Constantine is dead

If there were an award for seeking out the bare-minimum lowest common denominator of Christian morality, I would nominate the new ecumenical document, “Christian Witness in a Multi-Religious World: Recommendations for Conduct.”

Christian missionaries should renounce all “deception and coercive means” of winning converts, according to an agreement released Tuesday by a broad coalition of evangelicals, the World Council of Churches and the Vatican.

… the document [also] denounces proselytizing with the use of “financial incentives and rewards.”

Well, good. Yay, I guess.

But now I feel like I’ve just congratulated a healthy adult for tying his own shoes. The declaration that, from now on, we’ll try to avoid deception, coercion and bribery shouldn’t be cause for celebration.

Somehow I’m reminded again of this too-often on-point Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal cartoon:


* * * * * * * * *

Could a decline of evangelical influence be a good thing for the gospel?” Kyle Roberts asks.

We too often measure the role and influence of the church with the barometers of the modern corporation or political program, barometers that are foreign to Jesus and the gospels. We too often gauge “success” by the extent to which our collective voice reinforces a particular, homogenous vision of life and minimizes our discomfort with difference and otherness.

My late friend and colleague Dwight Ozard used to describe this by saying that the agenda of most evangelicals engaged in politics seemed to be “making the world safe for Mormons.”

At The Wild Hunt, Jason Pitzl-Waters worries about this decline in the hegemony of Christendom — worries because of the backlash expressed as an attempt to enforce “an increasingly tenuous status quo,” an attempt to cling all the harder to some imagined golden age of the past and a “desperate sandbagging against” the loss of privilege and control.

His conclusion is similar to that of Kyle Roberts:

The future isn’t about dominance, but about coexistence. Many faiths and philosophies sitting at the table, instead of one (or two) faith groups telling everyone else what the agenda is.

* * * * * * * * *

Meanwhile, Christianity Today highlights a recent poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press that finds the nonreligious exhibiting better morality than the religious — and far, far better morality especially than white evangelical Christians:

Pew asked if “more people of different races marrying each other” was good or bad [for] society. Overall, only 9 percent of Americans said it was bad for society. However, 16 percent of white evangelicals said this, more than twice the opposition found among other Americans (7 percent). The survey found that 27 percent of Americans overall said more interracial marriage was good for society, compared to 17 percent of evangelicals.

… The views of white Christians stand in stark contrast to two other groups: black Protestants and those with no religion. Only 3 percent of either group said interracial marriage was bad for society.

A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.

CT just posted a graph based on another question from that poll — this one showing white evangelicals lagging far, far behind Hispanic Catholics on both morality and their own family histories.

This is what the politics of resentment looks like. (Just a reminder — resentment of the powerless is not one of the Fruits of the Spirit. Nor is offendedness.)

This chart doesn’t have a category for Native Americans, so everyone who responded to this question is either themselves an immigrant or the child of immigrants. So either the majority of white evangelicals believe that they are personally a “burden” on America, or we’re dealing with the kind of stupidity that can only come through the voluntary blindness of resentment and willful ignorance.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=752002772 Andrew Glasgow

    @flat:disqus I reserve the right to decide for myself whether I want to be a cottage or a palace.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=752002772 Andrew Glasgow

    @flat:disqus I reserve the right to decide for myself whether I want to be a cottage or a palace.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=752002772 Andrew Glasgow

    @flat:disqus I reserve the right to decide for myself whether I want to be a cottage or a palace.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=752002772 Andrew Glasgow

    but about the impossibility of picking grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles.

    Well, no, you get raspberries and blackberries from thornbushes, and artichokes from thistles.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=752002772 Andrew Glasgow

    but about the impossibility of picking grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles.

    Well, no, you get raspberries and blackberries from thornbushes, and artichokes from thistles.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=752002772 Andrew Glasgow

    but about the impossibility of picking grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles.

    Well, no, you get raspberries and blackberries from thornbushes, and artichokes from thistles.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=752002772 Andrew Glasgow

    Why would I want some holy spook living inside me? I don’t see any upside for me here.

  • http://www.blogger.com/home?pli=1 Coleslaw

    You get roses from thornbushes, too.

  • Astrostevo

    @Bificommander 20 hours ago : I think your xkcd link there s broken. Atleats itwasn’t working when I clicke dit. :-(

  • Bificommander

     Ah, indeed, I see the problem. The link was in brackets and when clicking, discuss apparently assumes the bracket is part of the URL. Try it now: http://xkcd.com/463/

  • Eric

    Jews for Jesus and other messianic Jews are not using deceptive or coercive means of relating the Gospel to people.  We’re simply exploring the Jewish context for understanding the Gospel in a way that Jewish people can relate to based on their own experiences of Judaism.  There’s nothing wrong with contextualizing the Gospel, provided that it does not distort or water down the Gospel in any way.

  • Anonymous

    I think aunursa’s problem with Jews for Jesus is the way they distort the Tanakh.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jeff-Lipton/100001171828568 Jeff Lipton

    I’m reminded of Chris Rock’s response to men who boast “I take care of my kids”: “You’re supposed to, you low-expectation-having [expletive deleted]!”

