Thinking Out Loud

May 20, 2021

The SBC’s Old Guard | The GOP’s Old Guard

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 12:14 pm

Forgive the generalizations today.

Living one country removed from all the action means you form certain opinions and stereotypes without physically interacting with the people concerned. It also means that news and current events are distilled to their basic essence. True, we can tap into the legacy U.S. networks just by turning on the television, and we can find hours and hours of recent broadcasts by the U.S. cable networks just by doing a quick search on YouTube, but I think that if Americans really want to know what their country is up to, they should see how they’re covered by the BBC (U.K), CBC (Canada) or ABC (Australia).

These days, when I hear about Republicans, I immediately think of Mitch McConnell. If I found myself seated next to him on an airplane, I would not ask to change seats; I would ask to change planes. To view him on my screen casually, matter-of-factly proclaiming that black is white is usually more than either my brain or my spirit can tolerate.

Or the guy who said that the January 6th ransacking of the U.S. Capitol building was just some families out for a walk in the park. Okay, Andrew Cylde didn’t say those exact words, but it’s not much different:

“Watching the TV footage of those who entered the Capitol and walked through Statuary Hall, showed people in an orderly fashion staying between the stanchions and ropes taking videos and pictures. If you didn’t know the TV footage was a video from Jan. 6, you would actually think it was a normal tourist visit,”

But later a picture surfaced showing him and others frantically trying to barricade the doors so rioters couldn’t enter. That’s the trouble with a lie, sooner or later you get caught.

I also get my U.S. religious news one country removed. Sure, the blog you’re reading right now has a 75% American readership and with American spellings and the use of words like freeway instead of the more common Canadian highway, I’ve blended in to the point many readers assume I’m writing from Dayton, or Sacramento, or Springfield (not that one, the other one); I still have stereotypes and caricatures of what the Evangelical landscape looks like when having those after-service conversations in the lobby (again lobby not foyer) and lunch at Cracker Barrel.

And in those terms, my mental image of Republican leaders ends up eerily similar to my mental drawing of Southern Baptist (SBC) leaders. I’m not saying that they would stand up and tell you that January 6th was just a walk in the park but rather … okay … that’s exactly what I’m telling you.

Their unwavering support for a recent leader of the free world, in spite of overwhelming evidence of a character that would disqualify the man from ever being hired by one of their churches, shows their willingness to disregard both facts and logic for the sake of … tell me again … what was it they chose to gain by backing him? Oh, right: Power.

[For those of you who disagree reading this by email, the unsubscribe prompt is at the bottom. I don’t mind at all.]

There have been and are still some exemplary SBC leaders. Billy Graham was a member of the party, er, denomination and so is Charles Stanley. But it’s others who make headlines and give Christianity a bad name, and wannabees of their ilk who pick all manner of fights on social media and constrain their subjects, er, parishioners with all manner of legalistic limitations.

And that’s the thing: I don’t understand how one actually does this. How do you look into the camera or stand up on the floor of the Senate Chamber or the House of Representatives and say things which your six-year-old grandchild would recognize as patently untrue?

I’m not saying that all Southern Baptists are Republicans or that all Republicans are Southern Baptists. From this perspective it simply appears that there are immense similarities — again in terms of the distilled images of America we see — that I would think a Jesus follower would want to distance themselves from; that a Christ follower would want to work tirelessly to compensate with extra doses of agape and hesed and shalom and charis and tov.

November 12, 2016

When the Meaning of Evangelical Changes

About two miles down the road from me is a church whose denomination has the word “Evangelical” in its name. Therefore the church had the word very prominently displayed in very large letters on the side of the building.

