Today’s New York Times has a story about a new movement among evangelical Christians known as the “emerging church.” Here’s the argument, which challenges the politicized evangelical establishment, as framed by Brian D. McLaren, a local minister who is active in the movement:
“More and more people are saying this has gone too far — the dominance of the evangelical identity by the religious right.” He continued: “You cannot say the word ‘Jesus’ in 2006 without having an awful lot of baggage going along with it. You can’t say the word ‘Christian,’ and you certainly can’t say the word ‘evangelical’ without it now raising connotations and a certain cringe factor in people. Because people think, ‘Oh no, what is going to come next is homosexual bashing, or pro-war rhetoric, or complaining about ‘activist judges.’ ”
Or, as another minister in Minnesota put it, “When the church wins the culture wars, it inevitably loses. …When it conquers the world, it becomes the world. When you put your trust in the sword, you lose the cross.”
Those who know me well understand why this story resonated with me — my feelings about this issue in particular have, in large part, contributed to some pretty significant changes in my spiritual life. And, as the story says, I’m not alone.
I know it’s not fair to paint all evangelicals with the same brush. I have extended family members who fall under the category of “evangelical” because of their strong faith in God and the belief in the power of His word as written in the Bible. But you know what? The fact that they are tolerant, loving people is overshadowed by the right-wing political/Conservative Christian establishment in this country. Every time someone uses their Christian faith to justify hate, discrimination, bigotry, intolerance or even war, they do people like Brian McLaren – and my own extended family members – a terrible disservice.