Arthur, in his response to my post last week about Christian yoga, asked me to “look at how mainstream Christians can get attention (and differentiation) when overshadowed by the loud—and often flaky…fundamentalists.” I’d love to, but I can’t, and I’ll tell you why.
During one of the debates during the 2004 Presidential campaign, the candidates were each asked about their faith stance. George W. Bush gave his standard response about his personal relationship with Jesus Christ. John Kerry gave what I thought was a fine answer about how his Roman Catholic faith compelled him to respond to the social gospel, i.e., to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, et al. But after the debates, more than a few pundits suggested that Kerry had somehow evaded the question. And, according to that PBS series God in America, that I keep recommending, Kerry himself concluded that he had “blown it” on the religion issue.
So the junior senator from Illinois was out making speeches in 2005 and 2006, touting his religious conversation, from someone of not much faith, rather like his mother, to someone who had found Jesus. Then when he decided to run for President, you would think that this would have put him in good stead with that crowd. But the Rev. Jeremiah Wright controversy muddied the waters, and his absence from regular church attendance since he was elected President helped the “Muslim” thing stick.
Much of the media, particularly in the early part of this century, helped establish the narrative that the fundamentalists were the “values voters”, which truly infuriated me. I have values; I vote. How did the term get so co-opted?
Part of the problem with the liberal/progressive church is the problem with liberals in general. Some people have suggested that we condemn this one or that, but unless it’s a real outlier (Rev. Terry Jones, the would-be Koran burner), it is generally disinclined to criticize. “That’s not we believe, but you’re entitled to your views.”
And let’s face it: fundamentalism is just plain simpler. The Bible is the inerrant Word of God and every word is factually true vs. the Bible is not a history book, and that God gave us reason, intellect, tradition to discern what God is saying to us in these times. Now what’s easier to explain, a black-and-white philosophy or nuance? And as this article suggests, the fundamentalists work harder because they have, historically, been outsiders.
But hey, maybe you folks out there have a better idea. How DOES the mainstream church better present its message of tolerance so that it is isn’t drowned out by some yahoos who suggest, e.g., that the Haitian earthquake, or Katrina or 9/11 is God’s punishment?