Comments: opinions on some other topics

Once again, Giles Fraser gets it right. The Christian Right in the USA got all the press because it was a)noisy and b)organized. The Christian Left--quietly going about its proper business of loving God and its neighbor, but in no organized fashion--was ignored or worse, thought to be non-existent.

One nitpick, Giles, it's not the "Inland Revenue Service" over here, it's the INTERNAL Revenue Service.

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Saturday, 9 February 2008 at 2:33pm GMT

An interesting article by Giles Fraser. As an American, it reminds me of the fact that those not of these shores sometimes spend a lot of time engaging with their own stereotypes rather than the diverse realities of American Christianity. However, since we all end up doing this--perhaps more often than not--I can't criticize overmuch.

Giles observations are no surprise to me, I am very familiar with big city liberal churches--some of which are growing well. This leads to some of my prior observations about the "blue-ing" of liberal Christianity in America, and especially the withering of liberal anglican parishes in red America--a tendency that doesn't seem to be true in the reverse. However, I'm actually here to make a statement and ask a question.

First, we would all do better by admitting the strengths of the other side and our own weaknesses. I'm a Habitat for Humanity man as well as a supporter of other charities. I admire liberal activism for and on behalf of the poor and the environment. Many Biblical conservatives do and are involved in such activities as well. Interestingly, I think that one thing that Giles' article makes clear is that this is an area where Evangelicals are increasingly active--a weakness acknowledged and acted upon.

Second, I have never heard this sentiment voiced or acted upon by liberals. Is there no field of Christian endeavor where conservative Christianity is not stronger and liberal Christianity weaker? And, please don't give an answer that had to do with marketing--I mean something you can actually admire as a Christian.

Steven

Posted by Steven at Saturday, 9 February 2008 at 3:08pm GMT

"Is there no field of Christian endeavor where conservative Christianity is not stronger and liberal Christianity weaker?"

Yes, Social Justice.
When it comes to everything from civil rights to economic fairness and democracy, the conservatives have brought up the rear. The same is true for the enfranchisement of women and sexual minorities.

When I was a boy, and Martin Luther King Jr. was marching through the South arm in arm with (then much villified) white liberal clergy, my conservative evangelical Texas neighbors were still pointing to the story of Ham in Genesis as proof that God intended the races to be separate.

Posted by counterlight at Saturday, 9 February 2008 at 4:42pm GMT

Well so far as we know, Pasadena All Saints is putting its money where its mouth is - liberal and social justice activisms, too. Thanks to the constant noisy drumming of the Anglican realignment campaign however, they do not get credit because the campaign starts off defining them as not being real Anglicans, nor real believers.

Rather than comparisons and measures, I would like to see what TEC PB KJS - we are acronym USA - and others have called joining in common worship, common witness whenever we can about the large agreed things (like the Chicago Lambeth Quad), and common service to a suffering, changing world.

30 thousand starving children is business as usual, so gay marriage controversies take precedence. But so many younger believers are weary of this tilt, because it really doesn't stand up to even secular common sense scrutiny. I really do not care all that much if some conservative believers thinks I am a pagan in disguise, so long as force cannot be used to stop me from following Jesus of Nazareth is the best way I know how to follow, plus trying to feed one or more of those 30 thousand starving children. Not one of which needs to pray some conformed prayer with me before I hand over my bowl of oatmeal.

Posted by drdanfee at Saturday, 9 February 2008 at 4:52pm GMT

Thanks, Simon, for a Sharia Free Zone...

Posted by Davis d'Ambly at Saturday, 9 February 2008 at 5:22pm GMT

I liked Giles in the Church Times sooo much.

Thank you mate!

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Saturday, 9 February 2008 at 5:56pm GMT

[Counterlight, I think you misunderstood Steven's question]

"Is there no field of Christian endeavor where conservative Christianity is not stronger and liberal Christianity weaker?"

I'll bite.

To the extent that conservative Christianity is synonymous w/ "anti-reproductive choice", I think that ConXians' support for impoverished women w/ unplanned pregnancies is admirable [However much I disdain the (non-Biblical) ideology which *commands* them to Stay Pregnant].

