Evangelicalism is feeling the increasing centrifugal tension of American culture as it disintegrates for lack of the coherent center that only Catholic tradition can, in the long run, provide. On the one hand, you get the Mark Driscoll form of egocentrism: “In Revelation (the last book of the New Testament), Jesus is a prize-fighter with a tattoo down His leg, a sword in His hand and the commitment to make someone bleed. That is the guy I can worship. I cannot worship the hippie, diaper, halo Christ because I cannot worship a guy I can beat up.”
I’m sure the guards in charge of the scourging at the pillar felt the same way. Surely, the measure of our worship is “Can I beat up Jesus?” And, of course, you have the delectable irony that the reporter has to tell his readers outside the ghetto of Mars Hill that Revelation is “the last book in the Bible”.
Meanwhile, at the other end of the spectrum is Brian McLaren, the Pope of the Emergent Church, who is alive to what’s wrong with Evangelicalism, but decidely fuzzy on what should replace it. Mostly it appears to be a mix of bromides about tolerance, relativism, backing off on all that Christian dogma and replacing it with whatever dogmas are current in room temperature leftism (you know: recycling, the self-evidence of gender equality, gay rights, environmentalism, Jesus as a Nice Democrat, etc.) Like Driscoll, he is a big fish in a very specialized pond:
We are in the midst of a paradigm shift in the church. Not since the Reformation five centuries ago have so many Christians come together to ask whether the church is in sync with their deepest beliefs and commitments. These believers range from evangelicals to mainline Protestants to Catholics, and the person who best represents them is author and pastor Brian McLaren.
Now it’s not the case that these guys represent something unique to Protestantism from which the Catholic Church is immune. What *is* the case is that the Church has, by the power of the Spirit, the odd ability to absorb, tame, and even baptise the curious currents and centrifigual forces which, outside the Catholic communion, tend to rip human communities apart. Generally speaking, you will find, in any age, that the same pathologies and enthusiasms that go berserk in the world are also found, in muted form, in the Church. But they don’t take over the Church. Instead, as Jesus says, “if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them”. So the Church has drunk everything from the mystery cults to neoPlatonism to extreme ascetisism to the death cults of the plague years to Calvinism to charismatic enthusiasms and has come out stronger for it. It will drink the Manly Men enthusiasms of Driscoll and the Paradigm Shifts of McLaren too. Heck, that will scarcely be a blip on the radar.