20 October 2005

Christians Gone Wild

Many thanks to Bob Ramsey's blog for two prime examples of unedifying Christianity from two very different corners of christendom:

1) Yet another Wildmon boycott, as summarized in "...and then they came for American Girl." I agree with Bob that "Campaigns like this don't make us look merciful or concerned with justice or give the impression that we even understand how society works." Is this another example of false heroism whose main audience is those who already agree with you? Is it really worth throwing yet more sand into the works of contemporary evangelism just to earn a few extra points with the "you do the thinking for the rest of us" crowd?

The more I observe the way celebrity Christians and their followers act in public, the more I agree with whatever Vineyard guy said (according to my very imperfect memory) that the anti-homosexual campaign is a satanic red herring. How can a sane and reflective (not to mention biblical) discussion about sexual ethics take place when the mudslingers are setting all the frames and doing nothing to earn the trust needed to build bridges of communication?

Maybe it's a generational thing. According to Postmission: World Mission by a Postmodern Generation, ed. by Richard Tiplady, attitudes toward sexual ethics among young evangelicals are sometimes startlingly different, in comparison to their supposed mentors. In fact, if no conversation actually takes place outside the rigid confines of Wildmon vs Spong, maybe we're in effect forcing the Millennials to start building sexual ethics from scratch, with nothing but the Holy Spirit and the Bible to go on. Hmmm, maybe that's not as bleak a prospect as I thought. Come to think of it, how did that Song of Songs stay in the Protestant canon??

2) Bob's Linkage X posting included an item he labeled "St. Mushroom Cloud." (Here's the AFP news item that started things off.) The Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church has named Admiral Fyodor Ushakov (1744-1817) the patron saint of the Russian strategic bomber fleet. I wish I knew more about Slim Pickens' spiritual life, because I have it in mind to nominate him for an equivalent status with the Strategic Air Command.

The whole thing reminded me of the demonstration that I participated in at the shipyard at Groton, Connecticut, against the U.S. Navy's decision to name a U.S. nuclear-armed warship the Corpus Christi. Apparently the Pentagon has no monopoly on spiritual bad taste.

In the Russian case, the Orthodox Church seems to be settling back comfortably into its self-perceived traditional role as spiritual cheerleaders for the state, an unholy enmeshment that has been a congenital temptation in Eastern Orthodox/host nation relationships. Some politicians are apparently eager to encourage this enmeshment, although V. Putin himself plays his religious-politics cards close to his chest. Rather than falling all over himself encouraging the Moscow Patriarchate in its drive to monopolize Christianity in Russia, he is building a whole series of domesticated religious associations and affiliations—Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, and Muslim—who see the good sense of supporting the state.

In the USA, Cal Thomas and Ed Dobson recorded the unimpressive policy payoffs and the spiritual risks of being "Blinded by Might" and kissing up to the Republican Party. The lesson was lost on Pat Robertson and James Dobson in the current Harriet Miers nomination battle—it's such a thrill to be entrusted by the White House with things that can't be revealed to us mere citizens, but once again the Christian celebrities' attempts to curry favor by puffing the party line are left in the lurch when that party line is abandoned in the face of widespread scorn. (Many Americans believe, apparently, that membership in a particular Dallas church does not compensate for lack of relevant credentials.)

In the meantime, New Orleans's own modest, imperfect, and endearing evangelist, Brennan Manning, burned out of his house and then flooded out of his city, presses on. His calendar reveals that again this year he plans to visit George Fox University. If possible, I plan to be there.

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