular culture may have lost their will.

Politics, Loud Voices, Conservative Voices Silenced, and the Left loses Religion

“With the rise of the religious right came the much-discussed God gap between republicans and democrats. Each year, fewer and fewer Americans identify as secular Republicans or religious Democrats.” Campbell and Putnam ask the question: “Do people adjust their politics to fit their religion, or their religion to fit their politics.” Either way, with the exception of most African Americans, Democrats have walked away from the church, while Republicans have latched on to God with a firm grip. This rather new cultural phenomenon has in part been responsible for the great American divide we are now in the mist.  Robert Jeffress[5] a Dallas pastor stated the Democrats were finally admitting they are a “godless party.” Jeffress response was in regard to the announcement that the Democratic National Committee made stating that they “praise the values of the religiously unaffiliated.”[6]

Truth be told, a number of things formed this perfect storm, causing the great divide in modern America. Many of the same aspects have spilled over to other countries around the world, as they are dealing with the same divide on abortion rights, civil liberties, gun control, legalization of cannabis, homosexuality rights to include same sex marriage, religious rights, and freedoms, and so on. Hout and Fisher formed a viable hypothesis that they were able to back up with data, which after reading the data driven article, one could conclude one simple aspect, the divide comes down to spitefulness. If the Right is for one thing, the Left is going to go in the other direction, no matter the common sense or what is best for the people. When the Right grabbed hold of religion, the Left ported away from religion, despite having over seventy percent believing in God. Religion is only one topic, a major topic, that you can clearly see the split.

Illustrations That Set the Scene for Our Division

Shelby Balik’s article brings us back to our humble beginnings; the founding of the United States of America and how Christianity contributed to the triumphs, and some failings as a nation. Some of the arguments regarding ethical and moral questions in public life, including the religious arguments for and “against slavery, civil rights, marriage equality, and other important societal issues,” are also part of the great divide that modern America is dealing with as a nation. Although, these arguments that took place long ago, they are the same arguments that we have today in our governmental platforms.

James Aho documents in his book Far-Right Fantasy, how conservative lecturers are shouted down, heckled, and even threatened with deadly force while trying to exercise free speech, while trying to take the higher moral ground. “The quiet words of the wise are more to be heeded than the shouts of a ruler of fools,” (Ecc.9:17). “Poverty, racism, discrimination, religious intolerance, and imperialism are the most common reasons offered by those that hate America.” Aho points out the irrational thought process, as the people who claim these injustices, are the very ones that create the injustices.

One does not need to read a scholarly article in America to know about the great divide, as every being on American soil feels, hears, sees, and experiences this modern-day conundrum, day after day, without any solutions hanging in the balance. Yet, many are turning to the church for the answers, and not walking away satisfied, as most churches are taking a stand to keep politics and the church separate, yet religion is the hot topic in politics. Two examples, somewhat conflicting:

“Pope Francis said Trump’s anti-immigrant worldview made him “not a Christian.” Trump responded with a statement on Twitter predicting that the Islamic State group would attack the Vatican. He also called the Pope “disgraceful” for questioning his faith.  Nevertheless, his policies and judicial appointments have kept him popular with white evangelical voters — the group with the loudest voice in the national religion-and-politics debate, and the one that helped install Trump in the White House.”[7]

“There’s a saying: ‘Religion is always political but never partisan,’” said Nikira Hernandez-Evans, the pastor at Plymouth Church. Hernandez-Evans said she’s comfortable preaching about specific issues but isn’t planning on discussing 2020 politics with her congregants. As the pastor of a “progressive Christian congregation,” she added, “it is not ever my job to tell people what to believe.”[8]

How Some Churches are Responding Relevancy, as well as the Pope

Some churches and faith-based universities have responded by making an effort to develop tools to help with these relevancy issues and dividedness, nevertheless, the tools are only worth something if used. Most clergy are set in their ways, hence not being relevant, not keeping up with technology, ignoring what is going on outside of the church walls, and the result is causing a steep decline in membership. Baylor University created a Faith and Deliberation Guide[9] that helps the church, to help the congregants during this discourse of division. Adam Hamilton is setting an example to bridge the divide as he talks about social issues from the pulpit, in order to find common ground. His congregation is comprised of sixty percent Republicans and forty percent Democrats. He has been able to bring the gospel into each concern, although he did admit that after the 2016 election, it was a very challenging at times.[10] Pastor Lee Hull Moses talks about politics from the pulpit and realizes he cannot make everyone happy. He says, “it is a complicated current issue, but congregants want to talk.” Moses reminds everyone that “In times such as these, the preacher’s task is to remind the congregation that the basic tenets of our faith—grace and mercy, radical hospitality, love of neighbor—go beyond politics but have political implications.”[11]

Pope Francis warns bishops, auxiliary bishops, and retired bishops that Catholics need to be on guard against allowing the angry rhetoric that comes from a polarized society, especially in an election year, to seep into discussions about the life of the church.[12] One bishop described for the pope “how as a society, you know, we’re more and more divided, and people attack each other.”[13]

Bishop Silva, told the Catholic News Service, “We need to let Jesus out of the church so that he can touch people’s lives who wouldn’t be touched by the church.”[14]

The Catholic Church has programs for people of all ages, but only “if people come to us,” he said. “If they don’t come to us, then we have really nothing for them.” Catholics could be creative and think of nonchurch venues for catechetical events, he said.

We need to think about Silva’s statement, “nonchurch venues for catechetical events.” Therefore, if a catechetical event is held outside the church doors, that makes it more tolerable, or any more respectful and digestible for current church goers, as the sinners are be treated as lepers? Jesus did cleanse ten lepers, (Matt. 8:1-4, Mk. 1:40-45, Lk. 5:12-16, 17:11-19).

Almost sixty percent of church goers said they prefer to go to be in church with people who share their political views.[15]

Conclusion

If we could harness the energy of these egos, we may be able to see God’s glory at every turn, once again. Matthew 7:15 warns that false prophets come disguised as those of friends, yet inwardly they are ravenous wolves.


[1] Skeel, David. True Paradox: How Christianity Makes Sense of Our Complex World (Veritas Books) (p. 17). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.

[2] Urban Dictionary defines “woke” as being aware, and “knowing what’s going on in the community.” It also mentions its specific ties to racism and social injustice.

[3] https://disciples.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/GA1327-BecomingAPeopleOfGraceAndWelcomeToAll-Final.pdf

[4] LETTERS.” The Christian Century Sep 18 2013: 6. ProQuest. Web. 21 June 2020 .

[5] https://www.firstdallas.org/dr-jeffress/

[6] https://americanhumanist.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/Nones-Resolution-passed-by-DSC-2018.pdf

[7] Daniel Bush, Religious Liberals want to change what it means to be a Christian voter, PBS.org.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/06/how-one-pastor-is-bridging-the-partisan-divide/531822/

[11] Lee Hull Moses is the Senior Minister of First Christian Church in Greensboro, North Carolina. The Christain Century, September 24, 2018.

[12] https://www.americamagazine.org/politics-society/2020/01/27/pope-francis-us-bishops-talk-about-political-polarization-infecting

[13] https://www.americamagazine.org/politics-society/2020/01/27/pope-francis-us-bishops-talk-about-political-polarization-infecting

[14] referring to the LGBT community  

[15] LifeWay Research Bob Smietana is senior writer at Facts & Trends (factsandtrends.net) of LifeWay Christian Resources.

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