"the withering of liberal anglican parishes in red America--a tendency that doesn't seem to be true in the reverse"

I'd need to see some (reasonably objective) data re this assertion, Steven.

Posted by JCF at Saturday, 9 February 2008 at 6:39pm GMT

I'm glad that Giles Fraser has left Plato alone this week -- two very fine pieces (IMHO).

FWIW, there is a growing backlash against the SBC in American Baptist churches & (as Bishop Jones noted in a earlier Guardian piece) a growing appreciation of environmental & social justice issues amongst American Evangelicals generally:
http://www.thecarpetbaggerreport.com/archives/14521.html
(BTW -- I am not a fan of John Grisham's books)

Posted by Prior Aelred at Saturday, 9 February 2008 at 7:40pm GMT

From Fraser's Church Times article:

"Look at it this way: you are hosting a children’s party for all the members of your child’s school class. You receive a delegation from a number of mothers who say that their child won’t be coming to the party if the black kid in the class is going to be there as well. Do you really not invite the black child? Even asking the question is morally revolting — let alone acceding to it."

What more need be said.

Posted by Malcolm+ at Saturday, 9 February 2008 at 9:42pm GMT

On Fraser's Guardian article:

One of the frustrations of being a progressive Christian in North America is that the religious right denies we are Christian, while the secular left denies we are progressive.

This is particularly ironic in Canada where two of the first four federal leaders of the left wing party were clergyman, and a third was an Anglican lay reader. Much of the original leadership of the CCF-NDP was from the Social Gospel tradition within Protestantism.

Posted by Malcolm+ at Saturday, 9 February 2008 at 9:46pm GMT

"Is there no field of Christian endeavor where conservative Christianity is not stronger and liberal Christianity weaker?"

Have 10 blind souls describe an elephant based on being able to on touch 10 sq inches. You'll get very different descriptions if one is given an eye, an ear, a foot, or a trunk.

Steven's question has so many answers depending on perspective. One comment is that there are many in this world who perceive as success relying on numerical and authoritative control, and are prepared to use any means to get to their end.

There are times where God uses great power openly and overtly. The classic example we have is Jesus, with whom all the forces of Creation (both seen and unseen) conspired to demonstrate his full authority. Jesus wanted to walk on water, he walked on water. Jesus wanted to feed five thousand with a handful of fish and five loaves of bread, the bread and fish mulitiplied sufficient to the task at hand. Jesus wanted to heal the sick, bind up the broken hearted, raise the dead; forces moved to enable those things to be made manifest.

What Steven's question failed to realise is the behind-the-scenes forces that enabled Jesus to be so successful. You see, the masculine moulds the energy, but the energy comes from the feminine. The womb of the dawn (Psalms 110:3), the light of life (Isaiah 53:11). God as feminine, the mother of all (Genesis 3:20), the bride (Revelation 21:9), Jerusalem, the cherubim of the glory, the one who breathes life even unto the dead (Ezekiel 37:9).

If this feminine consciousness is evil, then the souls who conspired with her to acknowledge Jesus definitively above all other humans are also evil, and that makes Jesus evil, and even all the Abrahamic faiths. If Jesus and his disciples deny her existence or her validity then they repudiate themselves, and they have definitely not kept Jesus' promise of gentleness to the Daughter of Zion.

What is real power? You can not mould what does not exist.

Posted by Cheryl Va. Clough at Saturday, 9 February 2008 at 10:12pm GMT

"I think that ConXians' support for impoverished women w/ unplanned pregnancies is admirable"

Beg pardon? What support? I clearly need enlightenment. Conservative Christians, as far as I can see, consistently oppose most public social welfare programs, and I am not aware, though I concede my ignorance and ask for enlightenment, of any attempts by conservative Christians to do anything for impoverished women with unplanned pregnacies other than fling the scattered bit of second hand baby clothes in their general direction. Or is my sarcasm meter in need of a tune-up?

Posted by Ford Elms at Sunday, 10 February 2008 at 12:29am GMT

Steven said, "I admire liberal activism for and on behalf of the poor and the environment. Many Biblical conservatives do and are involved in such activities as well." He then asked, "Is there no field of Christian endeavor where conservative Christianity is not stronger and liberal Christianity weaker?"

