Monday, September 09, 2013

Must Christianity Surrender?

Mark Tooley examines the new advice coming from certain Catholic and evangelical leaders -- advice that says it's time to raise the white flag, accept the overwhelming dominance of modernism, and adjust our expressions of Christianity (if not our convictions also) to keep from offending the powers that be.

And you thought Jesus taught us to love God rather than the world.

Mark Tooley's important essay, "Is Christianity now outside the norms of American patriotism?" is right here at American Spectator.

Catholic thinker Jody Bottum’s recent controversial Commonweal essay suggested, “American Catholics should accept state recognition of same-sex marriage simply because they are Americans.” A bow to legally institutionalizing sexual liberalism has become the ticket to American civic engagement, it is suggested.

Noting he is a “Christian first, and an American second,” columnist Rod Dreher responded to Bottum by noting that “traditionalist Christians should think about what patriotism means in an America that is turning hostile to them.” He recalls that “many conservative Christians have thought, wrongly or rightly, for many years that being a ‘good Christian’ and being a ‘good American’ were one and the same.” But the “emerging order is forcing them, or should force them, to rethink all this.”...

In a different spirit, Bottum justified Catholic surrender on marriage in civil law by arguing the debate, among other harms, imperils the church’s image and effectiveness in the wider culture. Many evangelicals now make similar claims, believing unpopular culture war stances now inhibit evangelistic appeal, especially among young liberal urban elites. The most liberal end of Protestantism, embodied in the Episcopal Church, pushes full throttle for sexual liberalism inside and outside the church. More orthodox but combat-weary segments affirm traditional mores within the church but silence outside.

Popular author and conservative Presbyterian pastor Tim Keller of Redeemer Church in Manhattan successfully preaches orthodoxy to socially liberal audiences while usually avoiding controversial sexual issues, which, he admits, often leaves congregations shunning eye contact with him for days afterward. And yet, when asked, he continues to espouse traditional morality. He essentially practices a selective political prudence in the topics he preaches…

Churches’ once aversion to culture clash over race echoes discomfort over marriage debates. As Wesley Hill in First Things recently observed, the endless polls ostensibly showing increased support for same-sex marriage even among the religious don’t capture the full reality. Many of the seriously religious who accept legal same-sex marriage retain orthodox beliefs about sexual morality and affirm those teachings within their churches. Hill quotes neo-Anabaptist Minnesota pastor and author Greg Boyd, a former culture warrior who quit the fight: “It’s one thing to say that a behavior falls short of God’s ideal, and quite a different thing to say that Christians should try to impose a law preventing that behavior.”

Boyd misses the point that current public debates aren’t over the legality of non-traditional sexuality but over the legal affirmation and promotion of it, often to the duress of dissenters from the Sexual Revolution. But many evangelicals and Catholics are tempted by his Mennonite style separatism. Religious calls to surrender in the culture wars believe a truce will win goodwill for traditional religion, not understanding the relentless, authoritarian character of sexual and social liberalism, which usually brooks no dissent. Same sex marriage and sexual orientation laws facilitate encroachments on private religious liberty and prepare tomorrow’s debates over polygamy, amid increasingly exotic claims over gender identity, with “open” bathrooms only a small first step…