About two years back, some very wise people at that church deemed that the word was losing the value it had once held and those large letters were removed. (Actually, along with another word in the church name; the sign was shortened from four words to two.)  We call this loss of meaning pejoration.1

pejoration-definition

Over the last 15 months in the United States, the word has become politicized to the point where any implicit sense of sharing the euangelion [εὐαγγέλιον] from which the word derives (meaning good news; gospel) has been lost.2

So while others have bid goodbye to the term (not necessarily the movement) I wasn’t surprised this week when Skye Jethani joined those who wish to abandon association with the label3:

Skye JethaniTo the label “Evangelical”:

There is so much to admire about you, your history, and the theology you represent. You mean “good news,” and came to identify a movement birthed by a commitment to the gospel, the euangelion, of Jesus Christ. Seventy years ago, those called “evangelicals” rejected the angry, condemning rhetoric of the fundamentalists, and they saw the error of theological liberalism that abandoned orthodoxy. They sought a third way that was culturally engaged and biblically faithful. I love that heritage.

But look at what you have become—little more than a political identity with a pinch of impotent cultural Christianity. You’ve become a category for pollsters rather than pastors, a word of exclusion rather than embrace. Yes, there are still godly, admirable leaders under your banner, but many are fleeing your camp to find a more Christ-honoring tribe. When more people associate you with a politics of hate than a gospel of love something is terribly wrong. I take no joy in saying it, but like Esau you have sold your birthright for a bowl of soup. You have exchanged the eternal riches of Christ to satisfy a carnal appetite for power.

In the past I willingly accepted your name as my own. I even worked for your flagship magazine. More recently I have avoided you because of your political and cultural baggage, but I’ve not objected when others identified me with you because your heritage was worth retaining. That passive acceptance is over now. What was admirable about your name has been buried, crushed under the weight of 60 million votes. I am no less committed to Christ, his gospel, and his church, but I can no longer be called an evangelical. Farewell, evangelicalism.

With regret,

Skye

What do you think? Can you blame him? Is “Christ-follower” going to be the next identifier?


1 We looked at pejoration 3 years ago here in reference to possible overuse of the term radical in light of the more recent term radicalization.

2 I’ve always wanted to include some Greek text here. Though I’ve not formally studied the language, I’m a huge fan of feta cheese.

3 This was actually one of four open letters (see the link above) with the others being, “To my children,” “To my Muslim neighbors,” and “To Christians who did not vote for Trump.”

January 18, 2016

Letter from Liberty University

Dear Mom and Dad,

Sorry I missed you when I tried to phone.

It’s hard to believe I’m already in my second semester of my freshman year. Classes are going well, and I was able to get a good deal on some textbooks.

I just wanted to tell you about something that happened today, because you’ll probably see it on the evening news.

Today Donald Trump came to speak to our chapel service. Well, it’s not really a chapel service, because calling it that messes up something; maybe it’s the accreditation, or state funding, or something. So they call it Convocation.

Anyway, Trump came to speak. Everybody was expected to attend. Somebody said there’s a $10 fine for skipping chapel, er, Convocation, so I went. The place was packed. Our president, Jerry Falwell Jr. took about 18 minutes — I checked the time on my phone — to introduce him, and mostly talked about the history of the college. I mean, we thought he was introducing Trump, but I think he kinda lost his way, not to mention spilling a glass of water and having his phone go off in the middle.

Then finally, Donald Trump walked on to the stage at our school, and spoke for 50 minutes.

Between that and being told last semester all the students should get a concealed carry permit — I mean nobody in our family even owns a hunting rifle — I’m kinda wondering what I’m doing here. I keep thinking that some people, like the Amish and the Mennonites and the Anabaptists don’t mix their politics with their faith the way we do here at Liberty U. And they get by without guns, too. And I’m reading that in other countries they don’t think like Americans do about religion and politics being so intertwined.

A few of my classmates are from Canada and they just roll their eyes anytime someone mentions government, or the debates, or the primaries or the election. They say it’s got nothing to do with what we are supposed to be learning.

Myself and two people in our dorm are driving to Pennsylvania this weekend to visit an Amish community. We’ve been invited to stay overnight. Some of them have a deal where you can do an extended stay and work with them on their farms. I’m thinking perhaps instead of doing my sophomore year right away I might —

–sorry, my R.A. is calling me to a dorm meeting. I’ll write again.

P.S.: Can you find out if we have any relatives in Canada?


Watch the entire Donald Trump event at Liberty (69 minutes) below or at this link.

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