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:
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“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.