    I love Chris Rock.  His other comment along these lines was “What do want — a cookie?”.

    His solution for gun violence was brilliant, too.  Sell the guns for cheap, but make bullets $1000 each.  You’d think twice before capping someone if it cost a couple thousand dollars to do it!

  • Mark Z.

    I don’t suppose anybody took him aside and explained that maybe breaking out the animal-sex story wasn’t the best idea for the kiddies’ first day?

    Or took him aside and fired him for breaking confidentiality?

  • Anonymous
    I don’t suppose anybody took him aside and explained that maybe
    breaking out the animal-sex story wasn’t the best idea for the kiddies’
    first day?

    Or took him aside and fired him for breaking confidentiality?

    Priests have a confidentiality ethic.  Many youth ministers and manogawds apparently don’t — it’s great if they can do it, but they won’t let it get in the way of their ministry or their power structure.

  • Tonio

    Daughter, thanks for the background. My personal opinion is that evangelical American churches targeting Latin America for conversion sounds ethically questionable. And no offense, Eric, but the Jews for Jesus concept strikes me the same way. In both cases, the targeting involves entire groups on the lower end of a power imbalance, and doing so risks exploiting that imbalance.

    Plus, the dominant religion in Latin America is still far and away Catholicism, so from an outsider’s perspective, why would the evangelical churches spend so much effort to convert groups who are already Christian? I think I know the answer, but I’m interested in the churches’ stated reasoning.

  • Anonymous

    Because they wish for them to turn away from idolatry and innovation upon the Scriptures.

  • Tonio

    “Innovation” upon the Scriptures? I’m tempted to ask but I won’t bother. Although I’m not religious, I find it repulsive when members of a religion act like theological hall monitors, deciding who is true or authentic members of that religion. The state were I live was founded originally as a haven for Catholics, and it shouldn’t have been necessary. I would say the same thing if the English king at the time had been Catholic and that nation was persecuting Protestants – it’s morally wrong to treat some people as less than others because of their religious beliefs.

  • k o

    Thanks Bill for pointing out those of us who broke the (often multi-generational abuse) cycle by painfully re-training our behavior, especially on the subconscious level. I did it. I am proud I did. And am doing every day. It damned near killed me a few times, but you know, bloodied but unbowed.

  • k o

    Why does God need glory if, by the common understanding God is all seeing, all everything etc. God would not need to be that insecure, ya think? Why does God have to do anything? Why do we have to make up some image (and everyone has their own personal one, even atheists) to fit our limited scope?

  • k o

    Umm, one of the things I don’t see mentioned in this thread is that all religions have schisms in their name brand sect, that there should be more attention paid to cults passing themselves off as religions to gain the tax advantages while they make tons of money off their sheep.

  • http://oldmoonsisterstars.wordpress.com Apuleius Platonicus

    There is a major problem with the adult who can finally tie his own shoes analogy. That analogy implies actual progress, albeit at a pathetically slow pace. But Christianity has not made even as much improvement as a 30 years old who has just mastered the art of shoe tying.

    Christianity is regressing. Right now. Ground zero for this is the scene of humanity’s most recent large scale “conversion” to Christianity (under the aegis of colonialism and neo-colonialism): Africa. Pentecostalism is growing by leaps and bounds around the world, and Africa is leading the way. The irony is that the current wave of Witch Hunting in Africa (largely directed at children) is sometimes blamed on “indigenous beliefs” when it is actually the direct result of the importation of a form of Christianity that has its origins in the 20th century in Los Angeles California. (Do a google search on “Asuza Street Revival” to learn about the modern, American roots of the world’s fastest growing religious sect.)

  • Mark Z.

    Because they wish for them to turn away from idolatry and innovation upon the Scriptures.

    Incidentally, for anyone wondering what I meant last week by this:

    “nondenominational” means “Our doctrine is simply what the Bible says, and our practices are simply what Jesus taught. Everyone else is either doing the same thing under a different name, or they’re heretics.”

    Monoblade here has just produced a very fine example.

  • P J Evans

     Minor correction: ‘Azusa’, not ‘Asuza’.

  • http://oldmoonsisterstars.wordpress.com Apuleius Platonicus

    Thanks! I always mess that up. I edited the original comment and also added a link to wikipedia (that font of all knowledge).

  • Tonio

    On another board I was making a point about the First Amendment and invoked the term “nonsectarian.” I was told that the word was often used decades ago as in an anti-Catholic way. Anyone familiar with that usage? I was using the word to mean neutrality among all religious positions, whether these include specific religious sects or individual beliefs.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Steven-Friedberg/100002386886955 Steven Friedberg

    aunursa — Why should an obvious basic step like not being deceptive be equated with shutting down J4J or Messianic Jews? Having personally worked with Jews For Jesus, I can tell you that they are in no way deceptive. While others may disagree with them about terms, no one is being deceptive. Disagreement is not deception.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X