What We Can Learn From The Failure Of The Religious Right (And Why They’re In A Panic)

What We Can Learn From The Failure Of The Religious Right (And Why They’re In A Panic) October 6, 2014

Chris ChristieThe Religious Right has failed, and now they’re panicking.

They’ve been this way for quite some time, but I think we’re about to enter a new era of desperation as they attempt to plug the holes in their boat and keep it from sinking. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen any fresh and inspiring ideas produced from that camp in a long time (something I’m completely open to; I don’t care where a good idea comes from) and I’m not confident they’ll be able to prevent the ship from turning broadside.

They know it, and we know it: the movement of the “Religious Right” has failed. What we’re seeing out of the Religious Right is similar to when a star dies– after the death of a star there’s still some fusion activity going on, the core begins to collapse under the forces of gravity, and the outer layers temporarily heat up as the star undergoes a prolonged death experience. The star is dead– out of fuel– but the actual death process can take a few billion years.

The death of the Religious Right is similar– though it certainly won’t take nearly as long to become a dwarf in the religious solar system.

Screen Shot 2014-10-06 at 9.30.02 AMAs part of the death process, they’re grasping for straws and attempting whatever they can do to escape the inevitable. Case in point: there’s a new book just released by Chelsen Vicari called Distortion, which is basically a progressive Christian hit-list packaged with the same old ideas they’ve always had. The book was promoted as a book that would “name names” of the people who are destroying the faith, so that parents could learn them and protect their precious children from their harmful ideas– ideas like nonviolent love of enemies.

Those people damaging the faith? Well, the list includes friends like Shane Claiborne, Sarah Bessey, and a host of others (including me). People can say whatever they want about me, but anyone who thinks that Shane and Sarah– two of the most inspiring Jesus followers I know– are the enemy or a “menace of the Gospel,” is someone who has had a severe break with reality, and probably doesn’t understand the Gospel at all.

The book (endorsed and promoted by hate group leader, Tony Perkins), sadly shows that they are in fact, completely out of ideas, and all that’s left is to repackage old ideas (war & Israel are good but social justice for the poor, nonviolent enemy love, and gender equality are all bad). It’s a paradigm of “out with the new, in with the old” but delivered by a younger face who, instead of giving a fresh spin to things, tries to prove rightness by maligning those who don’t stand in solidarity with John Hagee’s fetish for global violence or the official Republican party platform.

Yet, here’s what I find the most interesting about Vicari’s faux moral superiority: when I heard about being mentioned in the book I looked her up, and turns out, I’ve met her– and remember the interaction. She introduced herself after a panel discussion on Christian blogging at C21, and introduced herself as a former fundamentalist and fan of the blog– an interaction she tweeted:


She played the act well (fool me once), I’ll give her that (apparently “thou shalt not lie” is conspicuously missing from her Bible). But, that doesn’t change the fact that the movement she’s trying to reignite is dead, and there’s nothing she’ll be able to do to revive it. She especially won’t be able to do it with the whole “Jesus would have been a gun-loving, anti-feminist American” kinda thing, because younger Christians are catching onto the fact that the American version of Jesus is a sick caricature of the real thing, which is precisely why I wrote the book, Undiluted.

Now, with the growing Hail Mary attempts to keep the Religious Right alive, I think there’s a key lesson we can all learn from this– and the lesson is found when we uncover why they are panicking:

They’re losing political power.

You see, the Religious Right isn’t so much of a Jesus movement as it is a political movement. It exists to spread an enact ideas through power and control, and without that power, they feel helpless– and their only solution is to “defeat the enemy (the left) and take the country back”.

It’s all about power… achieving it, maintaining it, and getting it back if lost.

And this is where we have a very important lesson to learn: the invitation of Jesus is not an invitation to acquire power– it’s an invitation to reject power. In the Jesus paradigm, it is not the power seekers who are blessed, but the meek– the nonviolent, gentle, power rejectors who find God’s Kingdom.

The moment we see power as being necessary to build God’s Kingdom in the here-and-now, is the moment we completely miss the point of it all. The truth is, God is the one building something in the world, and he doesn’t need us to achieve power in order to partner with him in building it.

When we combine the message of Jesus with the need for political power– whether liberal or conservative– we attempt to build a Kingdom that depends not on God, but on winning elections and destroying our enemies. Since movements such as the Religious Right rely on power, they are nothing without it– which doesn’t sound like the movement Jesus invites us into. In fact, throughout history we see that the Jesus movement spreads the fastest when his followers are not only out of power, but when they are actively oppressed by those who are in power, such as the early Church or the modern Church in China.

The quest for political power kills the Jesus movement and becomes a distraction from the real work to be done– the Kingdom grows best, and always has, when followers reject the need for political might.

Those of us who refuse to learn this lesson will go the way of the Religious Right– we’ll eventually fail and get lost in a never ending cycle of trying to get power back. Then, one day, we’ll look back and realize we wasted our lives trying to gain power at the top of the mountain instead of quietly building a Kingdom in the trenches.

Chelsen Vicari and those in her club are free to go waste their lives spying on their enemies at conferences to devise a strategy to “take the country back,” but I’ve got a subversive Kingdom to help build, and I don’t need political power in order to partner with the architect.

I like my odds of success better.

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  • Matthew

    Thanks so much Ben. I am wondering though … would you say that if the religious right is aligned with the Republican party, would more progressive Christians tend to be aligned with the Democratic party (even though I know you mostly don´t vote and are more into kingdom building rather than political party supporting)??

  • I think progressives are certainly more often democrats. However, there’s really not a functional equivalent to the religious right. They are an actual political machine, and while one hears the term “Christian Left” I just don’t see them as having anything near the power that the Religious Right does. However, as I said in the article, relying on power whether one is liberal or conservative is still a huge mistake.

  • Michael Brian Woywood

    “Kingdom in the trenches” probably sums up my entire Kingdom theology. I just posted on my ministry Facebook page about the choice Christians need to make between gaining the world and losing their soul, grasping at political power or standing with the powerless. And it’s really the choice between following Jesus or acting as the Accuser.

  • AJ

    The greatest trick Satan ever pulled was getting us to fight each other rather than him.

  • Mark

    Perhaps that has something to do with why we don’t see the Christian Left as having much power.

  • R Vogel

    Amen, brother!

    For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

  • R Vogel

    But it is a big risk, yeah? One we need to be acutely aware of and stand against. It is the Last Temptation and one all movements will be tempted with.

  • Perhaps. However, no one has ever told me that I’m not a real Christian since I am not a democrat. Conversely, I’ve been told more than 100 times that I’m not a true Christian because I am not a republican. I just don’t see there being an equivalent to the Religious Right.

  • Bill Payne

    If the religious right is dying, the religious left has already died. Yes, it is attempting to hold on to the appearance of life by identifying with a resurgent political liberalism. However, it has not grown the kingdom by making new Jesus disciples in a long time; disciples that grow local churches as they seek to embody the gospel in word, sign and deed. Yes, the mainline denominations which are the home to the religious left are all declining rapidly. By the way, the religious left is not the reason the religious right is suffering. A growing secularism is the reason one is dead and the other is suffering. In places where secularism is not a social force, conservative evangelicalism is growing rapidly and the religious left has almost no voice. In time, conservative Christianity will be the voice for global Christianity.

