Us for Them: Chapter 3: The Coddling of the Church

Us for Them: Chapter 3: The Coddling of the Church June 17, 2024

Us for Them: Chapter 3: The Coddling of the Church

Yes, I know, the full title of Chapter 3 is “The Coddling of the American Church.” WordPress doesn’t allow that many bytes in the subject line.

Those who are reading the book with me and who have read this chapter may comment. Others may ask questions.

Austin Fischer blasts American Christians for sorting themselves according to political preferences. He focuses his ire especially on the churches where people increasingly seek a church that leans “their way” politically. “Given the choice, we tend to chose sameness.” (37)

Before I go further, I want to say that I delight in Austin’s writing. It is bold, clear, sparkles with stories and stimulating phrases. It’s insightful and challenging. It pushes the envelope of Christian publishing. It is anything but dull or dreary.

Here’s a typical Austin Fischer sentence about Christians who church shop: “With certain exceptions, leaving is the curse that feels like a blessing whereas staying is the blessing that can feel like a curse.” (41) Of course, the context helps understand what he means.

Here is this chapter’s ultimate paragraph: “Practicing God’s future includes a great many practices but is rendered possible or impossible because of one thing: Our willingness or unwillingness to stop sorting, stay put, spar, and beat our antagonistic swords into plowshares. God’s future becomes present in the form of actual, local, non-metaphorical churches where the gospel is unsorting us into the odd and joyful family we will one day be.” (44)

Now to my response. Of course, as always, I generally agree with Austin but have some questions. When is leaving a church justified? I suspect Austin would agree that there are times when it is justified, but it is not justified due to ideological or political differences. Okay, I can agree, mostly, but then I think of Germany in the 1930s. The Confessing Church left the State Church(es) over politics. The Protestant state churches had by-and-large succumbed to idolatry by almost (and sometimes more than almost) worshiping the new German “Reich” led by Hitler and the National Socialist Party.

Were the Confessing churches justified in departing, in sorting themselves out? Yes, and I’m sure Austin would agree.

But what about today? Is the Global Methodist Church(es) justified in leaving the United Methodist Church? Was the Baptist General Convention of Texas justified in leaving the Southern Baptist Convention? Well, okay, these departures were not overtly about politics, but it is difficult to draw a clear line between politics and anything else.

But I understand that Austin is writing this book from the perspective of a pastor whose church has lost a lot of members (and gained more) due to America’s obsession with “right versus left” politics.

Every book has a context, a background issue, and that’s this one’s. I agree with Austin that American Christianity is too “sorted out” by political preferences.

But I actually enjoy having choices when it comes to churches. I have left several churches WHEN I detected unethical practices on the parts of leaders and/or when I detected a theological drift that I discerned could not be stopped.

I will plan to discuss Chapter 4 in a week.

*Note: If you choose to comment, make sure you read this entire chapter. If you did not, you are welcome to ask questions. In any case, make sure your comment or question(s) is/are relatively brief (no more than 100 words), on topics, addressed to me, civil and respectful (not hostile or argumentative), and devoid of pictures or links.*

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