I'm not sure I buy the distinction at all, especially if you're talking about liberals in the Anglican tradition vs conservatives in the Anglican tradition -- as Steven himself says, many biblical conservatives are involved in the same thing as biblical liberals. In any case, I've never bought the conservative line that it's about a complete worldview, or indeed that it's about anything more than marginalia -- that's why I find the split so frustrating. An average liberal episcopal church is just not very different in any predictable way from an average conservative episcopal church in anything but their opinions on some hot button issues.

If we're talking about conservative Christians in general, though, I'd say they have a tendency to do a better job of addressing the non-religious needs of their congregations (my sister in law used a debt counseling service at her conservative Christian church, for example). But no doubt many Biblical liberals do and are involved in such activities as well.

Peace,

Mark.

Posted by Mark at Sunday, 10 February 2008 at 7:14pm GMT

Ford

Your gifts as a rebuking prophet are showing.

Sometimes it's okay to bat against the worst behaviours and not soften it with some platitude.

Rebuking prophets shake souls out of their complacency.

Some will be offended by what you said, but then contemplate that the accusation is fair to be said against how many of their fellow Christians deport themselves.

It is exactly these kind of rebukes that have taken people back to be bible to rediscover that God cares about the occupants of this world, that we are meant to revere what God gives us, offer hospitality and forgiveness, and remember that God does not show favouritism.

In a back loop to one of the points in my previous posting, this rather nice article from Torah talks about the differences between being a behind-the-scenes enabler versus being the main performer on stage. http://www.torah.org/learning/outsidethebox/5764/tetzaveh.html

There are some who will appreciate the insights that not everything God does requires power or might, sometimes it is just done by Spirit (Zechariah 4 is a relevant passage for this contemplation).

Posted by Cheryl Va. Clough at Sunday, 10 February 2008 at 7:27pm GMT

Giles, together with several commentators here, is misrepresenting conservatives when he asserts that gays are not welcome (at Lambeth or at conservative churches).

There will be Bishops at Lambeth who are sexually attracted to people of the same sex, and there are many members of conservative churches who experience the same attractions.

Posted by david wh at Sunday, 10 February 2008 at 8:34pm GMT

David Wh is mispresenting when he acknowledges gays will be at these conferences.

As previously raised by TA subscribers in the past, not all are honest about their sexuality (it is undisclosed and not "public" knowledge).

There are also some who are "celibate" and thus "okay" whilst their heterosexual compatriots might have unremarkedly enjoyed sexual relief from their spouse the morning before attending the conference with no accountability nor guilt.

Posted by Cheryl Va. Clough at Monday, 11 February 2008 at 8:38am GMT

"There will be Bishops at Lambeth who are sexually attracted to people of the same sex, and there are many members of conservative churches who experience the same attractions."

So, it's OK for bishops who "experience attractions" to members of the same sex to be at Lambeth as long as they aren't honest about it? Gee, glad to know dishonesty is a Christian value. As to the whole "experience attractions" nonsense, that is one Evangelical catch phrase that we must oppose. Being gay is NOT something I "experience", never mind what some conservative preacher has told you. I am not a collection of attractions, I am a person, you could at least do me the respect of acknowledging that. Unless of course, you merely "experience attractions" to your wife/girlfriend, and the rest of your relationship is just two people involved with each other occasionally acting on their attractions. If that is your experience of love, then I pity you.

Posted by Ford Elms at Monday, 11 February 2008 at 4:27pm GMT

Hey Ford, I tried! ;-)

Of course, I'm not talking about conservative socio-economic policies: no doubt about it, liberals are on Jesus' side in that one, too.

But I *do* believe that ConEvs provide *direct, hands-on assistance* to "unwed mothers" (their term), out of their anti-choice ideology, which often exceeds (in a personal way) the more "macro" help of liberals [NB: "often" is NOT "always"]

The main thing is, I was trying to cut Steven some slack, and see things from his perspective.

Steven, I hope you can see how DIFFICULT this is for a liberal like me. While *I* am nothing but a sinner, IMO my *belief-system* conforms more closely to the Gospel, than does a ConEv one (yours?).

OCICBW.

Posted by JCF at Tuesday, 12 February 2008 at 1:45am GMT
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