  • Well, that’s a very ethnocentric view of things. You guys can have your power and violence, I’ll keep opting for Jesus.

  • Ian

    I think it’s worth noting the the term “Christian Left” would have most people in America scratching their heads.

  • Exactly. There’s a Facebook page with that name, but that’s about it.

  • “I don’t care where a good idea comes from”

    It’s rather frustrating that a person should have to explicitly state this, or else they’ll be accused of having a political agenda. (Edited to add: even when you do explicitly state it, people still want to claim you’ve got an agenda!)

    As for the call to reject power, that’s not just a Jesus thing. I see it in 1 Samuel, when Israel uses the Ark as a weapon against the Philistines and God, in turn, lets Israel lose the battle. Israel used God as a means to gain power, and paid the price.

  • R Vogel

    Well sure, Progressive power is still ascendant n the U.S. It has yet to really reach anything resembling critical mass. Baptists used to preach separation of church and state too. All that changed at some point. The history of Christianity is a study of the danger of mixing theology with political power. The great temptation of all that could be ‘achieved’ by using the power of the state. But political power can only corrupt. It’s pretty much Lord of the Rings with dudes speaking ecclesial latin. :)

  • Guest

    To view the issue from a global perspective and to identify western secularism as the ideological force that is minimizing the western church is not an ethnocentric perspective. I am also opting for Jesus. However, I note that progressive movements in the West are growing by means of evangelism or making many Jesus disciples. However, they are a strong force for political liberalism and social justice.

  • Bill Payne

    To view the issue from a global perspective and to identify western secularism as the ideological force that is minimizing the western church is not an ethnocentric perspective. I am also opting for Jesus. However, I note that progressive movements in the West are not growing by means of evangelism or making many Jesus disciples. However, they are a strong force for political liberalism and social justice.

  • And by “dying” as you put it, we have revealed the fact that the church as an institution has too long roped people to a mast of rigidity not favored by Jesus. And your contention that secularity is the death of the Religious Right is a bold confession indeed. Because why would that be? The answer: that the religion espoused by conservative, fundamentalist, literalist believers is anachronistic and wrong. So it will take a while to reformulate this practicum in which people can and want to reconcile their faith with science and other forms of modern knowledge. But to advocate that because conservative evangelicalism is the sign of a healthy church and a healthy people is just false. It’s the sign of a desperate estranged populace that clings to old thinking to survive.

  • Lisa Martinez

    Well congrats friend on your mention among such a group ;) As an “insider” here in DC though, I will note that this was written by a woman at IRD and is surrounded by a very non-diverse, exclusive crowd. People in DC are experts in exclusivity! And you’ve been put out. No dinner clubs for you, my friend! This is what I’m struggling with: Are we separating ourselves or have we been “cast out” and we are just gathering our shocked selves together to say that there’s no reason for other Christians to exclude us, because we all need to be heard? I know several of the people surrounding this organization and the neoconservative movement here. They attend mainline denominations which has others around the nation scratching their heads wondering why they’re conservative. But here, where the power is coveted and the power is concentrated from a Christian standpoint in mainline churches, that’s where you will find the neoconservatives. They are a very confident, put-together bunch that rarely (in my experience) look inward to see where the weakness may be. Gosh, Benjamin! Now I can’t tell people your name around here because now the cat’s out of the bag! Now everyone will really know how far I’ve gone ;)

  • Interesting title for a book about faith. Because fundamentalists and literalists have for ages distorted the teachings of Jesus by placing emphasis on one cause or another than frightens them while ignoring the many, many dictums by which society and even the most religious people choose not to live by. The real distortion is zealotry, bigotry and faith concocted for political power. All these Jesus fought with his words and example. But these people will never admit they’re the ones he was and is fighting to this day.

  • Stating that conservative Christianity will be the global voice is in fact, ethnocentric. Christianity is largely an African religion now, the West has declined, and it’s time for Americans to stop thinking that we define Christianity and start listening to minority voices. To view oneself as the future “global voice” is to minimize the true center of global Christianity.

  • James

    The one trick pony of the far-right is indoctrination, both political and religious. Evangelicalism only grows organically by indoctrinating their own children and by cannibalizing other churches

  • jaunita

    Good article

  • They’ve lost their own kids– there isn’t a big movement of up-and-comings. If you spend time with young evangelicals, they’re tired of this stuff their parents are doing. So, they might win a few elections, but if you watch, it’s the same group of people– you just don’t see dynamic new voices rising on any level that would be cause to suggest a resurgence.

  • Bill Payne

    James, make sure you tell that to the huge surge of new evangelical style churches throughout the two thirds world. In fact, the evangelical faith in RC, Protestant, Pentecostal and independent churches is growing by leaps and bounds. If you would like to be saved from your ignorance on this topic, I recommend Jenkins’ The Next Christendom. By the way, transfers from evangelical churches and mergers with other dying churches is the only reason that progressive denominations have not died. Certainly, they do not keep their kids (biological growth) or make new converts from the ranks of the unchurched (conversion growth). Pentecostals and evangelicals are doing ok.

  • Bill Payne

    That is what I said. Only, you miss one important point. Global Christianity is mostly conservative and has rejected much of the secular ideology associated with western postmodernism. If you want to understand the nature of the global surge, there are many great books on this topic. Global Awakening, Tennent’s World Missions, and the Next Christendom all show the conservative character of the global church. By the way, that is why the Episcopal church and the UMC do not like the influence of the African churches. They strongly oppose homosexuality, consumerism, individualism, militarism, western arrogance, and higher critical attempts to minimize the centrality of the scriptures.

  • Bill Payne

    You are such a prisoner to your postmodern perspective. What is the new faith that you advocate? Secularism in not just a philosophy. It is a ideological system that steals the heart and soul out of biblical Christianity. Wherever the church has attempted to make peace with it by contextualizing to it, the church has rapidly declined in numbers and in popular influence. Perhaps you would advocate that biblical Christianity abandon the mainstream and hide out in monasteries so that the progressive faith of the left can claim the cultural center without having to remove the church. Evangelicalism is alive and well in America. It has not died. In the meantime, we will live out our faith in the public sector and wait for God to favor us with a new outpouring of the Spirit; an outpouring that may wash away the new infidelity.

  • Yup. Read them all. I have a master’s in mission and am 3rd year doctor of missiology.

  • The important point on my end that you missed was that this was a critique of the Religious Right which is a political movement. It’s not an indictment against any Christianity that would fall on the conservative end of the spectrum. I’m an Anabaptist, and I hardly think mainline liberals would see our theology as being on their end.

  • Do you not see the irony of speaking of “biblical Christianity” while your profile picture is of you wearing a military uniform?

