Preaching contest videos appear to be very rare; here’s a pretty good example from last year:
Five minutes. Three points. No difficult texts. I’ll leave it to someone more postmodern than me to unwind the semiotics here.
This is an interview with Gina Welch, author of TRBC travelogue In the Land of Believers. She responds to two questions, which are basically these:
- Did your beliefs change during your time at TRBC?
- If you weren’t an atheist, would you have become a Christian while at TRBC.
If I understand her correctly, her responses are basically these:
- I was really surprised how well Christianity worked for these people.
- I’m not an atheist because I’m lacking something.
I think the first question was supposed to be about her religious or spiritual beliefs, and she responds as if the question were about her view of evangelical subculture. To my ears she doesn’t entertain the second question, so she doesn’t answer it.
Also, the “calamity” she refers to is the death of Jerry Falwell; she seems surprised that he could die and the organization could keep functioning.
Finally; the description of the video includes the term “fundamentalist evangelicalism,” which I’d never seen before. I wonder what it means.
I hesitate to wade into this because it is such a touchy subject and I barely trust myself not to get on a high horse here, but here goes. I think if I had to boil down the things that trouble me about Christians (corporately and individually as I actually see them, rather than the models I read about in books) I think I’d limit myself to two or three:
- Despite Pauline promises to the contrary, Christians are rarely actually transformed in any discernible way.
- Conservative Christians of slightly different traditions hate each other and secretly suspect that the others are not really Christians.
At church this past Sunday I was out in the foyer walking the baby during the sermon, but I overheard the preacher saying, essentially, that recovery groups are often “more like the Church than the Church is,” by which I think he meant that they are more like real communities, care more for one another, treat each other in a context of shared humility, or something like that. My ears always prick up when people make comparisons like this because I know how much some people I knew at the Calvary Chapel I attended several years ago hated Alcoholics Anonymous, and because of Christine Wicker’s claims that the effectiveness of recovery groups represent something of a crisis for Christianity generally and evangelical churches in particular.
I think the basic tension between the two groups is this: doctrinally conservative Christians (want to) take Paul’s description of the Christian as a “new creature” seriously, while recovery groups describe people in recovery as always recovering, never recovered. I’m deeply troubled by the fact that older people who have been Christians a long time rarely get more holy with age; they mostly just get older. It’s almost as if Paul’s new creature were as big a jerk as the old creature.
And a big chunk of being a new jerk apparently involves hating and slandering other Christians. When I was in fundamentalist churches we were pretty sure the Southern Baptists were all going to Hell, as was anyone who harbored the “strange fire” of the Amplified Bible and all other aberrant translations. In fact we weren’t entirely sure about other Independent Baptist churches, even the ones who joined us at summer church camp. At Thomas Road Baptist Church in the early Seventies we were pretty sure everyone who went to the more socially acceptable churches in town were going to Hell. I have it on good authority that some of them returned the favor. At Liberty we were pretty sure anyone who voted for a Democrat was going to Hell; at Calvary Chapel ditto people from The Potter’s House. And of course one of the ugly things the Ergun Caner situation has uncovered yet again is that Calvinists have their suspicions about everyone else, and conservative evangelicals, Arminian per se or not, at best have their doubts about Calvinists. I’ve even heard Todd Wilken and one of his Reformed guests (Michael Horton? I don’t recall) agree that one of them wouldn’t offer the other Communion, and the other agree that he wouldn’t take the offer if it were made.
And of course the few people who are dedicated to their tradition who bother to notice the “Mere Christianity” people hate them too.
I suppose these two problems are interrelated, or the latter is a byproduct of the former. I’m not sure.
Yeah; I would mostly like to avoid talking about Glenn Beck generally, and his recent appearance at my alma mater in particular, but I just can’t let this one slide:
For the record, while I’m thankful (to God) for the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution and the rights the latter provides, I can’t agree that they were in any sense written by God. I can’t even agree with the suggestion that Thomas Jefferson even had the God of the Bible in mind when he physically wrote the Declaration of Independence and referred to “Nature’s God.” And honestly, isn’t this one case where the original author’s intent matters?
Happy Independence Day everybody.
Credit to Tony Whitson at CurricuBlog.