For a while I’ve been suggesting that what’s usually called the neo-reformed or neo-calvinist movement is producing a new religious right in America.
That is, a Christian movement framed primarily according to conservative political stances.
And this is important because new life is being breathed into what seemed to be a dying trend among evangelicals. As we speak, Mark Driscoll is holding his Resurgence Conference, right on the heels of the release of his new book, A Call to Resurgence. I’m not sure what the contents of the conference have been so far, and I haven’t read the book (though this review is very helpful). But this video presents the premise for the book, and it’s really telling, I think:
The first thing that strikes me is Mark’s ironic misuse of Kierkegaard’s quote in the very beginning:
Christendom has done away with Christianity without being quite aware of it.
Here, the philosopher is actually saying that Christendom itself is to blame for the demise and decline of authentic Christianity in the modern world, and thus Christendom is the problem in itself. But Driscoll’s premise is something altogether different. What Mark is saying is quite simply that the culture has driven out Christendom, so that Christendom is dead - and this is a lamentable fact. Throughout the video (and, I presume, the book), Mark fleshes this out by bemoaning the effects of Christendom’s demise (“really ticked off” amidst metal guitar riffs, etc.) and setting the stage for his “call to resurgence.”
Which is, in fact, a call to a fundamentally political right wing resurgence.
If that’s not clear from what Mark is saying, it is abundantly clear in the cleverly interjected media throughout the video. Here’s a breakdown:
- Louie Giglio withdrawing from the inaugural prayer because his anti-gay sermon surfaced. Mark talks about “persecution, opposition, and criticism.”
- A quote from President Obama: “Thank you, Planned Parenthood. God bless.” Mark says, “The question is, what will we do?”
- A church sign: “Jesus had two dads, and he turned out okay.” Mark talks about getting the church” back on mission.”
After all this, Driscoll betrays the confusion of his point when he refers to the old church he’s driving to as formerly a part of “Christendom, civil religion.” So, is Christendom now liberal, “social justice” Christianity? I don’t think Mark really cares, so long as the definition suits his point at the moment.
And all of this matters because what Driscoll’s resurgence is proposing is really a return to Christendom – a recapturing of a conservative evangelical majority in America and a degree of power in Washington in order to affect gay rights, abortion, and religious freedom (privilege?) legislation. Rebuilding Christendom, for Mark, is what it means to be “on mission,” which is why he is willing to even sacrifice some significant theological points (aligning with folks like Joyce Meyer and Joel Osteen) as long as the conservative political stances are held in common.
Unfortunately, I think this is actually the opposite of what it means for the church to be on mission.
And I agree with Kierkegaard – Christendom is the problem, not the solution.
The more we identify ourselves by seeking selfish political power on exclusionary issues, the less we will be able to welcome the world into the redeeming work of Christ through the church.
So, my brothers and sisters, Reformed, conservative, missional, progressive – can we agree to get back to the thing that really matters, the good news of the kingdom of God inaugurated by the Liberating King, Jesus?