  • No, it does not steal the heart out of biblical Christianity. Instead it helps reveal the true teaching methods of Jesus Christ, who used highly naturalistic parables and metaphors to teach us about spiritual principles. I call it “organic fundamentalism,” which holds that the more we learn about nature, the more we know of God. I also hold that so-called “biblical Christianity” is exactly what Jesus fought so hard to defeat in the Pharisees who taunted him with cynical, legalistic questions (as you seem to do) and sought only to control others for their own aggrandizement and benefit. These were the very people Jesus warned us against, and they run the conservative evangelical churches of today, which are fearful, bigoted places when it comes to anything that challenges their perspectives, which are not in fact “biblical” but are instead zealous, bigoted and fearful takes on scripture. This “infidelity” you mention…does it not thrive in churches that align themselves with Republican and conservative interests that successfully discriminate and rape the economy, foisting “trickle down economics” on the populace while they pillage the less sophisticated? Indeed it does, and those of us who call ourselves liberal and progressive are sick of that alliance. Because Jesus also (and most frequently) warned against those whose love of money is indeed the root of all evil. That’s where the current alliance between political religious people and the conservative right now stands. It’s an ugly truth.

  • And by the way, on the “prisoner” part? St. Paul was a prisoner and he was also “post-modern” in his day. Imperfect, grant you, as we all are. But at least he tried to change faith for the better. More than we can say for those who are stuck in the past, and want to remain there.

  • KT Latimer

    This is BEAUTIFULLY done. Beautiful.

  • Bill Payne

    Hmm, I have had dealings with the MCC and some very “aggressive” pacifists. Perhaps you belong to BIC. I do not know. However, I do know that I am correct when I state that global Christianity is a corrective to Western progressive movements and to cessationism. By the way, I completed an eight year PhD in Intercultural studies, have lived on five continents, and am a full professor of world mission with 13 years of teaching experience at the graduate level.

  • bonobojean

    run rabbit run..

  • Bill Payne

    No. Actually, I am a retired chaplain. That is, a non-combatant who preached the gospel and baptized people all over the world to include 88 Cuban refugees in Panama and untold Ugandans. I also led humanitarian missions to the Philippines after areas were devastated by a volcano. And, I was an ethical advisor to many commanders, advocated for religious minorities, conducted community relationship projects, worked with key religious leaders, served as an expert on culture and religion, interfaced with Islamic leaders to determine impact of US policies, worked with local leaders on civic capacity building projects, managed the multifaith context of the military, facilitated for people of every faith, and led 1000s of service personnel to faith in Christ while serving as their spiritual leader. What have you done?

  • Bill Payne

    Postmodern relates to your commitment to a set of ideals associated with postmodernism. Are you able to articulate those ideals or do you just resonate them by virtue of your socialization into that worldview? If you need help, I will list them for you.

  • Bill Payne

    In other words, you have adopted the democratic platform as your personal platform and condemn Christians who do not align with it and social justice outcomes. Additionally, it seems that you reject the full teaching of the kingdom in which Jesus shows that the supernatural and the natural overlap. Remember, he healed the sick, cleansed the lepers, raised the dead, killed the fig tree with a curse, calmed storms with a word, cast out demons (do you believe in demons?), miraculously fed the hungry, forgave the repentant sinners, condemned those who would not surrender all for the kingdom, and said that many would be cast out to a place where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (are you a universalist?). Is this the Jesus that you preach? Do you follow his example in word and deed? This same Jesus told his disciples to go and do likewise. That is why he gives us the Holy Spirit.

  • paganheart

    I was a registered Democrat and was told more than once that I was going to burn in hell for being part of the Democratic Party. (I’m now a registered independent…mainly due to the political realities of where I live, not ideology…it’s a long story…) I have also been told more than once not to vote for candidates who are not “professing, Bible-believing Christians,” because a people can’t possibly be of “good moral character” unless they are “true Christians”…but that is another rant for another day….

  • Oh, I have a blue ID card as well, and as much as I appreciate the fact that DFAS is never late, I have repented of my participation in the war machine. But yeah, if you’re here looking to compare resumes, I’ve got one too– and it’s not too shabby. But resume is irrelevant to the truthfulness of a point. It’s the fallacy of attempting to appeal to higher authority.

  • How is where you lived relevant to the point? I’ve lived all around the world too– that doesn’t make one more or less correct. Again, attempting to appeal to higher authority as proof of a position doesn’t prove a position.

  • Ransom Backus

    the GOP has exploited the Christian faith for decades. It’s why I have no part of them. No I am not a liberal either. I have fundamentalist conservative beliefs more often than not, but I have no allegiances except to the Kingdom of God. I woke up to realize that both the right and the left are two wings of the same beast, when it’s the beast itself that is the problem.

  • Agree!

  • Ron McPherson


  • John Carothers

    Getting run out of the faith or consigned to hell by fellow believers because you don’t buy their particular world view is not for sissies. Apparently you can be hell bound for being a Democrat, wondering why gay kids shoudn’t be exposed to the foundational American values of the Boy Scouts, or drinking coffee at Starbucks.

    After numerous run ins with the Jesus Police I decided to find out for myself just who these people are. I figured this would be some handy information to have, since they’re literallyeverywhere, and they are totally unpredictable.

    Sure, there are some things that you know will attract their baleful stares. Being a
    Democrat, not believing Obama is a Muslim, thinking gay rights is a civil
    thing. Then there’s the earth is more than six thousand years old heresy, or
    believing there are good reasons why the word Jesus does not appear in our
    constitution. You’re not reading the KJV or you’re disagreeing with Paul. These
    are things you know will get your sorry butt thrown in Jesus Jail.

    It’s when they show up at Starbucks, bibles drawn and cocked, or they bristle at a picture of fried chicken, (FRIEDCHICKEN?) that you know you need more insight into what actually sets thepropeller on their beanies spinning.

  • Kate

    Actually… global Christian is not mostly conservative. It’s as diverse as ever. I can’t speak for Afriac, but living in Asia, I can tell you that there is a very large liberal Christianity movement.

  • Tie-dye One

    They have the money.

  • How was it that Paul put it? “If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.”

  • Africa is very conservative and charismatic (most new movements are charismatic– they are the fastest growing).

    It’s important to note that “conservative” isn’t always bad (not that you or I said it was). We have a cultural connotation of the word that has diluted things a bit. Often, conservative just means they take the Bible seriously and resist cultural influences, a concept I totally advocate.

    However, some of the situation in Africa (kill the gays laws) are our fault, and we need to actively be correcting them. I work in the African context (Congolese/Angolans) and in my context “progressive” is saying “maybe gay people are real human beings who should not be killed”. It’s quite sad.

  • Matthew

    You are correct Ben. According to Tim Keller´s book “The Reason for God” secularism AND Christianity (Dr. Keller may have even said all religion … I cannot remember) are growing worldwide — (Christianity particularly in the developing world). According to the book the kind of Christianity that is growing and expanding is conservative, orthodox, and charismatic while more mainline (some would call them “liberal”) churches are seeing a decline in numbers.

  • Matthew

    Kate said:

    “Global Christian (did you mean Christianity?) is not mostly conservative.”

    I think you may be incorrect on this one Kate. See my post below.

  • Kate

    I appreciate your response. I can’t speak for Africa (which, indeed, has the largest growth of Christians), but as a former missionary in Asia and as someone who still lives and works there, I can say that the growth of churches here is not necessarily of a conservative background. During classes on missions in college, I was taught that, but my own experiences have led me to doubt those reports. Many organized churches in south Asia, for example, are increasingly liberalizing (at least in part because ‘conservative’ values here, like anti-homosexuality, are also often associated with groups who are also anti-Christian).

  • Matthew

    Thanks Kate. I suppose on-the-ground experience certainly is valuable, however I would like to see real numbers. I highly respect Tim Keller and the book I cite, however he may be incorrect. I´ll have to check his footnotes as well as do some research myself. If you have any stats, please share them.

  • Matthew

    Thanks so much Ben.

  • Having written a book titled the Genesis Fix: A Repair Manual for Faith in the Modern Age, which addresses the very issue you propose is a “problem” for me, I would in turn propose that what you consider the downfall of faith is actually the new reformation. That is, the ability to reconcile faith to modern and post-modern thinking is the very thing billions of people crave and desire, and know intuitively that Jesus aligns with reconciliation, not ostracizing others. That’s where the current old form of faith now lies, and the list you’ve already provided with its confessional language and divisive set of “you must believe this” values is appealing to millions and helpful to none. That’s what Jesus warned against in his accusations against the Pharisees, calling them a brood of vipers far from the wishes of God. They were a pretty determined bunch, and so are you quite obviously. But the whole purpose of this progressive Christianity movement is to recover the heart of faith, not its armor.

  • I don’t “condemn” anyone in that conventional sense. I have many conservative instincts and conservative associates. I attended a conservative church for 25 years and maintain those friendships. But I have grown tired and somewhat sick of the hateful dialogue that comes from those quarters, and the “God said it so I believe it” schtick is just plain false. As for the list you provided, no I do not believe in demons. Not in any sense of the word other than a rhetorical one. I believe in science however, and think that the bible can quite easily be reconciled to our modern understanding of how the world works. As for what were once called demons, they were misunderstandings of quite common afflictions in many cases. But it does seem like you are haunted by the demon of literalism, in that this list is an absolute of faith for you. Many faithful people are able and choose to believe in God and Jesus without abiding by this list of similarly arch qualifiers. Yet you seem to stipulate this is the only path to salvation, as it were. And that has possibly worked for 2000 years. But what if that’s not the true message? What if, as Jesus often stipulated, his disciples miss the real message, and we are, like them, “So dull” that we’ve also missed it. That’s what Progressive Christianity is about. It’s “getting” the parable of what Jesus really was and did.

  • Matthew

    I hear what you are saying Bill … but do you think it´s possible to be a little introspective with regard to your own circle? Sometimes self examination is the best medicine.

    Also, I would say I´m somewhere between conservative and progressive Christianity. Don´t you think it´s possible to straddle both sides of the spectrum? I think so. I´m tired of all the fighting between camps: liberal versus conservative, mainline versus “Bible-believing” churches, etc.

    What kind of message are we sending to those who — for example — are not believers but are reading these responses to Ben´s article? We should be sending a “kingdom” message, not an “infighting” message. United we stand … divided we fall.

    Lord have mercy.

  • CroneEver

    It’s called gerrymandering.

  • R Vogel

    I’m circling back to say how happy I am that you are pointing out their panic – and you supernova analogy is spot on. I see so many who lament and wring-hands over the speech and actions of the religious right (and they are infuriating at times) but fail to see their desperation. They know they have lost. I heard just the other day on NPR that Millennials now equal Boomers/Silent generation in numbers, which means soon they will eclipse them. The RR know their days in power are numbered, and they have lost the youth. We just need to make sure they don’t do too much damage on their way out.

  • I’ve run into other commenters who wield their academic credentials in a similar manner. Not meaning to disparage the good Dr. Payne here, but whenever I see “bona fides” (as I’ve heard them called) being used in place of logical argumentation, I can’t help but think of a hypothetical math teacher, with a PhD in mathematics and decades of teaching experience, trying to convince me that 2+2=5 “because I’m a math teacher.” In such a case, I think I’d be well within my rights to not only question the equation, but also the math teacher’s credentials.

  • Jeff Preuss

    I had a teacher in high school (not MY teacher, but she was the chaperone for the drama “program”) correct me on some grammar, specifically about using “her and I” instead of “her and me.” When I pointed out she was incorrect (which she SO was), her defense was, “I am an English teacher, I am RIGHT.”

    It brings to mind all the pastors I’ve heard who insist I must follow their interpretations simply because they ARE pastors, as if my understanding of the meaning of Scriptures cannot possibly match the validity of THEIR understanding.

    I didn’t back down with the teacher, either. Mom and Dad raised me to think for myself and question authority when warranted.

  • otrotierra

    Thank you Ben for choosing Jesus over the harmfully narrow political visions of U.S. evangelicals. More specifically, Chelson Vicari’s work is built upon lies and deception, just as the U.S. evangelical “Religious Right” lies and deceives and therefore departs from following Jesus.

    Who will dare tell Chelson Vicari and the Religious Right that Jesus is uncompromisingly opposed to lies and deception?

  • Jeff Preuss

    Wait….what? You got an F? From your church brethren and sister…en? That is the most ludicrous thing I’ve ever read. (I am not disputing this happened, just incredulous that all the rampant telling people how their faith doesn’t measure up has actually taken the form of being given a LETTER GRADE like a schoolchild. Oy.)

    Edit to actually say letter instead of number like I originally typed. :)

  • Jeff Preuss

    My mouth is so much agape that I cannot stop the flies from getting in.
    What in the name of God do people think they are doing…in the name of God?

    (I say this having recently been called a devil for being gay and for calling out as hateful statements that equated me with pedophiles, and repeatedly gleefully told I was hellbound and beneath Jesus’ feet.)

    It just…boggles my mind how much we as the Church are, of late, so infatuated with deciding who is and isn’t a Christian…or Christian enough. That’s a wholly personal journey, and the audacity that someone else could grade you on that journey, someone who is not God Himself, is bothersome.

  • Alana

    Honestly, I would prefer to have a smaller church than have all its members be gained from such unhealthy and unpleasant tactics. It’s alright to educate ones’ children about your beliefs, but forcing them into it strikes me as being wrong, and also a good way to alienate yourself from them.

  • WilmRoget

    “I note that progressive movements in the West are not growing by means of evangelism or making many Jesus disciples.”

    How about you back that claim up with concrete evidence? I know at least one denomination that proves you wrong.

  • WilmRoget

    “the religious left has already died.”

    Nope. One of the fast growing denominations, the Fellowship of Metropolitan Community churches, is very progressive.

    Your posts seem to be lacking in accuracy.

  • mamadillo

    Well, gosh, that’s the most nearly perfect example of defensiveness I’ve seen in years. But it really doesn’t address Ben’s question.

  • gimpi1

    As an outsider, I can say you’re correct. What I see in this is an interesting, but not especially attractive in-fight.

    On the right, I hear that in order to be Christian, I must accept things like demonic-possession or the nonsense of young-earth creationism. That I must ignore the evidence for biologic and stellar evolution or believe in-born traits that cause no one any harm are somehow profoundly sinful. That I must celebrate the widening income-gap and denounce what has proven to be the most effective means of creating social-justice. I can’t do any of those things. I find them in contradiction of known facts, cruel and/or foolish.

    Does that make me unwelcome? On the conservative Christian side, the answer appears to be yes. I’m the enemy. On the progressive Christian side, not so much. However, the fight sometimes makes me wonder if I should bother with either.

  • gimpi1

    Why did the picture of fried chicken set someone off?

  • Matthew

    Please “do bother” gimpi1. Committed believers in Jesus Christ have differing beliefs on a lot of what you mention. The key is accepting who Jesus is and following His ways. Peter (in the Bible) was not asked about evolution, demonic possession, or young earth creationism. Jesus simply asked “Who is it you say I am?” and Peter replied “You are the Christ (The Messiah), the Son of the living God.”

    My prayer is that you, like Peter, can say the same gimpi1 — regardless of the tragic infighting you see in the universal church.

  • Matthew

    I wish I had the time right now to research the following books Kate, but maybe you do. Apparently they talk a lot about non-western church growth and they might offer the stats I mentioned. Here they are:

    Philip Jenkins – “The Next Christendom” – Oxford University Press – 2002

    Lamin Sanneh – “Whose Religion is Christianity” – Eerdmans – 2003

  • gimpi1

    Thank you for your thoughtful response. If I can ask a follow-up question: What drew you to Christianity? What convinced you of its truth?

    Frankly, I’m not there yet. I believe in the message of Jesus, love of others, reaching across cultural divides, helping and protecting “the least of us” but I don’t as yet find the story of the Messiah convincing. What convinced you?

  • Matthew

    BIG QUESTIONS gimpi1 :-)! I cannot answer in detail right now, but I will in time. For now I can share this:

    I recently heard that for any philosophical worldview to really hold water it has to be both intellectually credible and existentially satisfying. I have come to believe — despite all the critics — that Christianity satisfies both prerequisites. I think if one can examine and experience Christianity away from all the “junk” you are already well aware of, there is a chance one can come to the same conclusion.

    Now for something completely different … how does one do italics and/or bold on a blog post? I noticed you used italics in your response. I´m not much of a technical person.

  • gimpi1

    I can answer that:

    HTML Tags, as follows, only delete the hyphens, they are there to make the tags show as text, rather than being read as a command.

    Italics: Italic text here ends italics.
    would read as: Italic text here ends italics.

    Same for bold, bold text here ends bold.
    would read as bold text here ends bold.

    If only questions of belief were as easy as computer code…

  • Matthew

    You said it man (rather woman :-))! Thanks so much for the quick lesson. More later …

  • DC Rambler

    A timely post Ben..I was just reading the Facebook page of ” For America ” and these ” Christians ” were lamenting the loss of school prayer and saying the meanest and most vile things about anyone who dared to disagree with them. They are like frightened animals lashing out with bared teeth and refuse to accept that they may be wrong or others may have rights to the same freedoms and respect they demand..It’s scary, sad and pitiful..And they wonder why people are turned off to their message and their time is coming to an end…Peace

  • DC Rambler

    Some very good comments on this post..I think a big factor in the future of the church or lack of church will differ greatly by region and population..Urban vs Rural..North vs South..I am in Southern California in a very large community where whites are the minority and everyone seems so young ! I am pretty sure that they don’t spend a lot of time thinking of these issues..The world and the culture is changing so fast that we can’t predict what the future holds especially with the kids..I have a 24 year old Irish / Mexican daughter and judging by her life and her friends, I think we should get out of the way..We’ve had our time..It’s their turn..Peace

  • Adam M

    I’m a veteran but now an Anabaptist. Really enjoying the conversation on all the threads but please don’t use the “biblical” card. That word has so much baggage. It means my interpretation of scripture is the only one and God is in my corner. I picture in my head the fat sweaty preacher yelling “well MY Bible says…” And I think, dude, there are over 30,000 Christian denominations that are using the same Bible and come to different conclusions. Do you have the magic Bible or something??

  • Matthew


  • gimpi1

    Thank you for your response. It helps, but what I take away is that this is a very personal journey, and most likely doesn’t look the same for any two people.

    I’ve heard people talk about the “work of the Holy Spirit,” but I honestly don’t see how a person can be sure that they aren’t communicating with their own subconscious mind. I’ve had strong intuitions, that sort of thing, but in the end I can track them back to my own mind, processing things on an unconscious level, and presenting me with the finished “insight.” Does contact with the Holy Spirit feel profoundly different, somehow?

    Biblical reliability… that’s a hard one. I have absolutely no patience with anyone attempting to use the Bible as a science text, marriage manual, 21st century law book or unquestioned guide to all of life. Are there Biblical errors, sure. I would expect there to be. I have worked for newspapers and magazines and I know how easily biases and mistakes creep in – even in modern times, with fact-checking, proof-readers and editors. When all is said and done, the Bible was written down by people, and people make mistakes. Were those people inspired by God? I don’t know, but it’s certainly possible.

    However, I have issues with Biblical morality. To pick only one, the God of the Old Testament appears to regard women as pretty-much the property of men. People make all kinds of excuses for this, citing the over-reaching culture of the ancient world and such, but it seems to me that a Deity that could carefully spell out what kinds of fabrics you can wear could pop in something about women being people, with the same basic rights as men. But it’s not there. In fact, there are long lists of restrictions on women (for chastity, fidelity, monogamy, modesty and obedience – to name a few) that aren’t there for men.

    That’s just one issue. The apparent condoning of slavery, (along with two sets of rules for how do do it, one for slaves from your own tribe, one for everyone else) the condemnation of homosexuality, the promotion of tribalism. all these are really problematic for me. Now, one thing that keeps me looking at Christianity, those things were also problematic for Jesus. Much of the New Testament seems to contradict much of the Old. Have you made sense of that?

    As to the “Liar, Lunatic or Lord” conundrum, there is a fourth option, though it doesn’t start with an “L.” It’s “misquoted.” Because of the intrinsic unreliability of any ancient source, we simply have no idea exactly what happened or was said.

    Again, thanks. I’ll look at the book you recommend. I’m pretty much where you started, thinking that it’s possible that there’s a divine force in the universe, but with little idea what that force might look like. Journey on…

  • Matthew

    Please do check out the book gimpi1. It´s well written and Keller explains things in a way I cannot on this blog spot. In my humble opinion there´s a reason it was a top ten New York Times bestseller — and you are most right indeed. I don´t think it looks the same for any two people. Time for bed … more tomorrow. Journey on …

  • Guthrum

    “Failure”? Mainline denominations were once vibrant, influential, respected, and preached the Gospel. Now they are in a state of disaster, the result of abandoning the doctrine of Biblucal authority and embracing modern pop cultural theology, moral relevance, and the ” I’m okay, you’re ok, we are ok” junk. Losses of members and funding in the millions. Independent, conservative churches are growing by leaps and bounds. These churches preach and teach the Bible and are actually winning people to the Lord! The Southern Baptist Convention is around 12 – 14 million members. Assemblies of God is growing. Compare that to the Episcopal Church, ELCA, and the Presbyterian Church US. Three denominations that have lost millions of members and are now irrelevant. Sad when I think what they used to be.
    Now the it is the new independent churches that are full, healthy, exciting, and missional.
    Failure of conservative Christianity ? Hardly.

  • Rob Smith

    Kids become adults and get married and have kids of their own. Then they realize how foolish they were as kids. It’s called wisdom and it comes with age and experience. Though, “baby boomers” have been an exception to that rule. How’s that working out for us?

  • BT

    The collapse of the religious right is vastly overstated. What’s currently happening is that they’ve given up on the national races (which cost $6-7 million each) and are now focusing on school boards where a winning election can cost significantly less than $100k.

    The concern for religious conservatives is that the current generation is far less religious and far less conservative, so rather than going after the win today, they are sinking significant resources into developing a voter base for the future by shifting funds toward private education, eliminating coursework that conflicts with an evangelical world view, and increasing the amount of testing with which to highlight “failed schools” and justify their approach.

    If anything, I find this new wave of political activity a bit more worrisome.

  • Who said anything about the failure of conservative Christianity? This is a post about the Religious Right, which is a political movement that combines theology with the quest for political power. That’s very different than the blanket statement of “conservative Christianity”.

  • Re: “They’re losing political power.”

    Would that were true! I’m not convinced this is the case. They currently are in the majority in the House of Representatives, and close to one in the Senate. After the midterm elections a month from now, they’ll at least have the same numbers as they do now, and very well might have a majority in the Senate. Also, the R.R. holds a lot of governorships and state legislatures, and that too isn’t likely to change after the midterms.

    Not quite sure what metrics you’re using to decide they’re losing power, but the ones I can see show they’re not. Just because one of the R.R. wrote a shrill book littered with paranoiac lies, doesn’t mean the R.R. is losing power.

  • Good points. Thanks for sharing.

  • Matthew

    Still thinking about your issues and concerns gimpi1. They are well thought out, thus I need to do some more thinking myself! Journey on …

  • gimpi1

    Thanking you in advance. I appreciate you taking the time to answer some of my concerns. It’s rare and appreciated. Journey on…

  • Liam Collins

    As an Englishman, I find it amusing that the book has the US flag on its cover, as though the important issues of church expression are limited to America

  • Forgive me, but I’m not entirely sure what you’re meaning to say, so I’d like to ask for a bit of clarification. Are you meaning to say that today’s relatively young progressives will “come around” to the wisdom of the Religious Right, given time? Or are you meaning to say that today’s relatively young progressives have come to understand wisdom, which is why they’re following a different path than their parents? Or am I not even remotely close in understanding?

  • Ben’s written about it elsewhere, but there’s a very concerning conflation of nationalism and religion in a fair number of American churches. Though when you point it out, people are quick to protest “not all churches!”

  • Rob Smith

    Which do you think it is?

  • I don’t know, that’s why I asked.

  • Rob Smith

    Then it’s probably number 3.

  • So does that mean that you’re simply not going to explain?

  • Rob Smith

    I answered your question. What else are you looking for? Is there a direction you’re trying to go with your query or are you just trolling?

  • I asked if you would kindly clarify what you meant, since I was confused. Your answer to my question, if I read you correctly, was to confirm that I didn’t know what you meant. So I would hope it would be clear what I’m looking for: I’m hoping you’ll explain to me what you meant, so I will no longer be ignorant. I’m sorry if you think my asking for help is trolling.

  • Rob Smith

    Perhaps these two quote from a couple obscure British politicians will help you:

    “Show me a young Conservative and I’ll show you someone with no heart. Show me an old Liberal and I’ll show you someone with no brains.”

    “The facts of life are conservative”

  • Thank you. I don’t know why that was apparently so difficult. Incidentally, that would have been number one, not number three.

  • Rob Smith

    Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher were members of the “Religious Right”? I’m sure they’d be surprised to hear that.

  • Didn’t say they were, but in the context of this conversation that certainly seemed to be what you were saying. Maybe you should actually say what you mean instead of jerking me around like this? After all, all I did was ask you what you meant – it’s not my fault that you’d rather play games than answer.

  • Rob Smith

    Don’t blame me for your preconceived notions.

  • I’m not blaming you for any preconceived notions. I’m blaming you for deciding it would be more fun to play around when someone politely asks you what you meant. When you don’t give me anything and then complain about me asking you for clarity, I can only work with the nothing that you’ve given me.

  • cleos_mom

    Upvoted for a number of reasons, not the least of which is your patience with a string of evasions.

    In my own life my husband, a former 60s radical, has become much more conservative over time; I was a Kennedy liberal who strayed later in the decade but was seriously radicalized (i.e., a sharp left turn) a few years ago via my job. Our political conversations are… interesting.

  • cleos_mom

    Which is exactly what third parties on both the left and the right should be doing: build up a local base and upward from there. None of them have done it so far.

  • Matthew

    Does contact with the Holy Spirit feel profoundly different somehow?

    You will find different people who claim to have had various types of experiences with the Holy Spirit. Because I know (even within Christian circles) there are arguments as to whether or not such experiences are really from the Holy Spirit, I can only offer my personal view in reference to your question:

    In the Bible it is written that no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit. I suppose this means that if one does come to the realization that Jesus is in fact the Messiah, the Son of the living God, this realization must be from the Holy Spirit. I think it´s the same with other statements about Jesus Christ and the entire Gospel message.

    Also … because I believe that all people are created in the image of God and that even non-Christians are capable of doing good and living benevolent lives, could it be that the good, the right, the loving, and the just insights these people have are also coming from God? Could God be using the faculties of the mind and subconscious (even in the nonbelieving) as a way to attempt to communicate spiritual truth? It is written in the Bible that every good and perfect gift comes from God and that the goodness (my wording :-)!) of God falls on the unjust as well as the just. If this is true (and I personally believe it is), then quite possibly even in the stillness … even in the quiet places of the unbelieving heart the Holy Spirit might very well be at work.

    I would encourage you to keep listening.

    Were those people inspired?

    As you may have read somewhere else on this blog (possibly even this thread), I am caught somewhere between conservative and progressive Christianity. Attempting to offer insight into this specific question lands me on the more conservative side of the fence, so I might be at odds with some (or most) of the people who frequent Ben´s blog. Here it goes:

    In Christendom scholars disagree about biblical inspiration (WOW … our family has a lot of disagreements, but we should try to muddle through the disagreements and stay together in order to strive toward the greater goal and prize :-)). I think the spectrum ranges from “It´s just a human book filled with errors and redactions” to “even the Scofield (a very fundamentalist Christian) footnotes are inspired”.

    I personally believe the Bible was written by God using human agents who were inspired by the Holy Spirit. I know a lot of people have problems with this view, but I see no reason why if there is a God … why this God couldn´t use humans and still keep his written revelation intact. In my estimation, the problems we have with biblical interpretation are truly our problem. We won´t get it perfect this side of eternity (and quite frankly I think we often get it wrong. I think this is where I cross the threshold into more progressive thinking), but that shouldn´t keep us from trusting the Bible as a reliable source. Just because a document or book is ancient, or simply because there are things in it we “think” we understand and find appalling based on our worldview, doesn´t mean the entire soup is spoiled.

    I know I keep pushing the book “The Reason for God”, but Keller deals with this particular topic very well and articulates his thoughts in a way I simply am unable to because of time and energy constraints as well as intellectual constraints. Pick up or order a copy.

    That´s it for today. More tomorrow (I hope). Sleep well and journey on …….

  • gimpi1

    Thanks for the follow up. I’ll get Keller’s book, along with one Ben recommended.

  • Matthew

    You are very welcome gimpi1 :-).

  • Davidme2



  • I think your caps lock might be broken. Do you have someone you can take your computer/keyboard to, to get it fixed?

  • Davidme2



  • Guy Norred

    Shouting does not sway smart people.

  • If you’re legitimately wanting “smart people” to see and read what you’ve written, then you’re going about it entirely wrong. When “smart people” see a giant wall of text, all in capital letters, they tend to dismiss it as an ill-informed rant that’s not worth their attention, and usually, they’re right.

    So, if you want to grab the “smart people,” here are my suggestions: (1) take off the caps lock, (2) break that giant block of text into distinct paragraphs, and (3) ease up on the exclamation points – it’s nearly impossible to take someone seriously when the only punctuation they use is an exclamation point, and even more so when they use more than one for each and every sentence!

  • Matthew

    Hello again gimpi1 :-).

    On biblical morality (particularly gender roles):

    I can quickly say on this topic that at first glance the Bible seems to make life more difficult for women than for men.
    However … Christians have differing views on biblical gender roles. What they don´t differ on (or shouldn´t
    differ on) are the central statements of faith found in both the Apostle´s Creed and the Nicene Creed. It´s there
    where I personally think seekers should begin.
    Borrowing from Keller, if one first dives into the controversial (more shallow) part of the biblical pool one will indeed get scraped up, but if one dives into the deeper biblical pool where there is consensus (i.e. Christ´s death and resurrection) you will certainly be safe. My advice is to focus on Jesus Christ and attempt to figure out the other road blocks (especially those of the Old Testament) at a later date.

    Much of the New Testament seems to contradict much of the Old. Have you made sense of that?

    Not completely gimpi1. I still struggle with what I
    find in the Old Testament as compared to what has been revealed in the New Covenant through Jesus´ person and work. That said, one rather large thing I believe Jesus did was offer to us the correct understanding of the spirit of the law versus the letter of the law. Healing on the Sabbath was allowed by Jesus who called himself the “Lord of the Sabbath”. Jesus turned the law on its head when he allowed the woman who committed adultery to go on her way after the Pharisees wanted to stone her. The list goes on and on. What I see in the New Testament is an altogether “new” way of thinking. After all, the kingdom of heaven was at hand … the kingdom of God had arrived. Jesus was demonstrating what it looks like when God´s true and complete reign comes to pass … in essence what a messianic kingdom looks like.

    Jesus said ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” So … as I see it … all the law hangs on loving God and loving neighbor. Any commands in the Old Testament … any problems we see there through our “worldview” glasses … have to be interpreted in light of this new covenant.

    As I grow in my relationship with God through Christ I try to keep this in mind. I think it would be safe to say
    that mountains of scholarly books have been written on the topic of how to understand the law in light of grace. Though troubled I may be, I trust in faith that God will continue to teach me how to understand the “knotty” parts of the Old Testament as I more strongly lean into
    the love found in Jesus Christ in the New Testament.

    In terms of “Liar, Lunatic, or Lord” … I think my response in reference to biblical reliability addresses your concerns with regard to this apparent conundrum.

    Finally gimpi1, I think many people are looking for absolutely rational, scientific, and airtight arguments in reference to the Bible, God the Father, Jesus Christ, etc. While I think this approach is admirable, and while I agree there is a lot of intellectual credibility underpinning the Christian worldview, rationality and good arguments are simply not enough … they never will be. There is the other side of the coin to consider. Jesus didn´t argue Peter into saying “You are the Christ (the Messiah),
    Son of the living God”. I believe Peter simply responded in faith. Jesus said one must come to him with a childlike faith. Faith is the key that unlocks the mystery of God.

    And so we journey on …

  • (a) We pray in public all the time. An atheist was recently arrested for failing to stand up at a public prayer before a city counsel meeting.
    (b) All students can pray in school, nothing is stopping them.
    (c) Which moral roots should America return to? The ones where we buy and sell black people or where we kill Native Americans? Or both?
    (d) You realize that the first Christians described in the book of Acts were essentially socialists and that they’d find capitalism appalling, no?

  • gimpi1

    Thank you for your follow-up. I think you’re right in that those people who don’t attempt to go all “sola scripture” in the Bible can make a better case. There simply is no defense for the Old Testament view of women, slavery, extreme penalties for minor violations of lifestyle “laws” or wars of aggression and genocide. However, part of what interests me in Christianity that it appears that Jesus felt the same way about these things.

    I can truly get behind the whole “love your neighbor as yourself” aspect of the New Testament. But faith simply isn’t something that comes easily to me. Perhaps it isn’t something I have at all. As I’ve said many times, to my knowledge, I don’t believe anything. I accept as proven those things that have been proven to my satisfaction by the preponderance of the evidence. However, that acceptance is always conditional, since new evidence could change the equation.

    However, I’m always interested new information, I put the book you recommended on my kindle “next up” list, along with one Ben recommended. I’ll read them, and see where they lead. Thanks again for taking the time to explain how you found your way. I really appreciate it.

  • Noah

    Anyone know if this guy is real, or just mocking the other side?

  • Matthew

    No problem gimpi1. I would really love to hear your thoughts after you read Keller´s book. I´m nearly certain you will come up with some very good follow up questions — questions that I myself might not think about. Let´s try and stay connected via this blog somehow. I´m on here just about everyday and check my responses pretty regularly. It´s been really good chatting about things with you. Your questions help keep me on my toes.

  • Poe’s Law, yeah? All we have to go on are thirteen comments over the span of four years (twelve of those thirteen are in the last three months), which are all fairly consistently akin to those found here. Based on that scant evidence, he seems legitimate, but it could be an extended attempt at satire.

  • gimpi1

    I’m on mostly Monday, Wednesday and Friday, while I’m working on a project that has me sending out multiple proofs and waiting for OK’s or changes.(I just finished color-correcting a bunch of photos, and am waiting to hear from the editor on sizing, for example)

    I’ll keep an eye out for you, and follow up after I read Keller’s book. These have been good talks. I feel I need someone to bounce questions off who has information about their own journey, but isn’t dogmatic or condemning about it. You’d be surprised how rare that is. I appreciate it greatly.

  • Matthew

    Thanks so much for the kind words gimpi1. Have a great day and “journey on” :-).

  • Davidme2

    I agree with you if you are referring to Corey. If indeed you are then yes we need more religious right conservative comments, thoughts and suggestions today in AMERICA!! Why morality, honesty, character and freedom are all so important!!

  • Jeff Preuss

    Yup. Once I saw it was all in caps, I didn’t bother to read it. Sooooooo, you’re having the opposite of your intended effect. (Although, I guess technically I did “see” it for what it likely was – a bunch of hogwash.)

  • Noah

    No. You. All caps ranting isn’t taken seriously.

  • DrewTwoFish

    Yes, frankly it is a simplistic position. Is “every man for himself” the Christian way? How do you define entitlements? Clean drinking water? Well maintained roads and bridges? Where do you draw the line?

    What does getting back to your (I’m Canadian) roots mean? Misogyny? Racism? Homophobia? Life may have been grand in the 50’s if you were white, straight, male, and Protestant.

    Catch phrases and inspirational cliches may make us feel warm and fuzzy and may even hold some measure of truth but life is often messier and the solutions more nuanced than we’d like them to be, especially when you’re dealing with real people who don’t fit into neat little packages.

  • Texas_lib

    Sorry, I’m late to the discussion, but respectfully Mr. Smith, I have to agree with Joe. I wasn’t clear on what you were trying to say either and I felt you were trying to deflect rather than just give him a straight answer. That aside, your remarks about conservatives/liberals with no hearts/no brains is offensive to me. I am quite intelligent, 61 years old and a liberal and proud of it. I am a liberal because the teachings of Jesus Christ tell me to be so.

  • Yeah, it’s a very problematic statement, because it implies that all conservatives are heartless and all liberals are brainless. Which, considering the political leanings of certain well-known scientists, is just plain untrue. And I also knew many young conservatives in college who were incredibly caring people.

    And unrelated, but there’s no way that Churchill actually said that, since (ignoring the fact that nobody actually heard him say it) he was conservative at 15 and liberal at 35!

  • Also, realizing that I’m revisiting this rather late, Churchill never said that. It’s a popular false attribution, but a false attribution nonetheless.

  • Snooterpoot

    What “dealings” did you have with the MCC? What happened in your “dealings” with the MCC?

    If pacifists push back at rightists when they are in our faces is that aggression?

    African Christianity is socially conservative because agents of the devil like Brian Brown have spread their hatred of all people and things that are unlike them. Teaching people to hate people who are homosexual is not following in the steps of Jesus. Cheering and promoting Ugandan laws that make being homosexual a crime is not following the teachings of Jesus.

    Go ahead and be your smug self now. People eventually catch on that hatred and control are not the best way to live and do not truly follow the example and commandments of Jesus. And make no mistake; a lot of conservative Christianity is about control – controlling women and controlling the sexual activities of strangers comes to mind immediately – not about the love of Jesus. I have been there, done that, and walked away.

  • Snooterpoot

    Matthew, do you have any more recent books you can recommend? 2002 and 2003 are a long time ago in terms of societal and religious movements.

  • alethia agape

    Its tough to hear what you are trying to say when you attack the ‘religious right’ as though you are on a higher moral ground. How many people who you could have influenced and pointed towards Christ did you alienate by calling Tony Perkins a hate group leader? Why would anyone take your ‘radical’ gospel seriously when you engage in the same tactics of labeling and dismissal?

  • Calling him a “hate group leader” isn’t a flippant remark– they’re actually an official, certified hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

  • alethia agape

    Come on now, don’t hide behind an organization like the Southern Poverty Law Center. They are absolutely against absolutists and preach fairness without an ontic referent that can make sense of all that they are against. They do name some names, but that does not mean we should take all that they say and do as gospel. If this is in regards to the Family Research Council’s position on LGBT, then please tell my ignorant ears how their views originate out of hate. I may not like all that they stand for or how they go about it, but can you really sit there as judge and jury and say for yourself that their position comes from one of hate?

  • Andy

    As their cause is dying out, those left are shouting even louder in a (hopefully) vain attempt to resurrect their persecution-complex bigotry. But they have already lost, even if they don’t know it yet. They probably do, but may not be willing to admit it.

    The tide has already turned, though. The younger generations are rejecting bigotry more and more. It is taught, after all. At some point, these idiots will be so few and far between, they’ll basically be thought of just like this guy.

    Good post. Thank you, Ben.

  • Kelly Mittelmeier

    you are spot on! they know they can’t win in the national spotlight so they are trying to do everything they can to win governorships as well. This is why they tout “state’s rights” all the time. I read somewhere that the Republican party will try to rebrand itself Libertarian in the next few years to start trying to win again on the national level and that may be true. But we vastly underestimate them if we think they are going to go away quietly or are losing power. they are far more organized at this point than those of us who are more liberal in our beliefs.

  • Michiel1965

    It is a process. The Right is good with mobilizing their voters through fear. In the end demographics will finish the job.

  • Mark H

    Yeah, I love it!
    Stories like this make me feel superior (I know, I know) that I do not deal in organized religion.
    A friend was telling me once about a church she attended in the Twin Cities. They had, of all things, fellas that were referred to as the “Purity Patrol,” complete with camo (I kid you not). Their job was to monitor the ladies (mostly) and see to it they didn’t behave in some shameful un-Christian-like way.
    My friend was in church bending over to pick up something she’d dropped, hoping no one would notice. As soon as she bent, a voice came from behind, “Uh, Ms. ____, your posture is morally offensive.”
    It was the Purity Patrol!
    Wow! Just wow!!!
    I like the peaceful zen-like life I’ve carved out for myself. I enjoy the fact that I am unfettered from all this nonsense.
    Have a blessed day. :)

  • Stevie D

    I hope Ms.__________ told them to **** off :)

  • Kathleen Margaret Schwab

    We had a similar experience! The pastor of the church we were leaving told us “I’ll see YOU at the judgement seat of God,” and when I repeated this to our new church leaders they had a good laugh. I actually hadn’t realized it was funny until that moment (when he said it I felt scared, my stomach kind of dropped, maybe it was the death-stare that accompanied it). The laughter broke the spell.

  • Kathleen Margaret Schwab

    I’ve heard there are guys like that in Iran, who will haul a girl off to jail if a hair escapes the head covering.

  • Kathleen Margaret Schwab

    One issue with this young liberal, old conservative trope is that while it may be true for some, it is by no means true for all. Gloria Steinem observed that women were much more likely to be the opposite – conservative while young, and more liberal as they got older. Given the seasons of a woman’s life (this is not so true anymore with the current economy), liberalism tends to grow on women as they go through life.